An International Speaker’s Guide to presenting to a cross-cultural audience
You’ve crafted this powerful presentation that you feel really confident delivering to a local audience. The feedback was excellent, your audience were engaged (they laughed in all the right places!) and by the end of it, you had a good response of people wanting to find out more about you and what you have to offer.
But this time, things are a little different. You’ve now been asked to deliver the same presentation to an audience whose English is not their first language. This doesn’t mean that you have to think of completely new message, but it does mean that you’re going to have to make certain adjustments to the language you use and the style of your presentation to get the best results.
How do I know this? Having worked globally for most of my career delivering numerous trainings, workshops, seminars, and keynotes in both Japanese and English to audiences around the world, I know first-hand what it means to adapt a presentation for a cross-cultural audience.
I learned by making lots of mistakes along the way. Now, being able to communicate cross-culturally is second nature. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have to remind myself of certain strategies, but I have access to a ‘toolkit’ that I know can help me adapt.
I’ve made this toolkit fully available to YOU in my online course “The Art of Persuasive Speaking in Global Business”
Here is my international speaker’s guide to presenting successfully to a cross-cultural audience:
Adapting your vocabulary for a cross-cultural audience
Non-native speakers tend to have a smaller vocabulary than native English speakers. They also don’t always understand sarcasm, subtilties, or sub text. Reading between the lines is a huge challenge unless English is their first language.
Go through your presentation to….
- Rewrite your sentences to shorter ones. As short as you can. If it’s sounding a little robotic, it’s probably about right. We can work on the delivery once we have simplified everything.
- Rewrite sentences to be as simple as possible. As simple so that a sixth grader can understand it. This isn’t to patronize your audience. It’s so that your message is clearly understood by simplifying as much as you can.
- Remove any jargon or slang as these words may not always be translated right by non-native English speakers.
Adapting your slides for a cross-cultural audience
If you are using slides in your presentation, these should be kept to a minimum to avoid them being a distraction to the audience.
Go through your slides and see whether any images need updating? If you are using images of people, are they diverse enough? Remember that your audience need to themselves reflected in your message, so the more you can adapt it so that it resonates with them the better.
Adapting your delivery for a cross-cultural audience
Once you have re-written and simplified your presentation and are comfortable with the written text, it’s time to practice the delivery.
The delivery of your presentation carries as much weight as the language you use so it’s important that you work with a Presentation Coach to get feedback about your pace, pitch and volume.
- Slow your delivery right down. If English is not their first language, they’ll need more time to absorb what you are saying.
- Practice the pause. Allow time between each point to add emphasis and create tension. You might even use this time to walk to a different area of the stage/podium, take a sip of your water or glance slowly toward another part of the audience.
- Don’t be afraid of repetition. It can help clarify your main point in the presentation and your ‘one BIG message.’ Hook your audience with a clear bold statement at the beginning, which you refer back to at the end. This is a great way of repeating a point, but without it sounding repetitive.
I hope you’ve learnt ways you can adapt your presentation to a cross-cultural audience, but this is just the start. If you want to truly communicate persuasively to a global audience, enroll on “The Art of Persuasive Speaking in Global Business Master Course.” It contains 5 modules with practical exercises, tips and strategies to help you become powerfully persuasive no matter who your audience are.