Preparing a presentation is already hard enough. Knowing that you’ll speak in front of an international audience adds a new layer of difficulty. If you’re not multilingual, an international speaking opportunity might be daunting. But getting around the language barrier is completely possible. You just need to plan properly, get informed, and approach it with confidence and creativity.
In this article, we’ll share seven essential tips for your international presentation to be a success.
Keep the Organizer in the Loop
Talk to your organizer about the language barrier. Will they provide on-site language assistance? Can they make sure your presentation slides are translated? Your audience might be composed of people from all around the world, who all speak different languages. In that case, it’s worth asking what the event’s lingua franca will be.
Keep a strong line of communication while you’re preparing your material, and agree on a workflow that allows both you and the interpreter to perform well.
Tailor your Material for an International Audience
Every culture is different. If you want to make your presentation effective and memorable, consider researching local preferences and presentation-related customs. For instance, Chinese businesspeople tend to prefer presentations that go from a broad overview of a situation to its finer details.
Iraqi professionals prefer to listen to a presentation accompanied by evocative images than to be distracted by text-heavy slides. On the other hand, Japanese businesspeople usually expect and appreciate receiving supporting documentation.
If you plan on sprinkling your presentation with a little humor, make sure your jokes do not offend audience members. It’s all about finding a middle ground between who you are and what you’re about, and what your audience finds interesting and engaging.
Learn About Feedback & Body Language
If you’ll be giving a presentation in person, research what to expect in terms of body language and audience feedback. In some cultures, it’s common for people to applaud after a speaker has made a sharp and eloquent statement. In some cultures, that won’t be the case, and approval might be expressed in more subtle ways. Knowing what to expect will prevent you from making the wrong assumptions about the effect your words are having on your audience.
You should also get some cross-cultural insight into your own body language. Hand gestures that you consider innocuous might be deeply offensive to your audience. Even if you’ll be presenting online, if you’ll appear on camera, make sure your body language is culturally appropriate.
Localize Your Presentation Slides for an International Audience
Examining your own body language is part of being culturally aware and making sure you’re not off-tone.
But you should also analyze and localize your supporting material. Localization is different and more comprehensive than translation, and it involves adapting all aspects of your content. This includes your slides’ color combinations and imagery. For instance, if your slides have pictures of people, a localization professional will make sure they’re dressed in a culturally appropriate manner.
Talk to your organizer about whether your slides will be translated or localized, and which changes they’d need you to make to facilitate this process.
The pace of your speech shouldn’t only be conditioned by your own personal style as a speaker, or by the pace of your interpreter, but also by the rhythm preferred by your target audience. Some audiences might be all about fast-paced, energetic speakers. Others might like slower and calmer approaches better.
Learning about your audience’s preference is easy. For instance, if you’re going to give a presentation in India, look for great presentations given by Indians to Indian audiences, and see if you can spot a pattern.
Make Sure You’re Not Untranslatable
Be aware of how your own culture and dialect can make your presentation less accessible to foreigners, and edit it accordingly. Your interpreter might be an international luminary in technical or business translations, but they’ll have an especially hard time if your speech is full of untranslatable jargon.
Go out of your way to make sure you’re not working with convoluted sentences or wordplay. Filter out obscure cultural references. Make sure that your sentences are short and to the point. This will be crucial to make sure your presentation is enjoyable for everyone — particularly, for those whose mother tongue is not your interpreter’s target language.
A great speaker can make even the hardest, most complex topic interesting and easy to understand. And, if you’re getting international opportunities, you’re probably great at what you do. Don’t hesitate to go out of script to joke and be spontaneous.
If your audience will be linguistically homogenous, don’t be afraid to learn a few words in their language. Taking your time to learn to pronounce them will show them that you appreciate and respect them. But, if you’ve spent several hours doing your best, and you’re still not mastering your pronunciation, research whether self-deprecating humor is well-received in your audience’s culture.