Speaking for International Audiences

Member news | October 07, 2021

We live in a multicultural world, and we must remember that differences in perception and cultural values can be a source of misunderstanding between people from different cultures.

Here are some tips for an effective presentation to an international audience:

1. It is always wise to make some research about your audience. Who are they and where did they come from? If you know the answers to these questions, you can easily make some adjustments to your speech.

When I was about to train a group from Japan, a client who had worked for a Japanese company, gave me a valuable tip. I learned that you must give

2. Acknowledge your accent and your nationality, to let your audience concentrate on your speech instead of your origins.

As a French-speaking trainer, I tend to use French words without even realizing that sometimes they don’t have the same meaning or worst, the same pronunciation in English. Sharing my origins with my audience makes everybody more comfortable and we even laugh together at my mistakes.

3. If you speak well the language you are using for your presentation, you can increase the pace of your speech when you are familiar with the topic. Speaking too quickly can make hard for your international audience to understand you.

4. It is also better to be always careful with complex words, idioms, metaphors, with some regional and cultural references as well as technical jargon.

In my public speaking training, I worked with some speakers who had to realize that they were the only ones being able to fully understand the technical words they were using.

5. Don’t forget that in non-verbal communication, some gestures and facial expressions can have different meanings in another culture. It is always better to get some cross-cultural insight into your body language.

When the leader of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev used a gesture of self-clasping handshake to symbolize friendship while visiting the United States in 1959, he risked a huge misunderstanding. In the United States, this gesture is a sign of victory, being made by the winning boxer at the end of a fight.

6. If you use humor, make sure your jokes do not offend your multicultural audience members. It is true that humor can create a sense of closeness and a bond, but a humorous anecdote or a joke without knowledge of your audience and their culture can be dangerous.

If you want your international audience to appreciate you as a speaker, you will have to think differently and change your speech to meet the needs of a global audience, and to allow them to understand what you are telling them.

And remember that having an opportunity to address a global audience is always a great honor. 

Muriel Omur Ilbas is a former TV producer and anchorwoman, a communication expert with 20 years of management consulting, 16 years of training services, and 11 years of executive coaching experience.

She has worked with more than 150 global companies including Pepsi, British American Tobacco, Coca Cola, L’Oréal, Limagrain, Lesaffre, Total, Peugeot, Groupama, Louis Vuitton, Basf, Roche, Glaxo, and Novartis.

Her company, LSWUS Consulting, LLC, based in the U.S., provides a broad variety of online and in person services in consulting, coaching, training, mentoring, and crisis management for expat managers and international students living in the US.

She provides intercultural coaching and public speaking services under her brand: Your Coach in America.