I've had the opportunity to deliver, coach and witness numerous international presentations. This experience all points to one lesson—in addition to the careful preparation required for any presentation, those for an international audience demand extra attention.
In any presentation, one of the keys to success remains a focus on the audience's frame of reference. However, when that audience is international, you'll need to step out of your own frame of reference and focus on making the presentation salient for your target group.
When in Rome, you should definitely do as the Romans do. The goal is to “localize.” Here are five key areas to think about:
1. Language. Even if most members of your audience speak English, it may not be their first language. Avoid using clichés, slang and acronyms; they may have meaning in your own culture, but not theirs.
Remember that even in English-speaking countries there are a number of differences. An “elevator” in the US is a “lift” in the UK. Spelling also differs. “Center” in US English becomes “centre” in British English. “Judgment” is “judgement,” and “organize” is “organise.”
Some countries in Southeast Asia use the American spellings, whereas others use the British spellings. In the preparation for your presentation, find out what the accepted practice for your venue is and adapt both oral and written materials.
2. Measurement. I once attended a meeting in Manila where German publishing company presenters talked about cost-benefit analysis solely in terms of deutschmarks. It made little sense to the Filipinos, who had infrequent experience with this currency.
It's always a good idea to translate monetary units into the currency of the host country. This shows sensitivity to the culture as well as respect. If your audience contains people of several nationalities, the US dollar is widely understood and usually provides an effective way to express monetary units.
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