The Successful Global Presenter

What would you do if you had to deliver the same presentation to audiences in Finland, Puerto Rico, Australia and Taiwan?  The answer to that question, and more, came up during the workshop on global presentations I gave at the Society for Research Administration (SRA) international conference in Seattle.

Senior managers from universities and research institutes in Europe, Asia/Pacific and North America attended the workshop.  They lead large global project teams, so, one of their biggest challenges is delivering presentations and workshops to international audiences.  We discussed three strategies to improve their cultural agility and connect with audiences when speaking globally.

First – tailor the content to the local culture.  Use examples, analogies and themes that fit the culture or have a broad cultural appeal.  If you’re in India, cricket is a better sports analogy than baseball

Second – adjust the amount and type of interaction with the audience.  Audiences participate in different ways across cultures. Some are very engaged and open to participating in exercises and Q&A sessions, while others are more reserved.  The key is to provide options for dialogue and feedback, as speaking up in a public format may not be culturally acceptable.

Third – modify your nonverbal communication.  Pay attention to your body language in cross-cultural presentations. Some cultures such as the U.S. and Brazil are quite animated and appreciate hand gestures and an energetic delivery. Others (Finland, Japan) expect speakers to remain calm, with a less animated delivery.   

There are resources to help you prepare for global presentations.  Ideally you ask a local contact what you can do to be effective.  You can also talk with someone who has presented in that culture before.  A great web site is for information on cultures is located at   Excellent books include: Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands and Working GlobeSmart

Overall, we had great discussions and everyone agreed that when you’re speaking on the global stage, cultural agility matters.