Inspire your international audience in a seven minutes presentation
Empower people and sell your ideas
© Eleonore Breukel www.intercultural.nl
Can you get the undivided attention when giving a presentation? Can you persuede 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!
Why some of your colleagues inspire and others are just plain boring, regardless of the topic? What does it take to empower people and sell your ideas within seven minutes?
Analyze your audience
Start preparing by asking yourself some questions: 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” to let your audience know how important your contacts are? Do they need lots of details or just the big picture? Will they be asking questions? Should you bring strong emotions into your presentation to persuade them or not?
Structure your presentation
PowerPoint: Use four slides or less for a four-minute international 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 your presentation.
The structure of your speech: Your speech has an opening, a body and a conclusion. In the opening, tell your multicultural 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 eye contact with your multicultural audience. Look at each person around the meeting table. Avoid staring into the distance. Your smile will reassure your international 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 lots of detail. The Americans like a pep talk. The Dutch will ask lots 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 culturesIn 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 usually only, little emotion is shown. Your body should be serene, with your arms close to your body. Give special attention to pauses so listeners can reflect on what you say. Expression is also 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 multicultural 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 make sure that everyone understands your English. Speak slowly. Make sure that the concepts you speak about and the words 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 speech. “Ums” and “ahs” distract the audience from the point you want to make and you will lose their attention. Record yourself when preparing and 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, Taro Aso of Japan or Martin Luther King. Each of them inspires 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. Compare him with Donald Trump who avoids any real content in his speech, intended or not. 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 international audience
- Make eye 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 www.intercultural.nl