Dee Clayton International Presentation Skills Trainer

Quirky Observations From A British International Presentation Skills Trainer

Read time: 3 minutes

Executive Summary

Quirky Observations From A British International Presentation Skills Trainer

  • Cultural Nicety: Malaysians prefer politeness, potentially missing business opportunities.
  • Reversed Directions: Cultures with right-to-left reading (e.g., Malaysia) perceive past and future differently in presentations.
  • Body Language Mirror Effect: Remember, presentations create a mirror image, impacting hand gestures.
  • Avoid Offensive Gestures: Research local customs to prevent unintentional offense with gestures.

Read On

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.

Being too “nice”

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.

It’s all back to front

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!

Author: Dee Clayton

Dee Clayton - Simply Amazing TrainingDee Clayton, an acclaimed coach and winner of the prestigious Overall National UK NBW Award in 2022, has over 30 years of experience in communication. With over half of her career as an author, mentor, and trainer. Dee offers a distinctive blend of skills and insights. Her mission is clear: to empower high-performing individuals to excel further, while guiding their teams to unprecedented success. Connect with Dee via LinkedIn.

Posted by Dee Clayton on 21 Mar 2016

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