Presentation on theme: "Extracted and quoted freely from an article titled: Going Global By Dave Zielinski"— Presentation transcript:
Extracted and quoted freely from an article titled: Going Global By Dave Zielinski
English may be the world's quasi-official language, but that doesn't mean U.S. businesspeople or academics are off the hook when presenting in foreign cultures. Here's what it takes to be an effective and culturally correct speaker to international audiences.
Loss of face happens in "collectivist" or group-oriented cultures in the Pacific Rim and elsewhere when individuals are singled out for attention. Face issues come into play, for instance, when an instructor randomly calls upon a student. Answering the question means a student risks showing up his fellow classmates, resulting in a collective loss of face.
People in these cultures don't want to gain face for themselves in a public setting because it contributes to others losing face. Simmerman, who heads up the Performance Management Co. in Taylors, S.C., decided the best way to "face-proof" his highly interactive training method was to form small groups for discussion. He then asked each team to select one group leader to speak for the others during an end-of-class summary. But…(surprise!)…
"When the group spokesperson got up to talk, he or she felt compelled to report every comment, perspective and thought their team members had contributed to the discussion," says Simmerman. "They didn't want any one person in their group to risk a loss of face. That was fine but the reports took 15 to 20 minutes each, which killed my schedule."
Not wanting to cut short any of the spokespeople himself, which you guessed it would present further loss-of-face issues, Simmerman solved the problem in later sessions by declaring that each group leader had three timed minutes to summarize comments.
Botched international presentations can result in much more than misunderstanding and misinterpretation they can: cost millions in missed sales, scuttle important relationship-building opportunities and reduce the yield from international training efforts.
English is the most popular second language in the world, but… In most cases, for the American presenter, the challenge isn't to learn how to work more effectively with translators or interpreters, but how to communicate more effectively in English.
Even European audiences may understand your English, but still miss the point(s) you are trying to make because of cultural differences. A Bedouin's oil wealth may buy him all the trappings of Western success, but underneath he may still have the conservative mores or customs of his father. In some Arab countries, a simple inquiry from a man about a colleague's wife can end a business relationship forever.
Simplify and clarify your content Speak deliberatelybut dont yell Screen out jargon, idiomatic expressions and acronyms Limit U.S.-centric references and examples Be aware of different lifestyles Be sure your jokes are appropriate Understand that body language is far from universal Alter your eye-contact habits Rethink audience participation techniques Follow the formality protocol Understand that icons aren't always icons Visuals and handouts must correspond to cultural expectations
English proficiency within a given audience can vary widely, so the best approach is to simplify and clarify content at every turn. That means: using simple sentences, making clear transitions, avoiding digressions, reducing use of potentially confusing pronouns and restating key points.
A varied vocabulary may stimulate American audiences, but it's likely to confuse those who don't speak English as their mother tongue. For example, you don't want to first talk about benefits, then later refer to them as advantages.
"With native speakers I may [rephrase] something once or twice, but with those who don't speak English as a first language, I'm consciously trying to restate my major points in the exact wording used before." The tactic adds time to his classes but pays off in improved retention.
On the delivery side, non-native English speakers will retain much more of your presentation if you: speak more slowly and deliberately (but not so slowly as to appear patronizing), use more pauses, enunciate clearly and gesture to illustrate potentially vague terms.
This doesn't mean turning up your volume, something often done unconsciously by U.S. speakers. In his classic book Do's and Taboos Around the World, author Roger Axtell passes on this advice: "Speak to the rest of the world as if answering a slightly deaf, very rich old auntie who just asked you how much to leave you in her will."
Strong delivery also requires you to tune in to your audience's cultural idiosyncrasies. One consultant was presenting in Finland for the first time. Throughout his speech the Finns sat expressionless, hands folded, moving nary an inch. The consultant figured he was doing horribly and sending them all off to sleepland, but found out later "this was their way of showing respect the absolute focused, dedicated listening to the expert.
Familiar figures of speech can be confusing or even offensive in other cultures. The word piggybacking can be inflammatory in Israel, where the pig is considered a despicable animal. If you pepper your speech with common American idioms such as "barking up the wrong tree," "dog-and-pony show" or "shotgun approach," you're likely to be met with visible confusion or blank stares from audiences in New Delhi or Bogota.
"When I'm dealing with non-native speakers, I find my language becomes pretty bland because I work to remove idioms and anything else potentially confusing or offensive," Weech says. Avoid unpleasant surprises particularly in your first visit to a country by having your text and visuals pre-screened by someone intimate with the local language, norms and taboos. Skip this crucial step, and you risk disaster.
American speakers need to be careful about self-congratulatory statements because of perceived U.S. arrogance in some parts of the world, says Bjorn Austraat, a software localization specialist and Web engineer for Berlitz Translation Services. "Any notion of superiority or 'We're No. 1' would rub, say, a French businessperson very much the wrong way." Communications skills consultant Diana Booher also understands the hidden dangers. The first time she presented overseas, Booher sprinkled examples of model U.S. companies and leaders throughout her speech. Her consciousness was raised after the session when she received several comments from the audience about how "over here, we use examples from the entire world, not just the U.S." Even if all the examples in your speech hail from the United States, you can still win points by being apologetic about it up front, acknowledging that the examples might as easily have come from Paris, Tel Aviv or Tokyo.
Beware of making points that assume the same values that exist in the United States. "American speakers might make a sarcastic remark about a manager having his whole family on the payroll, but in other cultures nepotism is very much accepted as the way to do business. That's what you do there you take care of your family." U.S. speakers men in particular often try to export the same baseball, football or golf metaphors they use at home. But outside of a few countries, those sports aren't well known. If you're presenting in Brazil, France or Germany, for instance, try to relate any sports metaphors to World Cup soccer rather than the World Series.
If you're really looking to dig a hole, tell an Irish joke when you're in Dublin. Most foreigners object to an outsider attempting to make jokes about their culture even if the same joke would result in hardy laughs when delivered by a local. Test any humor you intend to use on someone intimate with the country's language, culture and totems.
Pointing with the index finger is considered impolite in most Middle Eastern and East Asian countries, where speakers use a fully extended hand or closed fist to indicate direction. The American "OK" sign a circle formed with your index finger and thumb -- is considered obscene in Brazil. The "thumbs up" is a rude gesture in Australia. In Greece and Bulgaria, a head nod indicates no rather than yes.
In places such as Northern Germany or Scandinavia where people tend to be more reserved, fist-pounding and other emphatic gestures don't go over well. "As soon as you do that, your credibility is impaired," says Berlitz's Austraat. "Rather than listening, people are now thinking how silly this American looks." But with these and other exceptions, many about which you'll be warned, the non-verbals that serve you well in the States will do the same overseas perhaps even more so. For instance, spreading your hands apart to indicate height or width and gesturing for up and down can clear up uncertain language.
Direct eye contact, a key to gaining credibility in the United States, can be considered an invasion of privacy in cultures found in Japan or the Philippines. You might try sweeping your gaze across audiences in those cultures, rather than embarrassing individuals by looking at them for too long.
Weech is upfront about his desire to keep sessions interactive. "I immediately tell my trainees that the only way I know to deliver the session is 'American style,' which means fairly participatory," he says. "But I have much more sensitivity with those from collectivist cultures like Guatemala. I almost never call on someone unless I get a strong signal from their body language they want to be called on."
U.S. trainers should also be careful about encouraging open debate in multicultural classrooms. In collectivist cultures, any kind of open disagreement ruins group harmony, so audience members are more willing to repress their objections. Weech also modifies the way he asks for feedback on his performance from trainees outside the United States. Instead of asking point-blank if they've been following what he's been saying, he conducts periodic paper quizzes or other tests to get a more discreet measure of class comprehension.
Presenters and instructors in other cultures have higher social standing than in the United States; in Eastern Asia, they're often viewed as figures of absolute authority. For this reason, jokes, animated gestures and casual dress can create a sense of unease. Sharing a good laugh with your audience creates too much familiarity, and therefore discomfort.
Another cultural phenomenon that ties into speaker behavior is "uncertainty avoidance." Simply put, some cultures particularly in Latin America, Southern Europe and Japan are less comfortable with ambiguity than Americans are. People in these cultures are conditioned to expect absolute truths and they prefer detailed instructions to broad guidelines.
Photos, clip art, icons and other graphic symbols aren't always as obvious as they seem. For example: When subjects from Japan and Sweden were asked to identify the star symbol, Swedish subjects provided 20 different interpretations. Japanese subjects offered a dozen more; one identified it as a sea urchin.
Limit words in favor of charts, graphs and pictures whenever possible. Choosing colors for your presentation can be another potential minefield: An abundance of green connected to a humorous screen might be offensive in Islamic countries, where green is considered a religious color Purple is the color of death and funerals in Brazil and Mexico. The sweeping use of red still carries negative connotations in some Eastern European countries.
Many foreign audiences have voracious appetites for handouts and other paper-based takeaways which is no big surprise, considering that reading proficiency for most non-native English-speakers is generally superior to listening comprehension.
To aid non-native English-speakers, Weech always provides paper copies of his visuals in advance of foreign training sessions. "If I'm doing a workshop overseas, I send materials out before I get there," he says. "It gives them a chance to look up words they might not know and scan materials to get a head start." You'll also win points if you include a glossary of key terms and make handouts available in native languages as well as in English.
Weech also makes heavy use of PowerPoint's Notes feature, which creates a printout with three screen graphics on one side of a page and space for note-taking on the other. "It helps foreign groups follow along as I project images," he says.