Because I’ve been fortunate enough to run both International Presentation Skills Training Courses in Malaysia and Communication Skills training in 2015 and I’ve just been invited back in 2016, I wanted to share a blog about some unusual or as we’d say in the UK “quirky” observations from being an international communication skills trainer. My participants have been from all sorts of industries from petrochemical to banking and healthcare to automotive and a variety of age groups. Of course I’m now going to make sweeping generalisations and there are always exceptions to the rules so let me know if you’ve found the same or not.
I noticed that in many countries Malaysia included they don’t like to be pushy which is a nice trait but it can lead to lost business opportunities (certainly with international customers). When I compare this to next door Thailand (which I’ve only experienced as a tourist) in the busy areas they are too pushy – but surely there is a middle ground. This may be a measure of introversion and extroversion, cultural beliefs or a blend of other factors but in a presentation you want to influence the audience and encourage them to take some next steps. (Otherwise what is the point of presenting?) I refer to this as the “How” section and I always say people in the UK don’t do this very well. But in Malaysia it was even more obvious. In the training we had a look at some beliefs around being “too forward” that benefited from being refreshed and updated.
Depending on where you are training if participants are used to reading from Right to Left (rather than Left to Right in the UK) then when using your body language and especially hands you’ll want to indicate “the past” and “the future” the opposite way around. Imagine a line of text, when pointing to the past it will be represented in their mind where the text starts. When pointing to the future it will be represented in their mind where the text finishes. For example when talking about the competitor’s product you’ll want to indicate unconsciously with your hands that it is in the past and your company’s new product is in the future. Now just to confuse everything you also want to remember you are a mirror image when you present! That’s one of the reasons I say to my participants if you don’t know what you are doing with your hands keep them still until you do!
I was speaking to another trainer recently who was talking to me about a specific hand movement he made which inadvertently was very offensive – to help make sure that isn’t you next time take a look at these pictures of internationally offensive gestures.
Do you agree or disagree with my observations? What other quirks have you noticed either as an international trainer or when visiting other cultures? Please share!