Opinion and Analysis
Perfect speech for a global audience
Posted Thursday, September 20 2012 at 19:42
- The three most effective secrets to any presentations are as follows: First, prepare, second prepare even more and third prepare even more thoroughly.
- Preparation is vital when you want to address audiences of different nationalities and cultures. Beyond the normal research for your content, you should spend as much time conducting a thorough audience analysis.
- When you are making your visuals, learn the connotation of some of the images or colours you want to use.
- Culture may also affect even minor details like gestures. Most audiences may welcome gestures but some, especially oriental ones, find them a bit disconcerting if done in excess.
- It is advisable, whenever measurements and metaphors are concerned, use them in a language the audience understand.
- It is also important to note the right use of the metric system. Some audiences will understand hectares more than acres and metres more than feet, among others. Ensure you get the right units.
The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment we are born and does not stop until we stand to speak in public — or so it seems at times.
Public speaking is challenging as it is. However, when you throw in a variable like a foreign audience, you are not helping matters.
Think about it, if we reduce the world population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, the demographics would look something like this — the village would have 60 Asians, 14 Africans, 12 Europeans, eight Latin Americans, five from North Americans and one from the South Pacific.
Let us vary parameters a little bit. Of the 100 people, 33 would be Christians, 22 Muslims, 14 Hindus, seven Budhists, 12 other religions and 12 secular. Trying to please all these ‘diversities’ may seem from the onset an exercise in futility, but this should not be the case.
As companies seek new global markets and international meetings and trade fairs become the norm, business executives will increasingly find themselves having to address audiences that are more or less as diversified as our sample village.
This calls for their communication skills to be fully internationally certified. Let me attempt to give you a beginner’s class on some of the issues to consider as you set on this journey.
Double your preparation
The three most effective secrets to any presentations are as follows: First, prepare, second prepare even more and third prepare even more thoroughly.
Even Mark Twain, the renowned 19th century American orator and author noted that despite his obvious talents, it took him three weeks to prepare for an impromptu speech.
Preparation is vital when you want to address audiences of different nationalities and cultures. Beyond the normal research for your content, you should spend as much time conducting a thorough audience analysis.
Localise your presentation
Having done a meticulous audience analysis, you are now in a position to form the structure and even the content of your speech. There is one rule that guides international speaking — when in Rome, do as Romans do.
What works at home may not work there. Take for instance the content of your speech. It’s generally accepted that Europeans and Asians are more open to detail while Americans prefer a “cut to the chase” approach.
So a presentation to a European audience is likely to require more background and detail while the American version takes the summary approach. But this should not be construed that the European audience will forgive you for blubbering endlessly. Brevity is generally a virtue in presentations everywhere.
However, you DO NOT have to adopt their accent in an attempt to localise your speech. It is safer to remain in your own skin and speak the language in your own natural intonations.
Trying to please an international audience by quickly adopting their twang could easily result in the speaker coming across as fake and losing your audience — a stark contrast to your intention.