Cross-Cultural Training for BusinessFotolia
Cross-cultural training is important, particularly in an international business context.
Cross-cultural training in a business context sounds like one of these oft-cited buzzwords which are all the rage among HR executives. Expats-to-be, though, may not know what exactly cross-cultural training means or how they’d benefit from cross-cultural training.
Some skeptics might doubt that cross-cultural training is all that important for a successful presentation abroad. Business is business, right? ─ Wrong. To see how essential cross-cultural training is for a company’s representative, let’s look at a hypothetical US American sales manager speaking to an international audience without cross-cultural training.
Cross-Cultural Training for Presentations: General Tips
Our manager – let’s call her Caitlin – thought she’d done her homework for a persuasive presentation despite foregoing cross-cultural training. She had planned to attend a crash course on cross-cultural training for international presentations, but had to skip it for time reasons. Caitlin had delivered so many powerful lectures that it couldn’t go wrong, cross-cultural training or not. She did follow several time-honored rules for capturing an audience’s attention. Caitlin didn’t need any cross-cultural training to know these key aspects:
- Structure the presentation clearly.
- Make your beginning and ending as effective as possible. As a fan of the New York Yankees, Caitlin likes opening her presentations with allusions to the baseball team’s legendary successes.
- Make proper use of visual aids to underscore your point. Caitlin doesn’t appreciate statistics cluttering her slides. So she decided to deliver a “bottom-line” presentation, elaborating her marketing strategy starting off from a single point, with only a few illustrative graphics.
- Use your voice to create enthusiasm and interest. Project confidence in your body language. Caitlin was excellent at this. She had been a talented actress in college, a natural at making grand gestures and effusive speeches.
- Hone your rhetoric skills. Since Caitlin loved talking about the Yankees, she kept using baseball idioms to create an extended metaphor and make it more entertaining.
- Give your audience the opportunity to react and ask questions during a discussion round.
Cross-Cultural Training for Presentations: Pitfalls
After delivering the presentation to people from Germany, Japan, and Norway, however, Caitlin felt disappointed and insecure. Maybe she should have taken that cross-cultural training. Perhaps cross-cultural training would have prepared her for this:
The Japanese smiled at the mention of the Yankees, but then put their heads on their folded arms, not even listening properly. The Norwegians looked uncomfortable during the most emotional moments of Caitlin’s dramaturgy; one woman mouthed “flashy Americans” to her German neighbor. The Germans said they weren’t convinced by the message of Caitlin’s presentation – it lacked the data to back it up. One of them attacked Caitlin rudely afterwards: “Don’t take it personally,” he said, “but not having the sales figures from the last six months is more than an oversight. It’s downright neglectful!”
Caitlin just wanted to get back to her hotel room. Or crack open a book or two on cross-cultural training. What on earth had gone wrong?
Could cross-cultural training have avoided this failure? While Caitlin is fictional, and so is her presentation, the examples are quite real. They are drawn from real-life occurrences in cross-cultural training situations. Hopefully, they have demonstrated the need for cross-cultural training.