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Workplace Presentation Skills for Immigrants

Monday | November 4, 2019 | by Ronita Mohan

presentation skills

If you have just moved to a new country and found a job—congratulations!

Now, you are probably concerned with making a good impression. This is where your presentation skills will become important. Good presentation skills can work like camouflage, making it seem like you have a strong understanding of office culture, even if you are still figuring it out.

As you adjust to your new environment, you might be surprised by a few things. Maybe office etiquette is different here than it was in your home country. Or, you might simply need to learn about your company’s unique internal culture—which is true for everyone when they are starting a new job. As you are learning, it might take a while to fully settle into your new role.

If you make a good impression, it will help you get through this transitional period smoothly. During this time, you can still move ahead professionally and make friends with your colleagues.

But making a good impression goes beyond being polite and doing what you are told. You also need to look, sound, and act like a confident professional. Below are five tips to help you improve your presentation skills at work.

Get Familiar with the Organization

On your first day of work, your boss will introduce you to a lot of new people. This is standard procedure for new hires. Don’t worry; you will not be expected to remember everyone you meet.

However, that does not mean that you should settle in and expect people to come to you; remember, you are a new entity in the office. Established employees have their jobs to do, and they might not know how to include you in their regular routines. That does not mean that they don’t want to get to know you. They might simply want to give you some space to get settled. They might want to give you room to approach them with questions as needed, and meet new people on your own schedule.

Make the process easier for everyone involved by reading up about your company’s employees. You can usually find a directory on the company’s website, or do some basic research on LinkedIn. This will help you remember people as you meet them. It will also help you think about who you should approach when you need assistance with your work. For example, someone who has been on your team for a long time might have institutional knowledge that you need, but someone at a coordinator level might be able to help you acquire paper supplies.

Knowing who to ask for the right kind of support is a powerful skill that immediately makes you seem more competent.

You will likely tweak your presentation of yourself depending on who you are speaking with, as well. For example, people might be more formal and reserved with their superiors than they are with their peers. Understanding which employees you will be working closely with will help you tailor your presentation of yourself until you become comfortable with the team. You can also try asking your supervisor or human resources for an organizational chart; if one does not exist, you might be in a position to create (or assign) one yourself using a flow chart maker.

Learn What Clothes to Wear

Clothes are one of the most fundamental ways that individuals express themselves at work.

If you are unsure of the dress code at your office, simply ask human resources. If you feel like you still are not sure about certain items in your wardrobe, or if you see a wide range of styles across the office, aim for more traditional clothes. For example, many people wear a suit on their first day of work. This is one time that it cannot hurt to overdress because it communicates that you care about the position.

However, it could become quickly evident that the workplace you are joining does not usually wear suits. Or, perhaps only the most senior staff wears suits; everyone else might wear pretty casual clothes. In that case, someone at work will tell you whether or not suits are mandatory, and you can adjust your clothing accordingly from the next day onward.

At that point, you will want to find out exactly what level of casualness is allowed. Some offices may have no problem with short sleeves, jeans, and sneakers (especially in the summer). But others might prefer “business casual” at all times—especially if it is a company with a lot of clients visiting the office.

If you still have some doubts about the clothing options, simply look at what your managers are wearing and adopt their style. Not only will dressing like your managers help you fit into the company environment, but it will display your ambition to everyone around you. This can lead to better promotional opportunities.

Related Reading

25 Essential Job Search Tips for Immigrants

Focus on Interpersonal Relationships

Here’s one simple truth no matter where in the world you work: Workplaces are governed by people. Therefore, interpersonal relationships are an intrinsic part of your working life.

When you are still new to a country and a company, you may be tempted to keep your head down and concentrate on your work. But this is not the best way to make a good impression on your colleagues and managers—especially not in North America, where a certain amount of socialization is expected among colleagues.

You will find that your colleagues, even those in different departments, will come up to you to talk about a variety of topics. They could ask you where you are from, how far you have to travel to get to work, what your hobbies are, what you like eating, or where you have visited.

Many colleagues will have advice on where to eat near your workplace or upcoming events you might enjoy. They might even invite you to join them for a social activity before you have gotten to know them very well (like happy hour drinks).

This kind of outgoing, friendly approach is not normal everywhere in the world, so you might be taken aback or find these questions intrusive. Just be assured that it is not personal, it is part of the culture.

You do have a right to decline answering. However, it’s best to try and remain open to these interactions, if possible—especially in the beginning. Try to get involved with group conversations. Ask questions of your new colleagues, and listen to their answers.

If you seem approachable in a social setting, you will seem more approachable at work, as well.

This means that colleagues will send more opportunities your way. People are also more likely to think of you first for projects and praise you in front of important people, like your boss.

But simply being part of conversations is not enough; you have to go about it the right way. Remember that conversations should always go two ways—you should not do all the talking, as that will make you appear self-centered. At the same time, being completely silent may make you come across as someone who is not engaging with your colleagues.

Interpersonal connections will be an extremely important part of your daily work life. You should make an attempt to engage in these connections whenever you can.

Work on Written Communication

Alongside verbal communication, you will find yourself doing a lot of communication in writing while you are at work.

One of the primary modes of communication will be email. It is important to write good emails because your written communication skills will tell your colleagues and managers a great deal about you. Essentially, you will want to seem professional and courteous.

You might also pick up on trends within your specific office culture—like if people tend to keep emails very brief, or if people are very formal with their signatures. Study the orientation emails that you receive on your first day of work. Your boss might introduce you to the company at large via email. In this case, you will receive replies from a diverse mix of people welcoming you. Those emails will be a good starting point.

But there are a few points that you should note regardless of where you are working.

For one, it is best not to write the content of your email in your subject line—this is uncomfortable to read and looks unprofessional. Keep your emails brief; they do not need to be very short, but they should stay focused. This is a signal that you respect the reader’s time. You should get to the main point of your message as quickly as you can in your email.

Avoid grammatical errors as much as possible—this will require you to revise your email before sending it. One trick is to use the Grammarly Chrome extension to check your emails for errors before you send them.

Plus, it is always important to pause and re-read your work. No matter how much pressure you are under, it is better to wait one more minute than to send a poorly written email.

Finally, if something cannot be discussed over email—either because it will lead to a longer conversation or because it is a private matter—do not send an email about it. It is better to make the effort to walk over to your colleague and discuss the matter in person, set up a meeting, or call.

Learn from Other Immigrants

Real Immigrants Share Their Advice for Moving to the U.S.

Perfect Your Presentations 

For many people, work revolves around giving presentations. Though you may not have to give a presentation in your first few weeks at work, you will eventually be looped into this practice. That is because they are useful tools to relay information within your team, to other teams at the company, or to external parties.

Presentations are often a bone of contention for employees—they can be lengthy and boring, and leave people wishing they could get back to their desk to finish their actual work. If you are in a position where you have to give presentations, you do not want to make your colleagues feel like you are wasting their time.

When it is time to give your presentation, keep a few important points in mind. First and foremost, you should keep your presentation short. One trick is to use the Guy Kawasaki pitch deck method to format your presentations: 10 slides that take 20 minutes to present. (This is ideal for a 30-minute meeting, because it leaves some time for questions and answers at the end.)

Here are a few additional presentation tips:

  • Avoid a long introduction. Get to the point as quickly as you can. If you did a good job with your presentation, then the information should be covered thoroughly within your slides.
  • Try not to be too serious. You should add a bit of humor to your presentation. But do not mistake this for a comedy sketch—a good laugh is engaging, but too many can be distracting.
  • Address your audience directly. Make eye contact with your colleagues, dividing your attention evenly around the room.
  • Set aside time for questions. If you do not have an answer, let them know that you will get back to them later. This does not mean that you are unprepared; rather, it shows your colleagues that you are willing to listen and do the research.
  • Take notes as you go. Or, better yet, identify another member of your team to take notes while you present.

Giving a good presentation is a memorable way to make an impact at work. Demonstrating your knowledge and its applications is a surefire way to prove your value at work.

In Conclusion

Good presentation skills will help you fit into your new workplace environment. In the future, they can also lead to promotions.

Mastering these skills might take some time and patience to get right—especially because you are going to be learning a lot as you get settled in your new country. You will also be learning a lot as you train for your new position. But making a good impression at work does not have to be a challenging task.

Follow the steps listed above to perfect your workplace presentation skills. Once you learn how to fit in at work, you can really start standing out. Good luck!

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Ronita Mohan is a Content Marketer at Venngage.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).