In today’s world of multinational businesses, international workforces, multilateral free trade agreements and global immigration, communicating with people from diverse cultural backgrounds and ethnicities is necessary. The people who attend your next presentation might include buyers, IT professionals, business associates, or future employees from different backgrounds. [tweetthis]In today’s world of global business, communicating with people from diverse cultural backgrounds is necessary.[/tweetthis]
You should anticipate special obstacles inherent in global communication. Whether your audience consists of listeners who speak English as a second language or you are communicating through an interpreter, strive to keep your language simple and relatively formal, and use terminology consistently.
Here are additional pointers to use when presenting to global audiences:
Speak slowly and pause regularly to allow translators and non-English speakers to keep up with your pace. Next, limit your main points to no more than three; clearly identify them as first, second and third (or one, two and three); and repeat them, using the same wording, several times throughout your presentation. Do the same with your conclusion and/or summary.
Avoid using synonyms and switching between acronyms and their unabbreviated meanings, as multiple names for the same thing, person or concept can confuse your audience. Unlike U.S. audiences, who prefer language variety for its interest-stimulating effect, global audiences prefer less challenging language that uses a relatively standard vocabulary with clearly understood meanings.
Similarly confusing are humorous stories, witticisms, jokes, and wordplay, which commonly appeal to U.S. audiences. Because humor is always deeply imbedded in cultural experience and understanding, you should test whatever you want to use with a sample audience—or avoid it completely. Even in presentations to U.S. audiences, it can fall flat, or worse, offend and insult.
To guarantee understanding, slow and boring is better than creative and lively. Avoid trendy, new jargon and idioms that might be unfamiliar to persons who speak English as a second language. Such words will probably confuse your audience or lose their attention. Citing celebrities and other examples that are known only in the United States should also be avoided, as they create an obstacle between yourself and the audience trying to understand your presentation. Further, they suggest that your perspective of the world is very limited.
Abstain from using metaphors that are common in the U.S. workplace (“high five,”“knock-out,” “touchdown”). These add to the confusion of an audience already struggling to keep pace and understand. In addition, such terminology may suggest that you are insensitive to the audience’s cultural backgrounds.
Smiling and making eye contact are necessary parts of connecting with U.S. audiences. However, with foreign audiences, making eye contact may be considered rude or even provocative. Make certain to pan the room when you do look up and avoid letting your eyes linger in any spot.
Finally, reassess the accuracy of your identification of your audience and their needs, as well as what you want to communicate. Doing so and making appropriate adjustments will enhance meeting your goals and your audience’s needs and expectations in the most effective and appealing.