Intercultural Business Presentations

The adaption of buisness presentation to the cultural values of international audiences

Essay, 2009

8 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Before the presentation: Preparation
2.1 Choice of language
2.2 Setting up the presentation

3. During the presentation: Conveying information effectively
3.1 High vs . low context / uncertainty avoidance
3.2 Time
3.3 Face & Humour
3.4 Silence

4. After the presentation: Feedback & Response

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

In order for any kind of presentations to be effective, it is essential to appreciate the audience one is addressing. Hence, audience analysis is an important part of the initial preparation. Factors like the age group, the degree of professionalism and familiarity with the topic need to be taken into consideration. These considerations must include an assessment as to how much can be assumed to be already known. In an international business environment, another crucial dimension comes into play, namely the cultural particularities of the countries being involved in the interaction.

As Schmidt et al. point out, the key to success in intercultural relationships is the identification of similarities and differences as compared to one's own culture (2007, p .65, 69) . From this derives a cultural competence that enables to work effectively across cultures.

Cultural dimensions in models of national culture depicted by researchers like Hall and Hofstede can provide indications as to what might affect intercultural business presentations. Therefore these are to be considered in order to identify premises, which should be followed when preparing for such a cross cultural business setting. By doing so, it is assumed that the basic particularities of these dimensions are known and therefore do not need detailed explanation.

2. Before the presentation: Preparation

2 .1 Choice of language

A seemingly apparent and yet not unproblematic decision to be made is the language in which the presentation is held. "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart". With this quote Nelson Mandela might have addressed an essential way to built relationships across cultures; however this philosophy is not always easy to apply. First and above all stands the language proficiency, which must be on a professional level, in order to conduct a business interaction. That is why, even though it might not be the native language of all participants, English as one of the most spoken languages in the world is often used as a lingua franca. Nevertheless, the presenter has to ensure that all participants share a more or less common level of English. If this is not the case, especially in an encounter when an English mother tongue speaker is addressing an international audience, the level has to be adjusted to the audience, for example by using simple sentence structures and reducing the occurrence of technical terms. The ability to understand abstract and vague language in our native language is unique according to Schmidt et al. They conclude that an effective communicator is aware of these deviation and able to adopt his speech patterns to the standard linguistic norms (2007, p .86-87) . Hurn refers to what is often called "international" or "low-risk" English, which is used by non-native speakers. As the latter indicates, it is a simplified version of English, which employs less complex structures, no idioms or jargon, in order to reduce the danger of misunderstanding (Hurn, 2007, p .1) .

Although this form of English might seem a convenient compromise, as it is internationally included in the educational systems, Browaeys and Price list some significant limitations of using a lingua franca. Speakers are influenced by their national language, thus accents and pronunciation problems are likely to affect the communication process. Moreover, Browaeys and Price state that "language can be deprived of its deeper meaning" (2008, p .246-247) . This refers to the fact that language is more used on the surface in order to convey information, but contains less subtle meaning to express "more than the words used" (Browaeys&Price, 2008, p .247) . In association to Halliday's metafunctions of language it can be thus assumed that language in intercultural settings tends to primarily serve an ideational function, whereas communication on the interpersonal level is more difficult to achieve.

However, for the purpose of presenting ideas, agreeing on a lingua franca might be useful. Thereby the awareness of differences in language proficiency and interpretation of meaning is a crucial point, which is also referred to by Browaeys and Price. They emphasise its importance by stating that even speakers of the same language might experience difficulties because of different concepts and interpretations. They refer to US and British speakers, who belong to the English speech community but might have different word meanings and pronunciation, which might in turn lead to confusion (2008, p .245) . Schmidt et al. also allude to differences between the same speech community (2007, pp .232-234) .

To put it in a nutshell it can be concluded that the choice of language already might entail difficulties and once a decision has been made, the language level still has to be adjusted to the audience. With regard to audience adaption in relation to language there are other factors to be taken into consideration, which should be elucidated later on .


Excerpt out of 8 pages


Intercultural Business Presentations
The adaption of buisness presentation to the cultural values of international audiences
University of Portsmouth
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
414 KB
Business presentation, intercultural, international business, Hofstede, Hall
Quote paper
Dorothee Müller (Author), 2009, Intercultural Business Presentations, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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