They say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” — but when it comes to business speaking in today’s multicultural environment, it’s not that simple.
If you’re speaking in Rome, you might be speaking not just to Italians, but Ukrainian and Filipino people as well.
Or maybe you’re speaking in New York — to an audience of not just Americans, but Chinese and Indian people, too.
In today’s globalized business world, how do you adjust your speaking style to ensure that you resonate with as many people as possible?
Here are three ways to increase your impact when speaking to multicultural audiences.
1. Use image gestures
One of the ways you can increase your impact in a multicultural environment is by using image gestures. When you speak in a multicultural environment, use your gestures to illustrate the image of the concept you are explaining.
For example, if you are talking about year-over-year growth, move your hand increasingly higher for each year you mention. Adding an image gesture will reinforce the point to your audience and keep them engaged.
2. Focus on structure
Another one of the ways you can increase your impact in a multicultural environment is by ensuring that your presentations are logically structured. You need to make it easy for your audience to follow along. If you’re driving to a new place, you want clear road signs that continuously tell you where you are.
You can let your audience know where you are in your presentation by using oral bullet points — repeated phrases that let the listener know you’ve moved on to a different point (and also remind them of what you’re talking about).
For example, you’ll notice that the first sentence of each section of this article begins the same way: “One of the ways you can increase your impact in a multicultural environment…Another one of the ways you can increase your impact in a multicultural environment”…and so on. These oral bullet points are like road signs that tell your audience where you are and where you are going.
3. Don’t gamble with humor
Another one of the ways you can increase your impact in a multicultural environment is by avoiding attempts at humor. What’s funny in one culture may be confusing (or even offensive) in another.
As this clip of a news anchor and the Dalai Lama illustrates, if your audience doesn’t get the joke, everyone feels awkward and disconnected. Focus on using image gestures and consistent structure — and save the humor for your friends.
So the next time you speak to a multicultural audience, think about connecting through structure, images, and straightforward speaking. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.