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Awareness of international business issues is vital for successful global business teams.
Remember Caitlin, from our article Cross-cultural Training for Business Purposes? She was faced with one of the most obvious international business issues, giving a presentation to an international audience, and she didn’t do very well. In the following article, we will try to find out why.
International Business Issues: International Audiences
If Caitlin had had more experience with international business issues, what might she have done differently? As a seasoned presenter, she had asked herself the right questions when preparing her presentation.
- Why am I giving this presentation? What do I want to achieve?
- Where will I be delivering it? What are the facilities like? What technologies are available?
- When is the presentation scheduled for? How long should it take?
- What should I include? How should the content be structured?
- Who is my audience?
However, in the light of international business issues, Caitlin had failed to properly answer the last question. Always analyze your audience according to the following three factors:
- Level of skill and expertise
- Function and position within their company
- Respective goals and expectations
An awareness of international business issues should tell you that a fourth aspect becomes indispensible:
- Language and culture
You ought to keep the following advice in mind when preparing a business presentation for an audience that confronts you with international business issues, such as different national backgrounds, cultural mindsets, and varying linguistic skills.
International Business Issues: Language
Language is a common international business issue. Always speak slowly and clearly. The language of your presentation may not be the listeners’ mother tongue, or you may be talking in a foreign language yourself. A slow tempo and a careful pronunciation help avoid misunderstandings.
Pay attention to regional varieties and so-called “false friends”. For example, a billion means a thousand million in American and contemporary British English. Non-native speakers of English, though, may use it according to the meaning of “billion” in other European languages – it refers to a 1 with twelve zeros.
Don’t use jargon, slang or idioms. Proverbs and figures of speech are often not understood by non-native speaker. Caitlin’s baseball metaphors merely confused her audience.
It doesn’t hurt to acknowledge that fact that language presents a considerable obstacle in the context of international business issues. Distribute written handouts with a summary of your key points in simple language. You can even include a glossary of important terms.
International Business Issues: Inclusiveness
“Back home” is a phrase you should delete from your personal vocabulary for international business issues. In the best case, your audience simply doesn’t care what you did “back home”. You must convince them that your proposal applies to them.
In a worst-case scenario, you may come across as condescending, especially as a speaker from an industrial nation in a developing country or emerging market. This is one of the essential international business issues, as your audience could be actively offended. Adapt a generally sensitive and respectful attitude.
Religion and politics are often sensitive topics, and as such they are taboo in international business issues. Don’t use them to illustrate a point.
International Business Issues: Pop Culture and Humor
Culture-bound references may fly over your audience’s head. The baseball allusions amused Caitlin’s Japanese listeners since baseball has been popular there since the post-WWII years. The Norwegians and Germans, on the other hand, didn’t care since baseball isn’t a big part of either national culture.
Jokes can be controversial international business issues, too. Avoid jokes about a certain nationality, ethnicity, or religion. Black humor or sarcasm may be seen as hilarious in one culture, but strange or off-putting in another. If you’d like to use humor as an ice-breaker, check with a member of the culture you want to address. If you are still unsure, you’re better off dropping it rather than committing a huge faux pas in international business issues.