The Challenges Of Speaking To Global Audiences

Speakers need to be careful about how they interact with global audiences
Speakers need to be careful about how they interact with global audiences

Image Credit: ClaraDon Follow

I think that we can all agree that giving a speech is a difficult thing to do. If you’d like to make things just a bit more difficult, then try to give your speech to a global audience. Now we’re talking about a real challenge! The reason that addressing a global audience and sharing the importance of public speaking with them is so difficult to do well is because of the differences between you and them. The way that you see the world and the way that you express yourself is very different from the way that the rest of the world sees things. This means that what you are trying to say in your speech may become garbled or confused and you may not be able to clearly communicate your points. What’s a speaker to do?

Contact With Your Audience

So this is a bit of a tricky issue, at least for me. Different cultures have different views on just exactly how we should come into contact with each other. The most difficult greeting that I have to deal with is the kiss. In many different countries such as Spain, France, Italy and parts of Latin America, it is traditional when meeting someone of the other gender to greet them with a kiss. Just to make things a bit more challenging, this type of greeting is far too much in other parts of the world. As a speaker you need to understand that many cultures disapprove of public displays of affection due to religious or traditional reasons. You need to take the time to find out what is acceptable and then play by their rules.

Posture During Your Speech

As speakers you would think that we all have this posture thing down, right? We all know that when we are delivering a speech we want to stand up straight, have our chest out, keep our head up, and when not making a hand gesture we need to keep our hands at our sides. That’s all there is to it. Well, it turns out that posture is a little bit more complicated than that. It can be the small things that end up tripping us up. Specifically, it’s what we do with our hands when we are greeting people that can get us into trouble. An example of this is when you are in Korea. If you leave one of your hands in your pocket when you are greeting someone, then it may come across as being disrespectful. What this means is that if at all possible, do some research on how people greet each other in the countries that you’ll be visiting so that you can do it the way that they do it.

What To Call People

Hopefully we all understand that how to properly address people around the world is a big deal for a lot of people. In many places around the globe, a person’s name has a link to their parents, their personal history, and perhaps even where they were born. What this means for us as speakers is that mispronouncing a name can be a big mistake depending on where in the world you are giving your speech. The challenge that speakers face is that if we end up mispronouncing someone’s name, we may not only be insulting them but also their family as well.

Things can get even trickier depending on where you are speaking. Although most people have both a first name and a last name, you are not always allowed to address someone by their first name. In countries such as Germany, the correct way to address someone in public is by using their titles first, and then their family name. You can’t use their first name until such time as they give you permission to do so. You’ll also have to be careful about countries whose language contain both informal and formal forms of address. Note that when you are dealing with people from another country, they may interact with you using the way that you address people at home and then they may interact with their fellow countrymen using the formal methods used in their country.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers, we don’t always give a speech to an audience made up of people that we live with. In fact, we may travel to other places around the globe to give speeches and share the benefits of public speaking. When we do this, we need to understand that the way that people interact in foreign settings may be different from the way that we interact with people at home. When we find ourselves in a setting like this, we need to make sure that we become aware of the correct way to behave.

One of the first issues that we may run into is how to greet the people that we’ll be talking to. Different countries handle this differently. One of the most challenging greetings is the kiss. This is an expected greeting between members of different sexes in certain countries while it exceeds the boundaries of what is proper in other countries. Your posture may be another issue that you have to watch when you are interacting with members of another country. Although the standard speaker posture issues are all the same no matter where we speak, when we are greeting people things may be different. You need to be aware of where your hands are and make sure that they will not be causing you any issues. Finally, how we address people carries a great deal of weight in many different countries. Although everyone has a first and a last name, often you are not to use someone’s first name when addressing them unless you have been given explicit permission to do so.

Being asked to give a speech in another country is a great complement for any of us. However, as good as your speech is, you need to be aware that you will not be speaking at home and so this can change everything. As speakers we need to be aware that every country has their own set of rules about how people are supposed to interact. Since we don’t want to do anything that is going to spoil the speech that we are going to be giving, we need to take actions. What we need to do is some research on how people interact in the country that we will be visiting. If we take the time to understand the correct way to interact with people in their country, then the speech that we give has a much better chance of being well received.

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

Question For You: What do you think is the best way to research how people greet each other in a foreign country?

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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

If there is one thing that every speaker wants from their next speech, it is for it to mean something so that our audience can realize the importance of public speaking. The way that we determine if one of our speeches means something is if our audience can remember it after we are done speaking. In order to be able to claim some of that valuable mental real estate, we’ve got to be able to create a speech that is original – our audience has to be treated to something that is new and novel. If, as speakers, we can discover a way to create a speech that will come across as being original to our audience then we’ll have a very good chance of being remembered long after we’ve stopped talking.