How to Prepare for a Business Presentation in Japanese
You just started your job in Japan, and it’s time for your first presentation – all in Japanese. Even if you don’t have trouble speaking in front of people in general or have had some practice, this can be quite a challenge. In this article, we give you some tips for acing your presentations right off the bat.
Presentation structure and style
For structure and style, presentation rules and guidelines are virtually the same as outside of Japan – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
A structure for a presentation is called 構成in Japanese. There are multiple ways for structuring a presentation, such as…
- – Introduction – Main Part – Conclusion (序論・本論・結論)
- – PREP (Point 結論 – Reason 理由 – Example 例) – Point 結論)
- – DESC (Describe 説明 – Express 表現 – Suggest 提案 – Consequence 結果)
Pick a structure that suits your topic and go from there. In business settings, it’s common to start with the conclusion (結論ファースト), PREP style.
As for style, keep to the basics. Don’t put too much text on the slides, add graphs and pictures to visualize information, use color sparingly and with purpose … you know the drill.
Making your presentation “Japan-proof”
Aside from the universal basics, there are some points where you have to provide for cultural differences. Here are our tips.
Check with a native Japanese beforehand
The last thing you want to do is miss the topic or point of your presentation. To eliminate the risks of miscommunication, check with a Japanese senpai or your boss beforehand (ideally, the person will also be attending the meeting and is “in the know”).
Show them the structure of your presentation and explain what you want to talk about. If you’ve already made some slides, you can also ask them to do a quick Japanese check (non-standard expressions, typos). I recommend this even for people who are confident in their Japanese ability! When I got my first job in Japan, I had already passed N1 but still managed to botch some presentations because of bad preparation and lack of checks.
When you’re still new and don’t really know your co-workers, it can be hard to work up the courage to ask for advice. But there’s no need to be afraid. Most companies that hire foreigners are aware of the language barrier and are willing to assist. If you’ve entered the company as a fresh graduate (新卒), the company fully expects you to not know stuff. In your first and second year, asking for help frequently is likely to leave a positive impression than a negative one.
Make it easier for people to ask questions
Japanese people tend to be less aggressive with feedback and questioning. If you just end your presentation with “any questions?”, you run the risk of filling the room with awkward silence. To prevent this, transition into the Q&A section in a way that lowers the hurdle for asking questions. For example…
- – Ask for questions about specific points or parts of the presentation
- – Put a specific question for the audience on the final slide
- – Directly ask members for their opinions (esp. bosses and higher-ups. Regular employees tend to wait until a higher-ranking member has expressed their opinion)
Keep your humor subtle
A typical “western” thing to do is trying to brighten up the mood and “break the ice” with some jokes. When you’re holding a presentation in Japanese, you want to be careful with this. Japanese office and business culture is rather formal, certainly more so than that of English-speaking countries.
It’s still OK to use some humor here and there. That being said, it’s best to keep it subtle and use it even more sparingly than you would when holding a presentation in English. My personal recommendation is some light Japanese wordplay, no more than 1-2 times per presentation. It lightens up the mood and is an easy way to rouse interest (“did that foreigner just make a joke in Japanese?”).
Vocabulary for your presentation
Just like with presentations anywhere else in the world, your focus should be on delivering information in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. When in doubt, fall back on general-purpose Teineigo (です・ます-Forms) instead of twisting your tongue with Keigo monstrosities.
Below, you can find some vocabulary and phrases commonly used in presentations.
|まず(は)…||First; to begin with…|
|Because (of this); the reason (for this) is…
→ used at the start of a new sentence
|言い換えると…||In other words…|
|簡単に言いますと…||To put it simply…|
|つまり…||That is to say…
In other words…
To sum it up…
|ところで…||By the way… (when changing topics)|
|Incidentally; by the way… (when adding information)|
→ used at the beginning of a new sentence
|要約をしますと…||To sum it up…|
Improving step by step
I still remember the uneasiness and sweat running down my neck that I felt during my first few “professional” presentations. Preparation is important, but in the end, it’s completely natural to stumble a bit at first. Your Japanese coworkers won’t expect a perfect performance on the first try. Keep asking for advice and learn from your mistakes, and before long presenting something in Japanese will become a routine task.
If you don’t like being thrown into cold water, you can train your presentation skills at a language school. Linguage Japanese Language School specializes in Japanese language education for people whose goal is to work in Japan. Located in central Shinjuku, it’s the ideal place to prepare for work in Japan. For more info, check out our feature article or click the button below to visit the school’s official website.