International professionals sometimes come to me, and they want to become fluent in English. They may already be operational and working every day in English, but they want to reach that final step, to feel like their English communication confidence matches the level of their other professional skills.
It is usually in the context of going for a promotion, changing jobs, or going for a new role. The trigger is realising they want to finally achieve confidence in their English communication skills, sound more natural, be able to express themselves professionally and with their full personality, no matter what comes up.
So here are my top 6 business English must-dos for international professionals, who want to achieve English communication confidence.
- Be you: you do not have to change who you are to speak professionally in English, so be authentic to yourself, including embracing the mistakes and errors. Do not feel like you have to be a perfect speaker 100% of the time to be an effective communicator. In fact, most of us are used to filling in the gaps if there is a missing or wrong word when listening or reading. The main goal should be connection with the other person through communication, and the best way to do this is to be yourself.
- Communication is a 2-way process: be curious about the other person, find out what motivates them and connects you together. My strategy is always to ask questions first, instead of just talking about myself. Listen at least as much as you speak. This will take the pressure off you to speak all the time, and so you are really engaging with the other person.
- Be body-language aware: keep your body language open, even if you are not feeling confident. Look around the room and smile, especially in online meetings. It is the best way to connect with people and start good conversations.
- Know the English conversation rituals: English speakers particularly like to build up to the main point of a conversation/ meeting, so the conversation ritual of small talk is worth focusing on, even in online meetings. Make sure you are not too direct by going straight to the point of your interaction, and allow the time for the small talk, whether it is talking about the weather, the news or the industry latest. Also allow time at the end of the conversation/ meeting for small talk, even if it is brief. It is an important part of finishing well and maintaining the connection beyond the meeting.
- English speakers share their opinions in short speech sections, using brief sentences. If you usually speak in long sections, then split your thoughts down and try to express them in simpler, shorter paragraphs.
- Keep going with the conversation, even if you realise you have said something wrong in English or have to stop and re-express yourself. This is something that people sometimes find difficult to do and it is easy to get stuck, lose the flow of the conversation and feel self-conscious.
However, if you have the English phrases to hand, then you can use these to continue by rephrasing and clarifying your meaning, so you can recover and then progress the conversation.
Do you make mistakes in your own first language by forgetting a word or using the wrong grammar? I am sure you do, as many English speakers do at some point in English!
The key to achieving English communication confidence is to focus on your English communication agility, not perfectionism or fluency. This is what will boost your communication faster so you can achieve your business English communication goals for your performance and career.
Download Victoria’s free resource 8 Keys to Confident Business English Communication with simple, effective strategies that you can implement yourself to start improving your English communication to boost your performance and career growth.
Victoria Rennoldson is an online English communication and culture coach, working with international professionals globally, who want to boost their Business English communication confidence for their performance and career.
She is the founder and director of Perfect Cuppa English, and an expert speaker and writer on English Communication and British Culture. You can find out about her coaching and connect with her at