Questions five and six are strongly connected because they can change the way you feel and therefore your performance. Firstly ‘Where?’, or more specifically, ‘Where will you be when you communicate in English?’ Thinking about the different places where you will use English can help you to prepare for any additional challenges that may present themselves. In a private, closed office environment you may feel at your most relaxed and comfortable because you are surrounded by your own things and you are in a familiar space. In a more open office situation there may be considerable levels of background noise which will have an impact on your listening abilities. You may also be more concerned about who is listening to you and therefore more nervous about making mistakes. Moving away from your own space can add additional stresses.
Visiting somebody else's office may provide similar background noise issues with additional pressures from not being in your own space. This can increase your nervousness and impact on your performance. This simply means that more preparation and practice is necessary to overcome the nerves.
The noise levels at international trade fairs can be quite high. Lots of people talking and moving around, creating lots of distractions, interrupting and breaking your concentration. The amount of time and money invested in these events is considerable and so the preparation for a solid performance is vital if you are to maximise the return on investment.
Standing up in front of a group of people and giving a presentation is stressful for most people but doing that in another language increases the stress level substantially. Having a well-prepared and well rehearsed presentation script, supported by a variety of visual aids which lead you through your presentation, will go a long way to relieving the stress. Probably the worst thing you can do is to write your presentation on your PowerPoint slides and read them from the wall. In doing this you turn your back to your audience, break visual contact with them, and lose their interest. Using pictures on slides and physical objects held in your hands will help the audience to focus on you and your words.
Another stressful situation is the job interview. Many international companies conduct their interviews entirely in English or combining English with the native language. Clearly preparation is extremely important - a strong CV with qualitative and quantitative details of achievements which you're able to talk about in English are critical. You may well be asked to explain how you achieved objectives in your past career positions, so once again preparation and practice well in advance of the interview will develop your confidence and increase your chances of receiving the job offer. You never know about the level competition for the job and it would be a shame to lose out to an inferior competitor simply because he or she made a better presentation in English.
Secondly ’How?’ How will you communicate in English? There are a few options with different implications and challenges. The use of letters printed on paper and sent through the post is not so common these days but if you need to do that then you need to know the style of writing that is appropriate. The majority of correspondence these days is sent via email which has a different style - shorter, more direct, but maintaining politeness. Let's face it, everybody receives too many emails so nobody wants to read very long messages. In fact, SMS style correspondence is being used more and more in business these days and the style is different again. The good thing about writing is that you have more time to think about the content of what you want to say and to correct any errors through editing. However, once sent, it is normally impossible to rectify mistakes. Receiving written correspondence is the least stressful because you can usually translate any unknown words and phrases at your leisure.
When speaking ‘face-to-face’ you do not have that luxury of time to search in the dictionary for words you do not know. You need strategies to politely ask for an explanation and you also need to be ready to explain something that the other person may not understand. Speaking slowly and clearly helps the other person to understand you and also gives your brain a split second longer to find the vocabulary it needs. The advantage of face-to-face communication is that modern business is built on strong relationships and your soft skills are going to help you a great deal in this respect. We all make mistakes and we need to learn how to handle them without being too embarrassed - we are not looking for perfection, rather for communication.
Speaking with somebody in English on the telephone is a much greater challenge because the visual information that our brains rely on so heavily is not available. Practising listening skills in English and anticipating a caller’s needs in the most common situations is important for anyone taking international calls. Fortunately, most jobs are relatively repetitive and you will encounter the same situations again and again so you can identify the most common words and phrases that you need to listen for and work on practicing them.