In the 21st century business world, very few things are NOT global in some way, and successful professionals and organizations have no choice but to be thinking about how to reach and connect to a global audience. There are a few things we encourage our clients to do when they are speaking/presenting/meeting with a global audience. If your goal is increase the chances that the audience will remember what you say (and that better be your goal, or else we have something else to speak about), then the pressure is on the speaker to make that more likely to happen. How do we do it? Here are some ideas:
1. Don’t use colloquialisms, examples, metaphors, or pop culture references that are not likely to translate well. I was a on a conference call a few months back, led by an American who loved to use sports clichés and metaphors. I love them too, in the appropriate setting. But on this global web meeting, with people from 10 different countries, he insisted on using the phrase “three yards and a cloud of dust” to describe his team’s determined progress. For an American Football fan, the metaphor means a lot. It is vivid and clear, and I knew exactly what he meant. But no one else did. The guy from Holland or the woman from China were completely lost. After the call, I encouraged him to adjust his speech pattern. He eventually got it, but his first reaction was “come on, everyone knows what that means.” Sure, everyone who roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers gets it. But not everyone-everyone.
2. Speak in short sentences with simple sentence structure. We call this “speaking in periods, not in commas.” Make sure your sentences are short, easy to digest and with simple “noun-verb-object-period” sentence structure. The simpler the sentence structure, the easier it is for the non-native-English speaker to follow you.
3. Slow down, and pause more frequently. Think of your words as a meal. We don’t want to give our audience indigestion caused by eating too quickly. We want them to enjoy the meal. We want them to take a bite, chew, swallow, and have a moment to breathe before the next bite comes hurtling at them. With a global audience, the absorption rate is going to be different because many of them are probably thinking in their first language and then translating into English. This just adds time, and we have to be patient and respectful.
That’s all for today. Have a great one…