The globalization of markets has also led to the globalization of presentations. It is not uncommon today to prepare a presentation in France that you’ll give in Germany to an English audience. Even though speaking in public is never trivial, presenting in a language other than your own, to an audience of a different culture, is always a unique exercise.
You’ll obviously be entitled to all the useful advice from your colleagues about the rigor of the Germans, the hypocrisy of the English and all the clichés floating around, either from people’s previous experiences or from shared feelings that people seem to permanently feed to one another.
Obviously there are specificities, cultural markers that are shocking for some and expected by others. “What is absolutely necessary to do?” or: “What should we absolutely never say?” are legitimate questions. But the question we are most frequently asked is: “does your storytelling thing really work internationally?” This question reveals the nagging feeling among many that storytelling is ultimately only a fashion that will eventually pass, or a cultural phenomenon that concerns only a limited population.
To clarify this point, let us reaffirm what we have often said: you will never make as much of an impact than by integrating you point in a story, in which those who are listening have a role to play. We have lost count of the number of books and methods on storytelling. But don’t forget that behind the word “storytelling” there is no etymologically based methodology, only a term that literally means, “to tell a story.” At the foundation of the rhetoric, the first theorists, whether Greek or Roman, always mixed words and reason with structure and style. So don’t expect the advent of an era where we will be happy with just facts and demonstrations. It is precisely what we are trying to move away from, that is to simply be content to give factual and analytical presentations bordering on boring, while by nature, everyone needs emotions, consistency and desire.
This desire has led to the proliferation of storytelling methods, whether they’re for an analysis or for constructing a narrative. It is in this context that we designed the HUBSTORY® to build your presentations using a specific storytelling process dedicated to spreading ideas and sparking innovation. Choosing a narrative structure is therefore by no means a cultural phenomenon. Besides, most of the reference books come from the Anglo-Saxon culture and are translated and implemented all over the world.
However, once you have your story, it is essential to devote it to your audience, especially if there are cultural differences to consider. This is what we do in step 2 of the HUBSTORY®, audience profiling:
To get them more involved: Capturing and maintaining attention means first identifying the problem you audience has and that you are proposing to solve by implementing your idea. In an intercultural setting be careful not to push your way of thinking on theirs. What constitutes a problem for you may not be one for them and vice versa. A misunderstanding at this level of the presentation will give the impression that you don’t understand the issues or on the contrary, you see problems where there are none.
To anticipate how they’ll perceive you: Do you have preconceptions about them? Rest assured, they certainly have some about you. Take the time to identify what they have heard about you; expressing what they may think about who you are and what you do is essential in identifying any resistance they may nourish concerning the message you’ll be presenting. Anticipating resistance will allow you to integrate it into the heart of your arguments and provide practical solutions exactly where the audience may be nourishing distrust.
To predict what they are willing to hear: The art and the manner of saying things vary greatly from culture to culture. It is surprising to see that it’s not necessary to go to the other end of the world to see great differences in our modes of expression. Whether you enjoy speaking frankly and directly, or you are one to take oratory precautions, the goal here is not to disavow your nature in favor of a culture that is not yours. You’ll always gain by being yourself and asserting your identity. But this should not be at the expense of a serene and balanced relationship; and this implies taking care of your audience by having a good command of what they are willing to hear or accept.