Journal of Intercultural Communication, issue 2, 1999

Alan McGee

The sociolinguistic aspects of the business presentation and its importance for the teaching


The increasing internationalisation of business, industry, science and academia has led to greater importance being given to the ability to present ideas and concepts to an international audience, using English as the language medium. This applies to large conference gatherings but also to business presentations .

Through my somewhat unusual background as a manager from industry who later became a teacher of English as a foreign language, I have always been intrigued by the status awarded to people who can perform well in business presentations. I hold multi-disciplinary qualifications in Electrical Engineering (Diploma), Business (B.Ed. and MBA) and Applied Linguistics (MA and Post Grad. Diplomas in TEFL and TOESOL), and these have provided a unique window with which to view the business presentation and the skills needed to be successful.

The basis of the paper
It is suggested that the skills required for a successful business presentation by non-native speakers, are rooted in both linguistic and sociolinguistic aspects. These then combine with elements of cultural awareness and non-verbal signposting. Through an analysis of the speech act, speech community and speech norms, it is argued that business presentations in many large international companies contain set phrases and non-verbal signals which are similar, irrespective of the subject presented. Many of these phrases and signals are used naturally by native speakers. However, they need to be taught to non-native speakers through awareness raising and process methods.

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