World Wise

Stand­ing up to de­liver your mes­sage is a lot eas­ier if you re­mem­ber Rule #1: Know your au­di­ence

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE EVERY ISSUE - By Terri Mor­ri­son

Pre­sen­ta­tion Logic

At a con­sor­tium of em­i­nent Ger­man ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists, Herr Doktor Gre­gor Gold in­tro­duces the next speaker, an am­bi­tious en­tre­pre­neur we’ll call Mr. Driver. As Mr. Driver strides con­fi­dently to­ward the podium, he smiles broadly, slides his left hand into his pants pocket, and says “Thank you, Greg, for that won­der­ful in­tro­duc­tion… ”He’s itch­ing to crack a scin­til­lat­ing joke be­fore daz­zling his au­di­ence with his bril­liant busi­ness plan. Hope­fully, Mr. Driver no­tices the eye­brows shoot­ing up in the front row, and de­cides to forego the joke.

He’s al­ready com­mit­ted sev­eral faux pas in front of his Ber­lin au­di­ence. Busi­ness is se­ri­ous here, and Ger­man ex­ec­u­tives do not gen­er­ally be­stow “win­ning” grins upon prospects from the podium. Nei­ther do they in­sult peo­ple by keep­ing one hand in a pocket while speak­ing or greet­ing some­one (like Bill Gates did with the Pres­i­dent of South Korea, Park Geun-hye – an im­age that made front pages through­out Asia). And in front of a crowd, they use for­mal ti­tles and last names. Drop­ping Herr Dock­tor Gold’s first name in such dis­tin­guished com­pany was pre­sump­tu­ous – even if they use their first names in pri­vate.

Luck­ily, Mr. Driver skips the quip, and goes on to de­liver a thor­oughly re­searched busi­ness plan. 100 slides, I rolled my eyes and told my as­so­ciate, ‘This is go­ing to be ter­ri­ble - no one needs 100 slides! ’I just want to tell you, I wish you had more slides, and I want you to come and do this pre­sen­ta­tion at our global sales meet­ing.”

Why so many slides? Be­cause I have hun­dreds of ex­am­ples of global ne­go­ti­at­ing tech­niques, eth­i­cal view­points, ges­tures, gifts, com­mu­ni­ca­tion styles etc., and all have cor­re­spond­ing slides. For ex­am­ple, there are coun­tries that im­pose pro­hi­bi­tions on com­pet­i­tive or ma­nip­u­la­tive ad­ver­tis­ing. There are no Coke and Pepsi wars in much of the EU, and there are no “Call Now!” num­bers in French ads. In Saudi Ara­bia you should avoid us­ing pigs or dogs (no Porky Pig car­toons!), and never use the flag in any man­ner (Al­lah’s name is on it).

Whether you use one or a hun­dred Pow­erPoint slides, flipcharts or avatars on a big screen – know your au­di­ence! Be aware of the jobs, lan­guages, busi­ness and so­cial prac­tices of the at­ten­dees. It will help you en­gage with them, and pre­vent you from de­liv­er­ing an em­bar­rass­ing faux pas along with your bril­liant pre­sen­ta­tion.

No Laugh­ing Mat­ter

Many pre­sen­ters like to open their speeches with a witty line or two. But clearly, one joke does not fit all. Why does a funny story fly in Seat­tle and fall flat in Sin­ga­pore or Shang­hai? It’s not just the lan­guage bar­rier. As White and Jack­son de­scribed in their ar­ti­cle “What’s Funny?”( Psy­chol­ogy To­day), joke con­tent can be a re­flec­tion of broad cul­tural norms. For ex­am­ple, pornog­ra­phy is il­le­gal in Sin­ga­pore, so com­edy with any type of sex­ual in­nu­endo is not so funny. But on the other hand, slap­stick or vi­o­lence may get a laugh.

Be­sides in­ap­pro­pri­ate top­ics and bad trans­la­tions, the en­tire con­cept of hu­mor can dif­fer glob­ally. Amer­i­cans of­ten use jokes as a re­lease valve to dis­pel anx­i­ety and lift spir­its. How­ever, the Chi­nese don’t tra­di­tion­ally ap­proach com­edy as a cop­ing mech­a­nism. They his­tor­i­cally use it to make a point, demon­strate a moral, or in­struct some­one while be­ing en­ter­tain­ing.

It can also be dis­con­cert­ing for Asians to see a fig­ure in au­thor­ity – an in­vited speaker – be­hav­ing in­for­mally by telling jokes or ex­pect­ing at­ten­dees to laugh out loud. In­struc­tors and speak­ers are held in high re­spect in China, Ja­pan and much of Asia – and laugh­ter is not ex­pected dur­ing the pro­ceed­ings. It can sig­nal ner­vous­ness or em­bar­rass­ment, not joy.

There is not gen­er­ally a Q&A sec­tion at the end of Asian pre­sen­ta­tions ei­ther. Since class par­tic­i­pa­tion is not the norm in China, stu­dents (who turn into ex­ec­u­tives) are used to qui­etly lis­ten­ing to speeches at work. It could em­bar­rass an en­tire room if one at­tendee grabbed the spot­light away from the speaker, just so he or she could pose a ques­tion.

But with­out your open­ing bon mot, or an in­ter­ac­tive ex­er­cise, how do you grab your au­di­ence in the first few mo­ments?

El­e­men­tary, My Dear Wat­son

In his ex­cel­lent piece “How to Give a Killer Pre­sen­ta­tion”( Har­vard Busi­ness Re­view), Chris An­der­son de­scribes coach­ing the speak­ers at TED Talks who have 18 min­utes to de­liver. He be­lieves that“many of the best talks have a nar­ra­tive struc­ture that loosely fol­lows a de­tec­tive story. It has to be en­gag­ing. The qual­ity of the idea, the nar­ra­tive, and the pas­sion of the speaker… is more im­por­tant than… speak­ing style or mul­ti­me­dia py­rotech­nics.

Some peo­ple de­spise Pow­erPoint slides. They cor­re­late them to ver­bose, bor­ing speak­ers. Af­ter my sem­i­nar at the ACTE (As­so­ci­a­tion of Cor­po­rate Travel Ex­ec­u­tives) con­ven­tion in NYC this year, a di­rec­tor at a large air­line came up and said, “Terri, when you said that you had What’s your Cul­tural IQ? True or False? Be­sides How to Win Friends and In­flu­ence Peo­ple, an­other Dale Carnegie clas­sic is Pub­lic Speak­ing for Suc­cess.

E-mail your an­swer to Terri Mor­ri­son@ kiss­bowor­shake­hands.com

A free copy of Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands: The Best­selling Guide to Do­ing Busi­ness in More Than Sixty Coun­tries and Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands: Sales & Mar­ket­ing will be awarded to two cor­rect re­spon­dents, courtesy of F&W Me­dia and McGraw-Hill.

June’s An­swer: True. Ob­ser­vant Mus­lim men do not gen­er­ally wear gold jewelry.

Terri Mor­ri­son is a speaker, co-author of 9 books, and is work­ing on her 10th. She is also edi­tor of Kiss Bow or Shake Hands Dig­i­tal - avail­able through McGraw-Hill. Ter­riMor­ri­son@ kiss bowor­shake hands Twit­ter @Kiss Bow Author. Tel (610) 725-1040. BT

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