Culture and Successful Presentations

4/21/2015

Communicating in another language is hard enough, but many people who work abroad or with partners in different countries fail to consider the impact of culture on how they convey and receive information.  

Think about the case of a Chinese negotiator delivering a presentation to a team of US businesspeople he is trying to sell a product to. Chinese and American interaction style, thinking style and sense of self vary greatly. Whereas the Chinese negotiator may have rehearsed his message numerous times in order to make sure he gets his English idioms correct, there may be large gaps in the way he and his American counterparts arrange information, address different levels on the hierarchy, and use non-verbal cues when conveying information, just to name a few.

The negotiator may set up his presentation slides in a way that is not intuitive to his US audience. He may not know whom to address during the presentation and when would be the best time to make his pitch. He may be unprepared if he is asked a question off-guard in the middle of the presentation. If he fumbles his answer, his American hosts could believe he does not know his topic well enough. If he postpones his answer until the end of the presentation, the Americans may consider him rude or evasive.

TMC trains numerous business and academic leaders in the cultural side of communication, combining it with Berlitz’s proven language teaching methods. Therefore, the Chinese negotiator from the example above would not only be trained in the English business language he needs in order to speak to his American counterparts, but he’d also be equipped with the cultural skills he needs to adapt his communication styles to fit those of the opposite team. This could prevent any number of misinterpretations, missed cues and blundered exchanges.

Communicating is more than just language. Integrating cultural training into workforce development is good for employees, their teams and the company as a whole.

Anne-Marie Salmon