Eleonore Breukel is the author of over 100 articles for various business magazines, newspapers and the virtual media.

She co-authored a book on how to do business in 19 countries across the world.

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Inspire your audience in a four minute presentation

Inspire your international audience and persuade them with powerful presentations in four minutes
by Eleonore Breukel

Can you get undivided attention when giving a presentation? Can you motivate your clients and colleagues to take the necessary action? Can you adapt your presentation style to the cultural background of your audience? Yes you can!

Many of us are forced to sit through our colleagues’ presentations at meetings. Do you know why some of your colleagues inspire you and others are just plain boring, regardless of the topic they talk about? What does it take to empower people and sell your ideas within four minutes?

Analyze your audience

Start preparing by asking your self some questions: How do you appeal to the interest of every one present? Do they need your information to obtain their targets? Are they going to take part in a new team or project? What’s in it for them?

What is their cultural background? Do you approach them formally? Do you need to thank people when starting? Will you be “name-dropping” if let your audience know how important your contacts are? Do they need a lot of detail or do they prefer the big picture? Will they be asking questions? Should you bring strong emotions into your presentation to persuade them or not?

Structure your presentation

Use four slides or less for a four-minute presentation. Give them a clear structure and stick to the headlines. Your slides should be used as a back up only. Your verbal presentation should inspire your audience and persuade them to take action. Never read your PowerPoint from the screen. Additional, written information can be distributed after you presentation.

The structure of your speech
Your speech has an opening, a body and a conclusion. In the opening, tell your audience in two sentences what you will be talking about. The body of your speech consists of your real message. The conclusion may stress action points. In other words: Tell them what you’re going to say. Say it. And then tell them what you said.

1 Your opening
In most cultures it is appropriate to thank the person who invited you to speak.

The opening should catch the attention of the audience. It might be a startling question or a small personal story related to your presentation. Follow it by a short pause to create suspense and to give the audience time to digest the meaning.

Then, tell your audience, in two sentences, what you will be talking about.
Make contact with your audience. Look at each person around the meeting table in the face. Avoid staring into the distance. Your smile will reassure your audience that you know what you are talking about.

2 The body
The body of your speech consists of your real message. It may state a problem or a need followed by a solution. Support your views by facts and logical reasoning. You can illustrate your point by telling a small anecdote. Be sure though, that non-native English speakers will understand your story.

Persuade the audience by telling them what may happen if your suggested solution is not accepted. Convince them that what you propose now will truly benefit everyone in the organization.

Inspire by using words that sell e.g. advantage, benefit, cost-effective, ideal, opportunity, excellence, breakthrough, bottom line and many others.
Create energy and speak in the active tense: “We do…Yes we can…Let’s work on this now...” Make it the concern of the entire audience by using we instead of it or them.

The cultural angle: How do you present your content? How many facts and figures do you bring in? The Germans like figures. The French like a logical discourse. The Indians need a lot of detail. The Americans like a pep talk. The Dutch will ask a lot of questions.

How much emotion do you use in your non-verbal communication? Your facial expression and your body should reflect your enthusiasm for your message adapted to various cultures.

In southern European countries, many post USSR countries, Greece and a number of Middle Eastern and African countries, the audience will get inspired by strong non-verbal communication and strong vocal variety. Express your happiness, anger, anxiousness, and relaxation in your face. Your body and hands can back up the emotion expressed on your face.

In many Southeast Asian countries very little emotion is shown. Your body should be serene, with your arms close. Give special attention to pauses so listeners can reflect on what you say. Expression is mostly demonstrated through intonation, which indicates the importance of your words. You should focus on vocal variety without much emotion.

3 The conclusion
Now is the time to make your listeners remember you and reinforce your ideas. Make a summary of your ideas and energize your audience by suggesting a number of actions to be taken within a time frame. Use your fingers to count the action points. You can then conclude with an open question, e.g. “Who will give me feedback this afternoon?” Or a quote, e.g. “The little white ball won’t move until you hit it!” While saying your last sentence, look at the individual faces of your audience. All eyes should be on you!

The cultural angle: In all cultures a call for action can be made in energetic language and even more vocal variety than in the body of your presentation. In more formal cultures one may refer to superiors in the beginning of the conclusion, e.g. “Mrs. Andrews’ continuous support inspires us.”

Understanding the language

If you are a non-native English speaker, speaking in the global language of English, make sure that every one understands you at all times. Speak slowly. Make sure that words and the concepts you speak about correspond with those in the cultures of your audience.

Uhhhms and Ahhhhs
Pay attention to the frequency with which you say “um” and “ah” during your presentation. “Ums” and “ahs” distract the audience from the point you want to make and you will lose their attention. Record yourself when preparing and have someone count your “ums” and “ahs”.

The successful international speaker
If you want to become a good speaker, study the vocal variety and non-verbal behavior in speeches by the politicians Berlusconi of Italy or Chavez of Venezuela, or Taro Aso of Japan.
Each of them inspires their audiences in a very cultural way. The success of Barack Obama during election time clearly shows that he knows how to play with his American audience.

The key to becoming a successful speaker is in your preparation. Rehearse your presentation several times in the presence of someone who can give you feedback on your performance.


  • Prepare and get feedback during your preparation
  • Analyze your audience and appeal to their needs and interests
  • Structure your speech: introduction, body, conclusion
  • Adapt your content, vocal variety and non-verbal behavior to the cultural background of your audience
  • Make contact with your audience
  • Create a strong opening
  • Use the present tense and words that are energetic and convincing
  • Avoid looking at notes or PowerPoint
  • Be aware of your “ums” and “ahs”
  • Close with a strong statement or a question

© Eleonore Breukel Intercultural Communication bv Amsterdam – The Netherlands -