Preparing a presentation is difficult enough, but knowing you will be speaking to an international audience can add a whole new layer of pressure. Different languages, cultures, perspectives, and beliefs can present different challenges when speaking to an international audience. That said, getting around the language barrier and delivering a powerful message is completely possible. Cross-cultural communication requires meticulous planning, confidence, and plenty of creativity. Here we will look at everything you need to know so your next international presentation will be a success.
Research Your Audience
If you can, try and find out the nationality of who will be attending your presentation. Will it be a complete mix of nationalities or will it be people mostly from the same country? This is very important because every culture has their own distinct language and beliefs. For example, one culture may be easily offended by eye contact whereas another may not be. Take some time to research the culture of your audience and find out more about what is going on in their country. The more you know about these different cultures, the better you will be able to tailor your presentation to fit their needs.
Will You Need Translation
It’s important to know whether the presentation will be translated as you speak. If so, you will need to remember to speak slowly and clearly so the translator can keep up. This will also require pausing more often, allowing time for translation. Overall, this will affect the timing of your speech and will result in you having less time to present. Furthermore, it will be advisable to send your slides to the translator ahead of time so they can look it over.
Even if you don’t have a translator, it is still important to speak slowly and clearly. Most non-native speakers need a little more time to translate and understand what you are saying, so you should practice speaking about 30-40% slower than normal. You should also focus on taking more pauses, breaking up longer sentences, and briefly stopping at the end of each paragraph. You also want to avoid filler words like “Ah” and “Um” as this can be very distracting and confusing to non-native speakers.
Avoid Slang and Jargon
So much of the English language is slang, colloquial language, jargon, and buzzwords and these can be potentially confusing and untranslatable for your audience. Your best bet is to simplify your language and avoid these types of words or phrases altogether.
Learn About Feedback and Body Language
Research what to expect in terms of body language and feedback. For example, hand gestures that you consider perfectly acceptable might be considered highly inappropriate in other cultures. Even something as simple eye contact, could be viewed as disrespectful or offensive to some cultures. Likewise, it is customary for some cultures to applaud after a speaker makes a strong point. Familiarize yourself with these customs so you aren’t caught off guard in the middle of your presentation.
Be Careful When Selecting Visuals
Your graphics and photographs should be completely free of anything culturally inappropriate. It is also important to consider the color and images you select, as they can have different meanings in different cultures. For example, red is used as a warning color in many Western countries but is considered a color for mourning in South Africa. Likewise, Asian cultures tend to prefer pictures, numbers, and symbols whereas Europeans typically favor text.