When can “yes” mean “no” or even “maybe?”
When speaking to an international workforce audience, a human resources executive who doesn’t understand the cross-cultural variances in how audiences receive their message can be in a heap of trouble.
Advances in technology mean companies have employees doing business all over the world. HR managers who have impeccable communication skills in their country of origin must now be prepared to communicate effectively anywhere. When researching and developing content it is important to find out how people in different countries are most comfortable receiving information.
Tailor your message to your audience.
Considerations for different communication styles across the globe:
American audiences tend to thrive in fast paced presentations, are impatient, and bottom-line oriented. Typically, they wish to be both informed and entertained. Speakers may be interrupted often with questions and there can be a lot of audience-speaker interaction.
South American audiences are usually energetic and passionate. They like presenters who speak at a fast clip. People in Latin-American countries may have no problem with touching and standing. When designing your visual materials, be thoughtful of color choices – yellow has negative connotations.
Asian audiences are often unimpressed with lots of gestures and may find them distracting. They are most comfortable with presentations delivered in a visually neutral way. It’s common that the most powerful decision makers will not be present at formal presentations; Connect equally with all members of the audience and don’t expect quick decisions. When selecting visuals, be aware that in Japan white symbolizes death. And know that “yes,” if said immediately, probably means “no.”
European audiences generally like details with lots of supporting documentation. They prefer to listen to an entire presentation before posing questions. Formal British audiences would be appalled if the speaker addressed them with impromptu questions. And know that “yes” among the British typically means “maybe.”
Successful global human resources managers are able to adapt to the specific cultural and business needs of his or her particular audience. What works in one country doesn’t necessarily translate directly to the rest of the world.
About the Author
Karen Rodriguez joined Exec.Comm in 1999, and entered the partnership in 2009. As the manager of the Exec|Comm brand, marketing and design efforts, Karen oversees the firm’s identity, touching all aspects of the brand (online presence and web site, web-based learning center, advertising, PR, classroom materials, and live special events). She recently introduced the firm’s blog, The Chat, and launched their quarterly lunch and learn series, The Learning Exchange. She manages their open-enrollment seminars in New York and San Francisco. Karen holds a B.F.A. from Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. She lives in Aberdeen, NJ, with her husband and three sons.