As an international speaker, you’re bound to be confronted with unique challenges. Inspirational speakers, in particular, must overcome cultural and language barriers to create deep emotional connections.
Following a few simple rules will help you communicate successfully with diverse international audiences. This will ensure your story makes the powerful impact it deserves.
Rule #1: An International Speaker Must Respect Cultural Differences
Perhaps the most important piece of advice for an international speaker is to have at least a basic understanding of the cultural norms. Fail to educate yourself, and you’re likely to make an embarrassing mistake. In some cases, this can completely ruin your credibility.
Here are a few examples to consider:
- In Japan, you’re expected to bow, rather than offer a handshake.
- In China, business cards should be accepted with both hands.
- In Arab countries, the standard is to accept a business card with your right hand only.
Before heading overseas, take the time to learn about the cultural standards. This will help ensure that your message is well-received.
Rule #2: Pay Attention to Body Language
When traveling outside of your home country, it’s important to pay attention to your body language. This includes things like:
- The amount of eye contact you make
- Your mannerisms
- Your posture
- Respect for personal space
Remember that what’s acceptable in one country may be completely offensive in another.
Rule #3: Communicate Clearly
Speaking slowly and enunciating clearly is important for all public speakers. It’s even more important when you aren’t speaking the audience’s native language.
In some regions like Asia, the Mediterranean, and Latin America, the tone of voice and facial expressions are an important communication tool. Other cultures communicate with a strong emphasis on hand gestures. Still, others clearly explain what they mean primarily through the words they choose.
Understanding the culture’s preferred communication method will help you bond with your audience.
Rule #4: Choose Your Words Carefully
The same word sometimes has a different meaning in another language, so it’s important to choose your words with care. Avoid metaphors and jargon that may not be understood. For example, you may be well advised to skip the sports analogies and stay away from any type of off-color humor.
Don’t use foreign words unless you are one hundred percent sure of the meaning and pronunciation. Often, even a slight variance can cause a word to take on a completely different meaning. This could have disastrous results and you’re better off avoiding it altogether.
Rule #5: Dress for Success
Depending on where you are speaking, you may need to follow a very strict dress code. In Muslim countries, for example, women are expected to dress very conservatively. Sleeveless shirts, short skirts, and plunging necklines are definitely off-limits.
Dark or neutral colors and conservative designs are almost always the way to go when dealing with international business transactions. Unless you’re completely sure it’s acceptable, avoid anything that’s flashy or shows too much skin.
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