5 Tips for Giving International Presentations

Increasingly, serious business means serious travel—and not just domestically. Presenters are hitting up every continent these days with decks created in their hometown. Most of the time, deals that ask you to cross an ocean just so happen to be fairly important deals compared with the rest of the pipeline. So it makes sense to pay a little attention to the art of presenting internationally.

We’re not going to clutter the list with things like, “be fluent” and, “wear lederhosen.” The world has been “flat” for long enough that unless you’re selling dugout A/C units to Aboriginals for the first time in world history, the audience probably does not require that you understand both language and custom perfectly.

But there are some really practical things every global juggernaut can do to make sure the presentation still flies in international airspace. Here are a few basic suggestions:

Have a Guide: If you don’t know the country and culture well, don’t ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever go to an unfamiliar country to do business without someone who does on your side. This person can kick your leg when you say something stupid, reposition your hand so you stop challenging that guy to a duel, etc. Bonus tip: give your presentation to this person before you give it to anyone else in the country.

Dress the Part: It’s worth it to take the day before the big show to go shopping, if you can afford to. That easy-fit American suit is the butt of European jokes all day long—why not try to neutralize the joke and look a little like them? Even if you don’t do the full suit, it’s easy to pick out a tie or some other accessory that helps cultivate a sense of familiarity with the audience.

Learn the Closing Etiquette: One of the most variable things in the culture of business is how deals are closed. America is home to the almost obstinately independent self-starter. Amway is short for “American Way”—we’re direct sellers, through and through. Don’t head into another country assuming that they love the hard close though. Ask around: how do deals usually conclude?

Double the Preparation: You knew we were going to say it. You should always have all your adapters, wires and devices ready to go; now, you just need a ton more. Get as many multi-use or universal adapters you can to make sure you’ve got the continental equivalence to A/V, power and file storage invincibility. For instance, did you know not every cloud storage service is in China yet? Hope it wasn’t your only plan…

Watch the Bottom Line: There’s some dual meaning here. First and most straightforward-ley, make sure someone in your organization understands what’s necessary to understand both financially and legally to keep safe and profitable when you succeed. Second and more figuratively, make sure you know what you’re eating. There’s nothing worse than giving a presentation on a stomachful of god-knows-what. Try to stick to things you were raised on.

The main thing when presenting internationally is to try and preserve the core elements that put you at ease while appropriately “skinning” things to fit the culture you’re in. So think it through, plan ahead and enjoy!

Question: What’s your best international presentation story?

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