• International Presentation Skills ‘International Managers and their Discontents’


    Right now most of my work is with French transnationals. They are facing a particular linguistic and communication problem with many of the countries they are dealing with. This blog explains the problem and suggests a solution.

    The first question is, ‘Why are international managers discontented?

    In my experience there are three reasons, English Language, remote communication and remote reporting lines. Let me explain.

    First, English Language. Many companies I deal with have one of two policies.

    One, if there is a single non-native speaker of French in the room the meeting takes place in English. Let’s call this, ‘The English when foreigners are around ‘ policy.

    This policy places the French managers at an immediate disadvantage. This is not because their English isn’t good. It’s because they find it difficult to understand the accents and nuances of speech and speed of the many other nationalities they deal with.

    Secondly, the whole company works in English, both internally and externally. Let’s call this, ‘The all English’ policy.

    This policy poses enormous problems because two speakers of the same language are being asked to communicate in English, even though it’s not their mother tongue. What would you do, given the choice? Talk to your own people in your mother tongue or in English? Mother tongue, obviously. Communication comes first.

    An ‘all English’ policy or an ‘English when foreigners are around’ policy makes sense in principle but imposes enormous problems in practice. It also creates uncertainty and lack of confidence among many managers.

    However, that is not all.

    The second discontent is remote communication. The economic recession is imposing travel restrictions. So communication is no longer face-to-face but virtual, via conference call.

    This means I am working in a foreign language with overseas managers whose markets I don’t know and who I never meet. They may be based in New Delhi or in Mexico City or in Rio de Janeiro.

    Now let’s take it a stage further.

    Reporting lines. This manager, based in another country is my line manager. I am reporting to him or to her. They are responsible for appraising my performance and agreeing my bonus at year end and I NEVER EVEN MEET THEM. How can they know what I am like? How good I am? How hard I work?

    The problem for us as trainers is how can we help managers feel confident and competent in international presentations and meetings in English. It seems to me that teaching language is not enough.

    What’s needed is some kind of structure to help organise thought and phrases to use with it. And that leads me to my second point, Communication models. The one I use is called the Communication triangle and here it is.

    The communication triangle has three points.

    The first is CONCISE. Keep it short, keep it sharp and keep it sweet. I’ll explain that in more detail in a minute.

    The second is FRAMEWORKS. If our students understand the structure of communication and use it, then they will find it much easier to organise and communicate their thinking.

    The third is STOCK PHRASES. These are the common everyday phrases that everyone uses. They don’t even think about them – until you get them wrong. Then they think what kind of strange person are you?

    My point is this. If you can master these three skills, Be concise, use a framework and use the appropriate stock phrases to go with that framework then it frees you to concentrate on your own content – what you want to say. In doing so you become a more efficient international communicator.

    So our next step is to apply the Communication triangle. At the top is ‘Short, sharp and sweet’. What does that mean?

    CONCISE means Keep it short, sharp and sweet.

    First SHORT. To be short use KISS. That’s an acronym. It means Keep it short and simple or, as the Americans sometimes say, ‘Keep it simple, stupid.’ What it means is this. Try and use one thought per sentence. Try and keep your sentences between 15 and 25 words.

    Next SHARP. To keep it sharp, Keep to the point. Be clear. Don’t digress. Remember, a message isn’t delivered until it’s received and understood.

    Third, SWEET To keep it sweet be polite. Remember, if you are only going to communicate by conference call why make enemies of people you haven’t even met?

    If you can teach your students to keep their explanations short, sharp and sweet, their audience will understand better and they will get a much better reaction.

    Now let’s go to our second point, FRAMEWORKS. A framework is a structure. If you have a structure, it helps you organise your thoughts. If you use a structure, it leaves you free to concentrate on your content. The French managers who use structures get a much better and clearer result when they are working internationally. There are FRAMEWORKS we can use for all the main areas of communication –presentations, meetings, negotiations and networking. And in a minute I’ll demonstrate the framework we use for presentations.

    The final point is stock phrases. These are the everyday phrases native speakers use in communication. In a minute we’ll show you some of these as well.

    So that’s our communication triangle. And that’s my second point. Be concise, use Frameworks and stock phrases. Use them in presentations, meetings, negotiations and networking.

    Now let me move to my third point. How to apply the communication triangle to the teaching of presentations.

    I call the framework for presentations the Three S structure. Three S means Three Stages. Here they are.

    S1 SIGNPOST – tell them what you’re going to say.

    S2 SIGNAL – tell them you’re saying it

    S3 SUMMARISE – tell them you’ve said it.

    Let’s look at each stage in more detail.

    SIGNPOST. This gives you a road map and it has four stages and appropriate stock phrases to go with it. You may think of others, but these will work.

    • TITLE of your talk. For example. I’m going to talk about Presentations.

    • DURATION For example, ‘My talk will last about 5 minutes’. This helps your audience programme their concentration.

    • KEY POINTS For example, ‘I’m going to make three main points. 1 signposting 2 signalling 3 summarising’.

    • QUESTIONS. There are two ways of doing this. One, questions during the presentation. E.g. ‘If you have any questions, please feel free to interrupt.’ Two, Questions at the end of the presentation. For example, ‘If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them at the end.’

    Stage 2 SIGNAL is a way of telling your audience where you are in your presentation. Which key point you are focusing on. It’s very simple, except for one thing – the transition. This is a summary in two or three words of what you have just said. Certainly no more than one sentence.

    Stage 3 SUMMARY also has four stages. They are:

    • Summarise

    • Conclude

    • Invite questions

    • Thank

    When you summarise don’t just state the points you have made. State the transitions – those single summary sentences. They remind the audience of what you have said.

    When you conclude, you say why the points you have made are important.

    Then you can invite questions. For example, ‘That’s the end of my presentation. If you have any questions, I’ll be delighted to answer them.’

    And finally, say ‘Thank you’. Saying ‘Thank you’ isn’t just being polite. It tells the audience you’ve finished. I’m sure you’ve heard people finish a presentation like this., ‘If you have any questions I’ll be delighted to answer them…’ And you have no idea if they are going to say anything else or not!

    Using this framework makes it much easier to plan and deliver a presentation in English with confidence and many French managers now use it with great success. And they use it both in English in international meetings and in French at home.

    So who knows? maybe we can retitle this presentation. Instead of ‘International Managers and their Discontents’ we can say this, ’The Contented International Manager.’

    If you want to watch the presentation please visit DOWNLOADS. This presentation was recorded for the MOSCOW Institute of Water Transport.


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