Perfecting Your Presentation As An International Executive
It’s already hard enough to understand the differences between giving a presentation in the US and abroad, but many international presenters also have to contend with personal habits that can derail their whole performance. Here is a list of things to watch out for, and some top tips to use when speaking in public or at an internal company meeting:
1. Don’t think you have to fill in the gaps
I have some clients who prefer to find a sound to fill in the pauses they make when they are thinking, but not speaking. Be careful not to constantly use “ah”, “eh” or “em” in between words when you construct a sentence in English, as it can be disturbing for the audience to listen to and can disrupt your message.
Before your presentation, practice, practice, practice. That way, because you know the content well, you can concentrate on your speaking patterns. You could also record yourself when you practice and listen for those “filler” words; once you are aware of those sounds, you can start eliminating them.
2. Simplicity is key
In general, business done in the US uses language that is easy to understand (except for those who insist on using corporate jargon!). In contrast, many international executives take pride in constructing complicated sentences and using “educated” vocabulary.
While that may be appreciated in Europe and Asia, in the US it’s considered an art to express yourself in a way that everyone understands. Remember that simplicity is key and you won’t have to spend extra time ensuring that your messages are understood.
3. Get down to basics
American business communication usually takes place on a pragmatic level. This can be hard for international executives who are used to speaking with “higher level thoughts” and sometimes have a hard time getting down to basics. When I work with clients on expressing what they really mean, after saying something that is so abstract that it is hard to understand what they are talking about, we need several run-throughs until the idea is finally pared down to its basics. Remember that when you explain something, keep it simple and use examples; there are fewer chances at miscommunication.
4. Keep an eye on the clock
US business presenters are usually very time conscious, keeping their presentations and explanations concise, to the point and stopping on time. This can be a bit more difficult for international presenters who tend to talk longer about a point and often give many more details than are necessary. Listeners can become impatient, and in this day and age, many will start working on their computers or iphones instead of paying attention to the presenter. Again, practice makes perfect, so time your presentation beforehand and keep your watch or phone in clear view while you speak.
5. Slow down!
International presenters can have an accent that can get in the way of being easily understood. It’s helpful to have someone listen to your presentation and point out the words you may be mispronouncing; that way you can practice them and be confident that you are saying them correctly. Many of my clients often speak very quickly, thinking that if they do this, people won’t notice their accent as much. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. It’s very difficult to follow someone who speaks too quickly, and people often give up completely after the first few sentences. Learn to pace yourself and understand that your listeners need time to absorb your ideas. When they get used to your accent, they’ll be able to listen to your message and not pay attention to the way you speak.