Rolling On – The Best Handful of Tips 40 – SPEAKING TO A FOREIGN AUDIENCE


Thorough preparation is essential when making a speech, or a presentation  in countries where English is not the main language.

            If possible, get to know your audience first, their customs and habits, before you prepare your presentation.  You must be adaptable and flexible and remember a smile is a universal form of communication.

            If you are speaking through a translator be prepared to use about half the material you would normally cover in the same time. Take care, some translators tend to dominate and talk too much, further reducing your speech content.    

The five best tips when making a presentation to a foreign audience

* Use basic English

            Speak slowly and keep your sentences short. Use simple words. Do not use jargon, slang or clichés.

            Avoid metaphors as these can be confusing and keep your puns for people whose mother tongue is English.

* Establish a rapport

            Allow time for people to get used to your voice and accent before you start on your serious presentation. Spend time chatting and tell your audience if you are going to give handouts and copies of your slides at the finish.

            Most native speakers speak too fast, so slow down.         

* Select  jokes and anecdotes carefully

            Humour is unique to the experience and culture of your audience. If you decide you need to tell jokes, get local advice to see if your humour is acceptable and would be understood and appreciated. Often you will find puzzled looks with many of your comments.

            Avoid anecdotes you tell against yourself because these could discredit you in the eyes of many audiences.

* Conform to local customs

            In many countries you could encounter a more formal atmosphere than at home. Dress accordingly to your audiences expectations.

            Be careful  with your gestures. Seek advice from a local as many of your normal gestures can be easily misinterpreted and cause embarrassment.

* Make your message clear 

            Be positive with your advice. Use simple clear visual aids containing your recommendations and give handouts. In some countries they prefer handouts at the start of your presentation so they can follow your presentation, visibly.  

            Reinforce your message. Try the three-fold approach. Tell your audience what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you have told them.

Geoffrey Moss

“Be careful when you give advice. Changing people’s customs is a more delicate operation than surgery.”


Source:   “Persuasive Ways” and “Secrets of Persuasion”. Two books written by Geoffrey Moss. Available as an e-book from



One thought on “Rolling On – The Best Handful of Tips 40 – SPEAKING TO A FOREIGN AUDIENCE

  1. Pingback: Rolling On – The Best Handful of Tips- HELPDEX (1-75 titles) | Another Handful of Tips

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