How to give the perfect presentation to Swedes

Being a native English speaker is not always the advantage you would expect when you are giving a presentation in English to an international audience. But there are ways to improve.

How to give the perfect presentation to Swedes

Making a presentation is a nervewracking experience for most of us. When you are presenting in English to an international audience, there are even more potential traps. Just one flat joke or misunderstood slide and you can have lost your audience’s attention for good – and perhaps missed that sale or promotion.

“There are few people who like standing up and being the centre of attention, but for most of us the need arises at some point to stand up in front of other people and present something,” says Marilyn Ford-Bartfay, an Australian who holds two-day courses in effective presentations at Företagsuniversitetet in Stockholm.

The course gives practical help and advice on giving both informational presentations, where accurate and specific information needs to be imparted, and persuasive talks, where the audience needs to be motivated or their opinions need to be changed.

Those attending include both Swedes and foreigners who have to make presentations in English. Indeed, plenty of those on the course are native English speakers. But Ford-Bartfay says native speakers are not necessarily at an advantage when presenting in English outside their home countries:

“We English speakers have a lot to learn about communicating internationally.

“A lot of Swedes think ‘If only I could speak better English’. But actually, some of the worst presentations I have heard are from native English speakers.”

Native English speakers often forget that their although audience is competent in English, they won’t always get Anglo-Saxon cultural references or understand idioms:

“There’s no point going to a meeting with lots of Swedes and chucking out expressions like ‘Teaching a grandmother to suck eggs,’” Ford-Bartfay points out.

“It’s not a question of dumbing-down; it’s a question of weeding out culturally-rooted references. You can’t speak to an international audience and start using cricketing terms, for instance.”

Your language is just one of many areas you may need to adapt when making a presentation. When presenting to Swedes is that you may also need to adapt your tone. It is particularly important to come across as modest, says Ford-Bartfay:

“Swedish audiences tend not to appreciate a hard sell,” she says. Other things to think about are that visual aids are particularly important in presentations in Sweden, and that you need to provide ample opportunities for your audience to ask questions.

Nationality is just one factor that you need to think about when making a presentation. You need to analyze all aspects of your audience’s background.

“You might need to consider their professional culture, for instance. If you’re talking to an audience of engineers you need to be particularly analytical and detailed.”

Humour, while a vital ingredient for many presentations, is also full of pitfalls – particularly in an international setting. Brits, for instance, can have a tendency to tell a joke to lighten the mood in a serious situation. But this can lead to other nationalities mistakenly believing that the Brit isn’t taking the situation seriously:

“Humour is a double-edged sword. It can work really well, but only if everyone can laugh at the same thing. The best kind of joke is a joke made about yourself.”

Other potential traps include bad use of Powerpoint slides, so the course gives pointers on how to use these effectively. It also examines how to find your personal style and how to overcome nerves.

Of course, a key to self-improvement is to understand where you’re going wrong, so Ford-Bartfay videos participants and plays their presentations back to them:

“The video helps people focus on things like the key message. People generally hate seeing themselves on video, but most find it very useful.”

“The point is that giving effective presentations is something that everyone can learn.”

The ‘Effective Presentations’ course will run at Företagsuniversitetet in Stockholm on 12-13 May 2011.

Article sponsored by Företagsuniversitetet.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”