The challenges of presenting internationally
I still remember the first time I went to Hong Kong to do a presentation. A 'traditional' Chinese audience awaited me. They gave little away, were un-emotive, and I could not tell if they understood - or even if they were interested or engaged. I could not draw any energy from them! This is not a problem if you know what to expect, but I was used to drawing energy from the audience and I had prepared and sequenced the presentation based on my expectations.
Not being able to read the audience threw me off completely. It made me very insecure. I found the energy within myself to finish the presentation somehow, but I realized then that my level of self-awareness, self-regulation and self-motivation was not high enough to deal with complex intercultural environments.
If you’ve done work internationally you’ve probably been in situations where your introduction doesn’t receive the desired response and your funny slides don’t cause any emotion - sometimes even cause negative reactions in the audience. You can’t read the audience well, and you feel that you’re not communicating. When you receive questions they are unexpected and you are not prepared for them. Or worse still, there are no questions at all and you are unsure if anything you have said has been received or understood. Presenting in an unfamiliar setting can be incredibly daunting for any presenter.
Thankfully, there are straightforward guidelines that will help you ensure that your presentations and communications are received in the manner intended.
Three universal principles of presentation and communication skills
The following principals for presentations are likely to be familiar to most executives. When preparing for international presentations it is important that these elements are reconsidered and factor in the environmental context and cultural dynamics of where you will present .
1: Four fundamental principles to consider in Presentation Skills:
a) Present in such a way that adults, participants in the program can connect with your presentation.
b) The more you prepare and the more research you do, the more you will discover about your audience and the more likely you are able to connect to them.
c) Your job is to trigger the right response from your audience.
Your presentation may make sense to you - but does it make sense to them?
d) When using presentation aids make sure you talk about what the audience can see.
Never include illegible or complicated spreadsheets or graphics, when you use slides, video clips, animation etc., which will distract your audience.
2. Behavioral styles
Understanding your own personality / behavioral style will ensure that you are able to adjust the way you present to cater for multiple behavioral styles in the audience. We recommend DISC as the least complicated way to start in inter-cultural situations, or other more comprehensive psychometric tools to help with this.
3. Emotional Intelligence
Understanding what motivates you and regulates your emotions is just as important as knowing how to motivate or interpret your audience. When presenting to a Mono-Cultural audience that is different from our own we will not instinctively trigger the right response. To achieve the right response we require a higher level of self-awareness and a higher level of self-regulation and self-motivation.
The Fourth Element: Looking at presentations from an Inter-Cultural perspective
While the three universal principles will help your delivery, there is only one true way to achieve excellence in presentation and communication with people who have a different worldview from yourself.
Inter-Cultural Intelligence gives you a heightened level of cultural understanding, ensuring you can read any culture and figure out how to act appropriately regardless of the situation.
In our view, this is more useful than the established way of dealing with Inter-Cultural issues where people are coached using stereotypical views of a nationality, often in the form of a "do’s and don’ts" list. We have seen it on numerous occasions.
Executives who need to fly to Japan to make a presentation spend hours editing to ensure they are doing a presentation in a Japanese context, by adhering to a strict list that includes jokes you shouldn’t tell, slides you shouldn’t use and sequences of activities that are better than another sequence of activities.
Whilst this can be helpful it doesn’t prepare you for the real scenario. We cannot stereotype individuals according to their passport. A Japanese national, born and raised in Germany will not respond in the same way as a Japanese national, born and raised in Japan.
This scenario is even more challenging is when you are faced with a Multi-Cultural setting from a wide range of cultures. There is no way to go through a list of "do’s and don’ts" for every single culture you will face in a multi-cultural gathering.
The most effective way to deal with this is to understand the different factors at work through tools like the Three Colors of Worldview and the 12 Dimensions of Culture. With these models in your head, you can learn how to read the audience for clues about the range of cultures that they represent, and format your presentation to communicate effectively.
The KnowledgeWorkx Inter-Cultural Presentation Process
Here at KnowledgeWorkx we have developed a framework that walks you through the process of presentation integrated with Inter-Cultural Intelligence from the start. The framework shows you how to:
- Gather your material
- Do your audience research (universal)
- Make sure your material is aligned with the best thinking on adult learning, different learning styles, and the processing and anchoring of information
- Connect using your behavioral style
- Structure your material, talk, and stories in such a way that others can connect with it
- Know how much self-awareness, self-motivation and self-reflection you are displaying and how you can develop this to become a better inter-cultural facilitator
- Use the components of ICI to become more proficient in those environments
Using all four elements allows you to effectively navigate complex Inter-Cultural audiences and stay on track when things don’t work out the way you thought they would. They are the key to delivering successful presentation regardless of your audience.
KnowledgeWorkx has a great framework for Inter-Cultural presentation and communication. To find out more about the tools available to help you tackle these issues more constructively, please contact us.