Making a product presentation


Mikan Electronics is one of the companies attending the one-day conference organised by the Department of Trading. It has selected two representatives to attend the conference, and one of them is giving a presentation on the company's electronic postal weighing machine. This lesson looks at how to prepare for and give an effective presentation, and how to deal with follow-up questions from an audience.


Valerie Tipstock  
Tetsuo Endo is a technician at Mikan Electronics. He is Japanese.
Jenny Price works for Mikan Electronics. She is British.


Vocabulary Simple machines and their operation; public speaking; visual aids.
Skills Reassuring someone; giving help and advice; making a presentation to a small audience; asking and answering questions in a small group; making notes.
Structures Parallel structures; imaginary time, suppose and would.
Documents Notes; a series of slide pictures to compare.

Preparing the presentation - advice

10.1 Listen and read

Tetsuo Endo and Jenny Price are driving along the motorway from South Wales to get to the conference at Hunter's Hotel. Listen to what they say. Why is Tetsuo anxious?

TETSUO How are we doing for time? see the meaning There's such a lot of traffic.
JENNY There's plenty of time, no problem. When we get over the bridge, we just follow the signs for the M5, then another hour and we're there.
TETSUO What are those warning lights, why are they flashing?
JENNY Oh-oh - twenty miles an hour speed limit. There must be a hold-up on the bridge.
TETSUO A hold-up? You mean a robbery?
JENNY No, much worse! Either there's been an accident, or they're repairing the road.
TETSUO You think that's worse than a robbery?
JENNY It is from our point of view.
TETSUO You're right. Look at this queue!
JENNY Oh, it's not really so bad. Relax. We're less than a mile from the bridge.

10.2 Reading for key words

In what words does Tetsuo express:

1 anxiety about the traffic?
2 great surprise at what Jenny has just said?
3 alarm at what he sees in front of them?

In what words does Jenny:

4 assure Tetsuo that they won't be late?
5 suggest that finding the way will be easy?
6 express alarm at the 20 m.p.h. speed limit?

10.3 Listen and read

Tetsuo and Jenny continue their journey. Listen to what they say. Why does Tetsuo really feel anxious? What does he have to do at the conference?

JENNY You're not your usual happy self this morning, are you? see the meaning
TETSUO To tell you the truth, I'm a little bit anxious about this presentation I'm doing at the conference. Mr Takahama only briefed me last night, after he got that message calling him back to Tokyo. I've never done a presentation before.
JENNY You don't need to worry, your English is excellent! You'll be a big hit. see the meaning
TETSUO Oh I can handle the language all right. But I've never done a sales presentation, even in Japanese! I'm a technician, not a communicator.
JENNY Tetsuo, everyone in the company is a communicator!
TETSUO Yeah, that's what Mr Takahama said. But I've listened to lots of presentations by sales reps - I've seen how many things can go wrong.
JENNY Look, don't be nervous. I tell you what - I've got my notes from the marketing course. Perhaps we could take some time and go through them together.
TETSUO That would be great!

10.4 Reading for key words

How does Jenny:

1 express concern about Tetsuo's state of mind?
2 show that she has misunderstood the reason for Tetsuo's nervousness?

In what words does Tetsuo:

3 show that he doesn't like to admit to a lack of confidence?
4 express confidence in his English?
5 say that he's seen some very bad sales presentations?

Jenny says something which probably expresses Mikan's company policy.

6 What does she say?

10.5 Speaking practice: reassuring someone

Listen to this conversation. Then listen to it again, and speak the part of the woman.

WOMAN Is everything all right? How are things going?
MAN Fine, thanks! Actually, to be honest, I'm a bit worried about this aptitude test tomorrow.
WOMAN You don't need to worry. I'm sure it'll go well. I mean, the first part is just recognising shapes.
MAN Yes, I think I can handle that all right.
WOMAN I'm sure you can.
MAN It's the second part of the test that worries me. My problem is I'm not very good with figures.
WOMAN Part two isn't really so difficult, you know. It's just applied common sense. Relax! Stop worrying.
MAN Yes, perhaps you're right.
WOMAN I know I am. Look - I tell you what. I've got some old test papers here. We can go through them together if you like.

10.6 Document study

These are Jenny's notes for Tetsuo. Imagine that tomorrow you are going to talk to a group of six or eight foreign business people or students. You can only communicate with them in English. You want them either to come to your country as tourists, or to learn your language, or to buy a product from your country or your company. Make notes about what you will say to them, based on the suggestions given in part 1 (Preparation), sections a, b and c.


Making the presentation

10.7 Listen and read

Tetsuo is making his presentation at the conference. Listen to what he says here and in 10.10. As you listen, try to write Tetsuo's notes. Use the following headings: Audience, Needs, Benefits, Delivery.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Tetsuo Endo; I represent the Mikan Electronics Corporation and I am going to talk to you for a few minutes about my company's products - in particular, about our post office weighing machines.
I came to Britain for the first time a few months ago and of course I was very interested to see how people here live. I had heard lots of stories, but this was my first opportunity to see for myself. The British are well known in other countries for standing in line see the meaning - for queuing. Ah, you know that? I discovered this was true when I waited for a bus, when I entered a bank to cash a cheque see the meaning, and when I sent a parcel to my mother in Tokyo. And I discovered it again this morning when we had to queue on the motorway to cross the Severn Bridge. The reason that you are so good at queuing is that you have so much practice. Now, Mikan Electronics is going to change that, because one place where you won't have to queue for nearly as long in future as you have done in the past is a British post office. That is, if you adopt our Eagle range of electronic postal weighing machines.


10.8 Document study

Tetsuo shows a series of colour slides, showing what happens in a post office with conventional weighing machines.

Then he shows another series of pictures, demonstrating the new weighing machine:

10.9 Writing practice: describing a process

As Tetsuo shows his sequence of pictures, he describes what happens at each stage:

TETSUO First, the clerk puts the parcel on the weighing machine ...

Write the rest of his commentary for him, using the pictures from 10.8. Note that when we describe a process like this we normally use the simple present form of the verb.


10.10 Listen and read

Tetsuo continues his presentation. Listen to what he says. What benefits does he claim for the Eagle weighing machine? At the end he tells a joke. What is it? What does he mean?

Of course we don't claim that this is new technology see the meaning. On the contrary see the meaning - this is technology that has been developed and tested over a long period in supermarkets everywhere. We are all familiar with it at the supermarket check-out see the meaning, so why not at the post office counter also?
The benefits of our Eagle weighing machine are not limited to the rapid printing of postage labels. Changes in postal rates can quickly be programmed into the machine. The machine is so sensitive that it can weigh a single gram, so the post office clerk doesn't need a special balance any more for weighing air letters. And it is easily modified to accept any credit or debit card. see the meaning The clerk swipes the card through the machine and the customer's account is automatically debited. In the future that could mean less cash passing across the counter - less incentive for the criminal to threaten the clerk with a gun. So, with one machine we eliminate two kinds of post office hold-up!

10.11 Structure practice: parallel structures

Tetsuo speaks fluently, but his sentences are quite simple in construction. Even his long sentences are just simple groups of words joined together, like items in a list. Look at the example below, from 10.7. When he introduces himself, he says what his job is and then what he is going to do:

I am going to talk to you for a few minutes about my company's products - in particular, about our post office weighing machines.

He repeats the word 'about' so that his audience, and he himself, can easily see how the sentence is put together. Here is another example, a list of three word-groups, all starting with 'when'.

I discovered this was true
when I waited for a bus,
when I entered a bank to cash a cheque and
when I sent a parcel to my mother in Tokyo.

If you listen to 10.7 again, you will hear how he repeats not only the structure, but also the rhythm in these sentences. Here are two more examples from Tetsuo's presentation:

The reason that you are so good at queuing is
that you have so much practice.

We are all familiar with it
at the supermarket check-out, so why not
at the post office counter also?

Now practise writing some 'parallel structures' like Tetsuo's:

1 Introduce Tetsuo to the audience, using the words from 10.7. Say what company he represents, and what he is going to do, in general and in particular.


2 Tetsuo said 'I discovered this was true...' Continue his sentence using the examples below:

... waited in line to cross the Severn Bridge
... tried to get in to see the Wimbledon men's tennis final
... wanted to get money from a cash machine on a Saturday night


3 Write a sentence explaining why the Eagle is so quick, using the information below.

One reason that... is that... (displays postage rates);
another is that... (prints the postage label) and
a third is that... (accepts credit cards).


Dealing with questions

10.12 Listen and read

Valerie Tipstock from the Department of Trade is attending the conference. She asks Tetsuo about costs. Listen to what they say.

TETSUO I've told you something about our product - now does anyone have any questions?
VALERIE Could you give us some indication of cost?
TETSUO The unit price see the meaning, for the basic machine without magnetic card reader see the meaning, is £1470. The card reader costs £195 extra, plus of course the connection charge by the telephone company.
VALERIE But at the Leipzig Fair we'll be getting enquiries from foreign postal services who'll be seeking to place contracts to purchase hundreds of machines - over a period of perhaps five years. What do you say to them?
TETSUO Yes, I appreciate that, of course, and my company is always willing to discuss generous discount and finance terms. But I gave you the unit price because often that is the fairest basis for comparison between competing makes. see the meaning

10.13 Reading for key words

What words do the speakers use to express these ideas?

1 Roughly, what's the price?
2 I know that already.
3 The cost of connecting the machine to the telephone network.
4 The price of a single machine.
5 [They] will want to make agreements with suppliers.
6 [It] is the most accurate way to compare them.

10.14 Listen and read

Valerie is again questioning Tetsuo about the Eagle weighing machine. Listen to what they say. Listen to how Valerie tries to get Tetsuo to say more about the reliability of the machines, and then tries to make him be more and more specific.

VALERIE Mr Endo, you touched briefly on the question of reliability. see the meaning I wonder if you'd like to say a bit more. The mechanical weighing machines we have in use are some of the finest in the world, and they virtually never go wrong. What happens when one of your machines goes down? see the meaning
TETSUO Well - that's an extremely rare event.
VALERIE OK, so it never happens, but suppose it did happen, what would you do about it?
TETSUO We would supply a replacement within... six hours.
VALERIE You don't sound very confident. Suppose it was in Eastern Europe or somewhere?
TETSUO I was going to say, six hours on the UK mainland. It could take twenty-four hours to somewhere more remote. But in most areas of the EC, we can deliver a new machine within six hours.

10.15 Reading for key words

What words or phrases in 10.14 show these ideas?

1 You mentioned it.
2 Hardly ever. (two answers)
3 [It] stops working.
4 You didn't let me finish what I was saying.

10.16 Listen and read

Valerie's third question to Tetsuo concerns maintenance contracts. Listen to what they say. What two problems does Valerie raise?

VALERIE All right then, that brings me to my next point. Do I assume that your customers are obliged, or advised, to take out annual maintenance contracts? see the meaning And if so, is your company in a position to honour these contracts abroad? see the meaning
TETSUO I would like to suggest that it would be better if my company trained post office staff in the various countries to do the servicing themselves.
VALERIE Well, would it? I mean, to start with you've got the language barrier. And what about spare parts, who's going to handle that side of it? see the meaning
TETSUO Remember, our parent company, Mikan International, already runs a world-wide sales and maintenance network. That will take care of spare parts. And our experience is that staff from different countries are very pleased to come to one of our training courses. In this case, I think they would see that their new skills would improve their ratings in the job market. see the meaning

10.17 Structure practice: imaginary time

In English, we have many ways of talking about events which do not actually happen. This allows us to talk about and solve problems before they become real. For example, Valerie says, in 10.14:

suppose it did happen

What she means is 'imagine that it happens'. Notice that even though she is talking about the future, she uses the past tense 'did happen'. She goes on to say:

what would you do about it?

Here she uses 'would', because she is still talking about something that is not real; she is talking about something imagined. When Tetsuo answers, he also uses 'would':

We would supply a replacement within... six hours.

Valerie goes on to say:

Suppose it was in Eastern Europe or somewhere?

This time, Tetsuo answers with 'could'; he is still talking about an imaginary event:

It could take twenty-four hours...

but when he talks about the EC he uses 'can':

we can deliver a new machine within six hours

This is because now he is talking about real events. He knows he can deliver in Europe because he has already done it; he is not talking about possibility, but reality.

Now write answers to these questions for Tetsuo. You have to decide whether Tetsuo knows the answer, or whether he has to imagine a solution to the problem:

1 Suppose I wanted to order ten machines. What would the price be?
2 Suppose a machine broke down in Tokyo. How long would it take to supply a replacement?
3 Suppose I wanted to buy the card reader later. Would I be able to do that?
4 Suppose the machine broke down in a month. Who would pay for that?