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Around the World Presentation Tips

by Deborah Rinner, Chief Learning Consultant, Tero International

If we are presenting to a cross cultural group, we can easily bomb if we do not know what the audience considers appropriate. Considerations such as these are useful to know even if presenting in our own environments.

The opening of a talk is important, for the presenter has eight seconds to make an initial impression on the audience.

Culturally, it can vary in what audiences look for and esteem. What will "set the stage" appropriately to form a good impression with diverse audiences?

In the United State participants look favorably on openings that are brief, allowing them to get right into the task of what the presentation is all about. Europeans generally look for credentials to be established in the opening before the subject is delved into. Asians look for the presenter to establish their expertise before getting down to business. Latin Americans look to identify with the presenter and are looking for personal connections with the topic.

How we begin a presentation influences how we are perceived. Figuring out what our audience may be listening to hear will influence our credibility and the chance that our message will be well received.

Thinking about our audience's expectations doesn't just apply to openings and culture. It is vital no matter who we are presenting to. The more you know about the people you are attempting to communicate with, the more closely you can tailor a message that will be well received. Howard Gardner in his book Changing Minds speaks of seven communication considerations to prep yourself.

1. Arguments, Facts, Rhetoric: Is the person moved by argument based on fact? What role do facts play in importance to this person?

2. Direct or Indirect: Is this person more likely to be engaged by a direct discussion, or should I bring this up indirectly? Is questioning a better technique that telling? Are non-verbal cues like silence able to say more to this person than words?

3. Consistency: Does this person need to see consistency in beliefs, attitudes and actions? If so, how do I help them deal with any apparent inconsistencies?

4. Conflict: Does this person like to match wits or avoid sharp exchanges?

5. Emotionally Charged Areas: Do you know what issues and ideas this person feels strongly about with regard to this message? Is this person motivated more by attraction to what they like, or by fear of what they dislike?

6. Current Scripts, Content and Form: When this person communicates with you, in writing, conversation etc. look for the mental representations they have concerning the issue. Also try to ascertain the way they hold these mental models. Are they more graphic or verbal? Do they seem to view things as models or illustrations? Try to appeal your argument or point to the way they take in information.

7. Gardner reminds us, the most important consideration of all is this: Focus less on how you see and impart information and more on how the person receiving sees it and may potentially take it in.

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