Here are some articles written by Eric de Groot including Dutch, Deutsch, Danish and international cultural misunderstanding, the importance of global education as published in Professional Speaker of 2000, and a description of the corporate vision.
In addition, check out the tips below from fellow NSA members when going abroad and making a presentation.
10 Tips to Speak Successfully in Asia: Debbie Christofferson of Higley, AZ
1. Focus on the Relationship.
Relationships are important in any culture, but in Asia, they are critical, forming the foundation for most business. You need relationships to establish contacts and to develop the criteria for business needs and expectations for your planned engagement. This happens before, during, and after the assignment, and you must fit your work to the culture where you will be. For success, start building a relationship now for places where you want to speak.
2. Have a host.
In many countries, especially Asian countries, you will need to have someone help you interact, to deal with the language, culture, assignment expectations, venue, travel, etc. This will help ensure that things go smoothly and provide help with any unexpected rough spots caused by travel delays, etc. Arrange for a host, and keep in constant communication regarding your contact and itinerary details.
3. Plan for an interpreter.
If you speak only English, you will need an interpreter in many countries. Interpreters will not only translate your material, but they can also help guide you in using words or phrases that are better understood than others, especially in Japan, China or Korea. Make arrangements for an interpreter with your host and be sure to review your material ahead of time with them.
4. Use short simple words in writing and speaking.
English is a second language in most Asian countries. The spoken and written words can take on different meanings, as can words in different languages or cultures. To be understood, you must speak at a simple level, and avoid all contractions, slang and big words. Keep it simple so your audience can understand your message.
5. Slow down.
This is particularly necessary when speaking through an interpreter. You want to give your audience time to absorb your words and to understand your message. Slow it down for your audience so that they get the full benefit of your words.
6. Skip the jokes.
Many things that seem funny to you will appear insensitive or not be understood in another culture. Maintaining a professional manner will represent you and the industry more positively and get your message across better. Avoid jokes and humor that may create a different impression than your intent.
7. Avoid excessive gestures and animation.
The Asian culture does not use animation the same as Western cultures. It’s possible gestures will have offensive meanings and animation may get in the way of the message you want to convey. Keep your gestures and animation to a minimum.
8. Plan on backup presentation methods.
Make sure you know what equipment is available, and have a contingency plan in place if it is not there, or if something goes wrong. This is true anytime, and even more so in different countries. Plan for the worst and expect the best, and your engagement will be uninterrupted by unexpected surprises.
9. Have your host make local hotel and airport transport arrangements.
Making arrangements for lodging and transport in other countries can be difficult even when your native language is spoken. It is much harder when spoken and written information is presented to us in an unfamiliar language. Hotel rooms can be arranged more simply and often at lower rates when your local host books your accommodations on your behalf. For hassle-free arrangements, ask your host to help you, and get maps.
10. Get maps in English and in the local language.
Taxi drivers and other local services staff will often have limited or no comprehension of maps or words in English. It will become a chore to get to and from your hotel, your speaking venue or the airport when you do not know the language. Having a map in both English and the local language will ensure that you get to and from your destination easily, on time and without stress. Before you go, make sure you have a map that includes directions in both English and in the local language, and keep it with you at all times.
The American Way a la Mode: Michael Hick of Houston, TX
One of the big complaints we hear about in terms of globalization is that the world is becoming increasingly westernized. The rampant McDonald's-ization of cultures across the planet is seen as a dilution of national identity. Some protesters have even ripped down the Golden Arches™ in disgust at the onward march of hamburger heaven through cuisine Francais.
There is valid objection to the international growth of American culture. The young seem to pick it up with alacrity, but it is often regarded as intrusive by older and more conservative generations. NSA members who presently speak to business audiences will be addressing the latter group. It is important, therefore, to realize that the "American Way" does not necessarily fit all. It is not just a question of vocabulary, although most audiences will forgive that, in fact they may expect it and even enjoy it. It is very much a question of a deep and sincere understanding of how the audience culture thinks and acts, and how the advice of the speaker will impact that culture.
Before I felt capable of speaking to a group of 250 Indian entrepreneurs, I had to visit Varanasi, the Holy City of Hindu India. I had to stand at the Ganges shore at sunrise with thousands of others and let my nostrils flare at the whiff of burning sandalwood coming off the cremation ghats. Even the slightest appreciation of that 3,000-year-old religion/culture was important if I was to try and relate my topic of global negotiation skills to the Indian mind. Added to that was my substantial reading of Indian history, newspapers and field trips to museums and sites of interest.
Getting into the Indian consciousness was the only way to give my message. Seeing negotiation techniques with other cultures from the Indian perspective was the only way to help my audience. I presented my material in a structured, logical manner and loaded it with Indian examples, allowing lots of time for lively questions. It was the Indian way.
McDonalds has learned and implemented changes in order to honor the cultures it does business in. For example, McVin is on the menu in France, McRice is now served in Indonesia and McCafe is the coffee sold in Austria. This alone will not wipe out the opposition to the Westernization of the world, but for McDonald's, it's a move in right direction. By the same token, taking our expertise and tailoring it to our audiences is the mark of a master speaker. Let's take it a few steps further and tailor it to the specific needs and understanding of the culture. That is the mark of a truly global speaker.
Web Sites that Make Life on the Road More Pleasant and Encourage a Global Mindset: Pat Zakian Tith, MS, MA of Washington, D.C.
This is a database site with a list of art and cultural events throughout the U.S. International listings at this time do not exist. What a wonderful way to develop your global mindset -- by enjoying a cultural moment and relaxing after a hectic speaking schedule.
This is a good site for speaker dreamers. The scenes of white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise water and bungalows built on stilts over the water are very relaxing. The site is actually a directory of resorts located on Palawan, one of the provinces of the Philippines.
Click on “the thorn tree” in the left column and you will discover good reading on off-the-beaten-path destinations. All the threads are written by experienced travelers and answered by other knowledgeable travelers.
Speaking As An International: Observations And Lessons: E. S. Etuk, PhD of Washington, D.C.
I remember the place and year as if it was yesterday: Malone College, Canton, Ohio, 1980. As a newly arrived international student from Nigeria. I had been asked to speak to the students during one of the mid-week chapel meetings. As the moment drew nearer, I began to panic, fear and nervousness setting in.
What would I say to those American students? It was supposed to be my “testimony.” For a moment, I was tongue-tied. I was a Nigerian student, a foreigner standing before an American audience. This was not my first experience with speaking. For many years back in Nigeria, I had been a regular speaker at many Christian events.
I thought that I was a pro, never having had formal training in speaking. But now, this pro was turning into an amateur, fear-stricken and almost totally shocked. The problem was that I kept hearing in my mind, “You are a foreigner. You don’t know how to speak to white Americans.” Well, that was 21 years ago. Since that day, I have spoken to so many people as an international speaker.
I am not yet the consummate pro. I am still learning. That is one reason I joined NSA and NSADC. I would like to share some thoughts on my observations and lessons drawn from many years of speaking experience.
Americans are time conscious people. If an international speaker intends to succeed here, he or she must be punctual. Arrive at the meeting on time: it is a must. Take the time to survey your audience and get acquainted with the organizers of the meeting. Note the diverse groups (age, race, class, gender) within the audience and be prepared to direct your message to them.
Once you step up to the podium, keep to your allotted time. It is better to leave the podium a few minutes early than to go over. You may not be invited back if you violate this rule.
This can be one of the causes for your stage fright. Do not be overly concerned about your accent. Remember this rule, which has been of immense help to me: “Everybody speaks with an accent.” Even the Americans have accents: Southern, Yankee and Nashville-like accent.
Americans love to be entertained. It is not their fault. Blame it on Hollywood. Therefore, whatever your subject, do not be too serious about it. Create an air of laughter, humor, and fun. Some good illustrations will help. (I am not yet an expert on this matter of illustrations since I speak often to religious audiences.) But you must endeavor to help your audience relax.
4. Language and Culture
Doing your research includes paying attention to the language and cultural differences between you and your audience. For example, saying something that is harmless in my culture, such as, “I slept with my father last night,” or even “I shared the same bed with my brother last night” could get a speaker into deep trouble here. In America, I've learned that's like saying you had sex with your father or your brother. Therefore, find out beforehand if your words would have the same meaning in America as they would in, say, Nigeria.
I should point out that, as an African, we do not like to look at people in the eye, especially while speaking to an elderly person. But in America, not looking “eyeball to eyeball” would be construed as shyness, timidity or even a sign of dishonesty and mistrust. Therefore, the international speaker must maintain the eye contact with an American audience. Also, he or she should not point fingers directly at people in the audience. Somebody may feel picked on or uncomfortable. Particularly before a white audience, an international speaker should not be too loud. He or she should be reasonably audible.
Again, in non-Western societies, to talk openly about sex or about one’s private life is considered taboo or even rude. The Monica Lewisky affair would not have made the headlines in Africa and she certainly would not have gone on to become a celebrity and a “star.” However, in America, sex is an obsession. Therefore, the international speaker must be prepared to handle this subject.
Generally speaking, Americans are nativists. In other words, there's a tremendous amount of ignorance about world affairs in American society. Americans are quite uninformed about the rest of the world, and particularly, about Africa. Simultaneously, they are very curious and inquisitive. As evidence of this, I have been asked the most absurd and embarrassing questions after a speech.
Many Americans think that Africans still live in the Stone Age. For others, the only thing about Africa that they know of is Tarzan romping across the continent like a colossus. Hence, I get asked if I had clothes on when I arrived in the United States. Some have asked me if I had ever ridden in a car before coming to this country. An international speaker from Africa must be prepared, even when the subject is not Africa but economics, to answer such odd questions.
Don’t get mad at such questions. Be ready to inform. Don’t be judgmental, either. Understand that, to some degree, New York and Washington, D.C. have become the metropolis of the global village. You should feel honored to have the opportunity to share your expertise with your audience. And remember this: Most likely, you would not have been invited in the first place to speak to a foreign audience if the people you speak to did not consider you important.