Susan Heaton-Wright was honoured to speak at the Global Speaking Summit (GSS) and Professional Speaking Association of UK and Ireland (PSA) Fellows. The theme of the Fellows’ event was Going Global – How to Reach and Engage Internationally. As well as Susan, there were speakers from USA, Holland and South Africa all giving their experiences and expertise.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of assuming that all audiences are ‘like us’: that they react to the same content as us; that they understand English as well as we do; that they react to instructions in the same way as us. If only it WERE that easy! But we are dealing with human beings and they deserve respect and for us to fully appreciate how we can make it as easy as possible for all audiences to listen, understand and engage with us.
This is also relevant when you are leading and managing international teams
Here are some main points to consider.
Become Culturally aware
I always ask specific questions to speaker bookers or the client. This is not exclusively ‘who the audience are’; but which languages they speak; how good their English is; the sorts of hobbies/interests they have. How they best engage in conversations and activities. There are some cultures where individuals don’t wish to speak up as it is considered rude. Re-framing the instructions could give them permission to participate.
How well do members of the audience understand and speak English?
As an English native speaker, it could be easy to assume that everyone speaks English well, since it is the language of business. But that is far from the truth. Considering ways you can get your message across with supported resources will help the audience. This includes:
- Speaking slowly and clearly
- Using simple words – but not compromising the content
- Could you have subtitles if you are speaking virtually
- I have been known to prepare a transcription for the audience to read along whilst I am speaking
- A transcription to be translated for the audience for engagement
- Checking your slides and poll quizzes have vocabulary easy to understand. I don’t mind having these checked by the client.
Examples used relevant to the audience
I remember sitting in an event when an American speaker shared business gems using Baseball as the analogy.This was to a British audience and baseball is not a well known game. He didn’t take the time to modify his content for the audience. I always check with the speaker booker or client about topics that interest them.
Remember, this is about two way engagement so everyone is involved in conversations. This is a topic relevant for speakers but also when leading or managing teams. We are developing masterclasses on this topic – virtual and face to face. If you would like more details CONTACT US