What I often witness during meetings and presentations is that regardless of their cultural or professional background, or even language skills, presenters typically read aloud large numbers of facts related to their area of expertise from slides or notes. It is not reading word for word that I object to; rather, I object to these speakers not expressing any personal connection to those facts. If the speakers are disengaged from what they are saying, how can they expect their listeners to be engaged?
Many of my clients who use English as a second language admit that they recognize themselves in what I call disembodied facts. When I ask them why they communicate that way, I get a variety of answers. Some say that it is the only way that they know how to transmit information. Others believe that facts are necessary to persuade their listeners of the merits of their point of view. Sometimes a few admit that they never really thought about why they did it; it is simply what they learned to do. It has become a habit. Also, it is what they see other people doing, so they don’t question it. And you? Do you have a habit of giving your listeners disembodied facts? If so, ask yourself why.
Most of us, when we are competent in a field, try to demonstrate that competence by using as many facts as possible, accompanied with explanations. However, explanations are only effective if you are training someone to do what you do.
How complex is your field? How many years has it taken you to know what you know? Is it reasonable to expect that you can provide all the facts and explain complex methods, data-filled charts or technical diagrams to others in English during a brief meeting, while delivering a presentation or in a written report? Of course not. Since it is not possible, attempting it leaves you feeling frustrated. Your listeners and readers become confused and doubt your professional competence.
In your own language, with people who are in the same profession, explaining can be a form of effective communication. However, given the specific vocabulary in English for each profession, I can guarantee you that many of your listeners and readers within an intercultural context will not understand your facts or explanations.
So the challenge is finding out what other options are available to you. I offer a two-day workshop for presenting across cultures. The unique approach I present is also detailed in my book, Dance of Opinions. You can download an extract on my site. So I invite you to expand your options as an intercultural presenter. If you do, you will be able to offer your listeners and readers something much more compelling than disembodied facts and explanations. As a bonus you will feel more confident in presenting across cultures because you will know what you are doing and why.