International speaking is not easy, primarily because what is good in one country might not be acceptable in another. You can say “standout” in some countries to signify excellence, for a Dutch audience the same denotes humiliation. “Fitting in would be more appropriate. All your hours of preparation would come to naught if you do not frame your words judiciously in front of an international audience.
Here are some tips that can help you prepare for an international speaking assignment.
Research the country – A week or so before you are due to speak, research the country you are headed to. Learn about potential hotspots and things to stress on or avoid in your speech. Know the prevailing political scenario and any “localised” content that you can add to raise interest levels. Going through this process will help you avoid any faux pas in your speech.
Include appropriate cultural references – Go through your draft speech repeatedly to see if you are making the right cultural references. These differ between countries so you should be very careful in this regard. The best way to avoid any words or comments that will have an adverse impact is to double check your draft with a local contact. You will know what content is appropriate for your audience. Further, you might be talking about a product that has not yet been introduced in that country. In that case your speech will find no takers. Small things but very important so far as international speaking is concerned.
Schedule quality time with Translator – A few hours before your programme schedule time with your translator more so if you have an intricate power point presentation to make. Be on the same wave length with your translator regarding correct meanings of technical terms. Informing your audience accurately and precisely about the slides you are putting up will enable you to correctly get your message across.
Speak slowly – This might be the norm wherever you are speaking but for international audiences that speak a different language or the same language with a different accent, it is crucial. They have to absorb your words well and get the true meaning of what you are putting forth. Hence, speak slowly, clearly and with a certain degree of confidence.
Get your body language right – Even before you start your speech or presentation, the way you sit or your posture or gestures can impact your audience. The normal sitting style with legs crossed can be offensive in certain countries in Kuwait. Nodding your head to say “yes” might be universally accepted but is the opposite in Turkey or Bulgaria. Eye contact is a sign of confidence but is considered impolite in certain Asian and African countries. These things are as important as the quality and content of your speech.
These are some tips to help you meet the challenges of international speaking. However what you decide to do as the man on the spot depends on the variables and customs prevailing in that country.