According to the International Labor Organization, 70% of multinational business ventures fail due to cultural differences.Even if you aren't traveling and speaking to international groups, you're probably presenting to audiences in your home country that are more multicultural than you may realize. Let's face it: you want your talk to increase connection and understanding, not add more barriers.
I was thinking about what I've learned from speaking to global groups over the years. Here are four tips that popped into mind:
- Speak clearly and enunciate. If English is not the listener's first language, it is easier for
them to understand you when your enunciation is close to what
they learned during their English instruction.
- Adjust your pace. This usually means slow down. A slower pace is also critical if someone is doing simultaneous translation for you.
I once did a two-day seminar for Pfizer where the audience was entirely Brazilian and Chinese. Each group had a translator. I'm still wondering if the smiles on the audience's faces meant "this is really good" or "I think we'll humor you because we really don't get a word you're saying."
- Use examples from the audience’s culture, examples your
listeners can relate to. I
substitute examples from the local country or region. This means doing research before the speech. But that's part of good presentations, period, and time well spent. We all know and appreciate when someone has taken the time to find ways to relate to us. Even if you can’t
find a local example, set up your story so people understand the significance and
universality of the illustration.
- Get extreme about filtering words, expressions or references the
audience might not recognize. This may be the most difficult because we use pop-culture expressions and cliches 'til the cows come home. (Uh, see what I mean. I wonder what that really means in Urdu?).
Suggestion: Sift through your notes and slides and check for product references, people, and places that might have no local meaning. Better yet, have someone local review your notes or do a run-through with you.