Bridging Communication Barriers When We Speak

Speakers need to know to connect with people around the world
Speakers need to know to connect with people around the world
Image Credit: Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash

Just going to the effort of creating and delivering a speech is a big challenge. However, once you start to spend some time thinking about who you’ll be talking to, this challenge can become an even bigger deal. When we realize that just about every audience that we’ll be talking to will contain people from other parts of the world, this means that we need to tailor our speech so that we can share the importance of public speaking with them and they’ll be able to understand us. Although we may be open to doing this, many of us simply don’t know how to go about making this happen. We need some suggestions on how to make our next speech one that that the entire world can appreciate.

It’s All About Time

I have to confess that this is one of my biggest weaknesses. When I take the stage, I know what I want to say and I tend to just dive in. What this means is that I tend to talk fast even when I know that I really should not be doing this. All of us need to learn to slow down. We have to work pauses into our speeches. We need to find ways to give our audience some space. We need to remember to slow our speech down and break our long sentences up into shorter sentences. Our goal here has to be to provide our audience members from other parts of the world the time that they need to translate what we are telling them and to digest our words.

Both Speakers Have To Take It Slow

When we give speeches, we often have times where our audience can ask us questions. If the person who is asking us a question comes from a foreign land, we may struggle to understand what they are saying to us. If they are talking to you too quickly, or if they have a heavy accent, you should feel comfortable asking them to slow down. So that you don’t offend them, a good way to go about making this request is to tell them that they may have trouble understanding you because of where you come from and therefore you may have trouble understanding them because of where they come from. If both of you agree to slow things down, then that should solve most of your communication problems and make it easier to understand each other.

Simple Is Better

I sorta hate those “word of the day” calendars that I see on everyone’s desk. The reason that I don’t like them is that those people tend to start to use words that I don’t fully understand what they mean. As speakers, we need to understand that our goal is to be fully understood by our audiences and what this means is that we need to learn how to keep our speeches simple. Shorter words are better words. Words that only use two syllables are better than words that use three syllables. In fact, words that use one syllable are even better. Keep it simple and your audience will understand what you are saying.

Help Is Something That We All Need

During a question and answer session it is entirely possible that a person who is asking you a question may say something that you don’t understand. You need to make sure that this does not throw you off of your game. If you don’t understand what someone is asking you, you need to be comfortable in asking them for help in understanding them. Let them know that you’ve heard them, but that you don’t fully understand what they are saying. Ask them to repeat themselves and perhaps phrase it a different way. This can help you to understand their question so that you can give them the answer that they are looking for.

Watch What Words You Use

Many speakers like sports. All sorts of sports. We’re talking about football, baseball, hockey, tennis, etc. The problem that can occur when we like a sport is that it is such an integral part of our lives that we can tend to use sporting terminology when we are giving speeches. Phrases such as “hit a homerun” probably mean a lot to a baseball lover, but may not mean anything to an international audience. It’s probably best if we remove the sporting terms from our next speech so that we don’t end up confusing anyone.

Be Formal

The language that we use to deliver a speech can communicate a great deal to our audience. Many of us like to talk informally so that we can more easily build a relationship with our audience. However, the problem is that in many places in the world a speaker is expected to begin a speech using formal speech. We need to be aware of this and use formal terms in how we refer to people in our speeches. Take your time in your speech and don’t start to use first names of people until later on in your speech after you have introduced everyone formally.

Body Language Matters

When we are communicating with an international audience, our body language will be telling them a speech also. Likewise, during a question and answer session when we are being asked questions by the members of our audience, their body language will be sending signals to us also. Such things as proximity, facial expressions, and hand gestures are all key communication tools. We do have to keep in mind that a body gesture that means one thing in your culture may mean something completely different in another culture.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers we need to assume that every speech that we give will be delivered to a global audience. What this means for us is that we’re not just going to have to create a great speech, but we’re also going to have to be able to create a speech that can be understood by people from different countries in order to share the benefits of public speaking with them. This is going to take a bit of thought on our parts.

The first thing that we need to realize is that we have to slow down what we are saying. By doing this we’ll give our audience a chance to both translate our words and to comprehend what we are telling them. We can also ask our audience to slow things down when they are asking us questions. We need to look at our word usage and make sure that we are keeping it simple – shorter words are always better words. If an audience member asks us a question that we don’t understand, we can ask them for help and have them repeat their question. Many of us like sports, but we need to be careful to remove sports related terminology from our speeches. Realizing that every culture is different, we need to begin our speeches formally. Our bodies will be telling a story during our speech and so will our audience member’s bodies when they are asking us questions.

As long as we are going to go to the effort to create, practice, and deliver a speech, we need to make sure that it will have the maximum impact on our audience. Since our audience may be made up of people from many different locations this means that we need to tailor our speech to meet their needs. Taking the time to craft a speech that will be well received by all is the key to giving a good speech that will have the impact that you want it to have.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: If you are going to slow your speech down, how slow do you think that you should make it?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Just think about the last time that you sat down to write a speech. The whole world lay out before you. You could include just about anything that you wanted to in your speech in order to share the importance of public speaking with your audience. You were the master of your own destiny. Or were you? Is it possible that every time that we create a speech, there are some things that we should not include in our speech? Things that won’t help us to make our points clear to our audience? If these things exist, what do they look like and how can we avoid them?