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Part 2: Seven more tips to help foreign businesses communicate more effectively with American business professionals

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This article appeared in the August 2017 edition of The Business Matchmaker. You can read it here.

 

Carmie McCook is an internationally respected public speaking media interview trainer and coach based in Washington, DC. She has helped thousands of Global 500 business leaders, as well as start-up professionals, become more persuasive and engaging speakers for B2B presentations, keynote speeches, and media interviews. Visit www.carmie.com for more tips. carmie@carmie.com

 

Congratulations! It’s 8:00 in the morning in Mumbai and you just read an email that brings a big smile to your face! After months of emails, calls, and text messages, you now have a face to face meeting scheduled with the management team of that big, American company that you have dreamed of adding as a client! Immediately you began developing the perfect presentation that will impress the American decision makers and lead to a nice contract!

 

Days are spent developing that presentation. A week later, as you sit on the plane for Chicago, you read through the presentation again and plan to rehearse it one more time in your hotel room before meeting with the client prospect. You feel confident. You and your team have thought of every detail!

 

Or have you? When your potential client is an American company, and you come from a different country and business culture, not all presentation styles work well across borders. Being aware of culture variances in the U.S. and adjusting your presentation presence accordingly, can be a real asset in a competitive environment. Often, making small adjustments to “Americanize” your presence when in the U.S. can significantly help you grab and hold an American business leader’s attention.

 

This is Part Two of my article that appeared in last month’s edition of Business Matchmaker entitled, “Want to sell your products and services in the U.S.?” As a Washington, DC-based public speaking trainer and coach, I shared seven insights and tips on verbal and non-verbal cultural differences that have helped my non-American clients be much more effective when presenting to U.S. business leaders. Here are seven more:

 

    1. Speak a louder when presenting: I’ll admit, Americans are not known for being soft-spoken. As an American, I admit that I agree with my intercontinental friends that most people here need to dial their voice volume down quite a bit. But, in American business meetings, soft voices will not have the same positive impression that stronger voices have.

      I almost always have to advise my non-American clients to project their voice more and increase the volume. This doesn’t mean shouting, but speaking at a level a bit louder than your normal conversational tone. Bolder voices hold our attention better, and your message has a stronger impact.

 

    1. Speak a bit slower when presenting: Giving an important presentation can cause some nervousness. And, nervousness usually causes most people to accelerate their speaking speed. Why? Because they are constantly thinking about what they will say next rather than focusing on the point they are making at that moment.That alone makes it difficult for others to follow any presenter’s verbal content.

      And, when you add the additional element of hearing English spoken with a vastly different accent, it can be a real challenge for your American hosts always to understand everything you are saying.Take your time. Slow down. And most importantly, pause a moment between sentences. Practice speaking in short sentences then pausing one second before continuing to the next sentence. You may be thinking that a moment of silence may appear as though you have forgotten what to say next.Trust me; it will not. It actually helps you sound more credible and gives your American audience a moment to absorb each new bit of information you are sharing.

 

    1. Smile when you speak: Smiles are a magical facial expression that have incredible power! Give a smile when you mention real benefits your product will give your American prospect. A pleasant smile makes you look more confident. Studies have also shown that a speaker’s credibility is higher when he or she smiles when sharing positive information with others.

 

    1. Keep slides simple and do not read your presentation from slides: This is advice that everyone should live by. Slides filled with line after line of verbatim text, then recited by the presenter are guaranteed to extinguish your audience’s attention within minutes. Slides should simply enhance what you are saying verbally.

      They should never be a word-for-word script. Keep slides simple. Think “billboard” for each slide. Use only a few keywords and relevant pictures and images. Slides should be designed to trigger your memory so you can just talk about the key points you want to share.

 

    1. Use confident body language: In some countries, appearing humble is a sign of respect. In America, this can be perceived as being less confident and makes you a little less convincing. I have noticed that many people from some cultures keep their arms very close to the sides of their body when presenting or their hands clasped in front of their bodies. They also often avoid making direct eye contact with the audience by slightly keeping their head lowered.

      For presentations to U.S. businesses, move your arms out from your body and practice using natural gestures more when giving your presentation. Stand straight. Keep your head up and look at individuals in the room when speaking.

 

    1. Initial conversations: Americans are friendly and want foreign guest to feel welcome. They will usually greet guests by saying things like, “How are you? How was your trip?” This is just our way of being cordial and are not actual questions. You may feel terrible, have a horrible cold, your house just burned down, and you had the worst flight of your life. But, do not assume friendly questions are an invitation to share your problems. Just smile and say, “Very well, thank you.”

 

  1. Do not give your American hosts expensive gifts: In some countries, the tradition of gift-giving is important to building professional relationships. However, in the U.S. most businesses have very strict rules about accepting gifts to prevent any perception of bribery. This often includes accepting dinners at a nice restaurant paid for by an active or potential vendor. The policies of what gifts are “acceptable” vary from business to business.

    When I worked for a huge multi-national company many years ago, they had a “zero gift acceptance” rule.To be on the safe side, if you give anything, I recommend you give nothing more than something with your company’s logo on it, such as a lapel pin, key chain, or coffee mug. This will prevent any awkwardness of your American hosts having to decline the gift.

 

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

Today, nearly all businesses want to reach beyond their borders to sell their products or services. Americans are always interested in hearing about innovative solutions that will help them be more efficient, save money, and increase profits. But, just having a terrific product is not enough. How well you communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, has a big impact on the outcome of any meeting.

So, when you prepare for your next face-to-face meeting in the U.S, review the presentation tips shared in this article as well as the first seven tips in the July edition of Business Matchmaking. The difference between giving an ordinary presentation and a memorable presentation is in the details!

 

 

Attention Foreign entrepreneurs: When you present your products and services to U.S. businesses, you need to pitch like an American

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Today’s business world knows no boundaries. From Beijing to Boston, Seattle to Seoul thousands of people make business presentations every day to audiences in countries who not only speak different languages, but also have different business cultures from their own. What may work beautifully in your home country could be a failure or, worse, an insult, in another.

 

Every country has its own unique business culture. While some differences from country to country are striking, many others are subtle. In both cases, anything that becomes a distraction to your host audience will diminish the success of your presentation.

 

This is enormously evident in my business. As a business-to-business communications trainer and coach based in Washington, DC, I have many international clients requesting help for an upcoming presentation to U.S. companies or government agencies.

 

Over the years I have observed hundreds of business characteristics unique to different countries. And, while cultural differences are delightful, in international B2B business meetings, some can put foreign business professionals at a disadvantage when making presentations to American business leaders. So, a large part of my job with my non-American clients is helping them utilize both verbal and non-verbal communication techniques that will ensure they better engage their American hosts and result in more positive outcomes. This is the first of two articles with verbal and non-verbal communications advice that has helped hundreds of clients have more productive meetings with American business leaders.

 

  1. American businesses #1 rule: Time is Money

In general, U.S. companies are all about making the most money in the shortest amount of time. Business meetings here are focused on bottom-line results, and the quicker the ROI, the return on investment, the better. When developing your presentations to U.S. companies, keeping this American business attitude in mind will improve the chances of making those meetings more successful. This will build professional rapport with your American host quicker.

 

  1. Keep your presentations short. How short? In general, for your first meeting, no more than 15 to 20 minutes is a good rule to follow. Keep your verbal presentation big-picture to explain the overall benefits of your products and services. Do not start explaining every detail. When you conclude your presentation there will then be plenty of time for your American hosts to ask questions about the details they care most about. This also gives you and your hosts the chance to engage in conversation and get to know each other better. Americans like to discuss issues rather than having a presenter monopolize the meeting time doing all the talking.

 

  1. Talk about benefits first. Many cultures start presentations with a chronological overview of their company’s history and the development of their product or service. American business leaders are primarily focused on one thing: Results. What have you got that can help me either save money or make money?

 

My advice: Introduce the big overriding benefit your product will give your American hosts within the first three minutes of your presentation. This will grab their attention immediately and they will then be much more interested hearing some of the essential details and other information you will share in your remaining presentation time.

 

  1. American business people are typically very direct. By this I mean that Americans will not hesitate to say things such as, “I don’t think that is a good product for us.” “That is too expensive.” or “I don’t like the design.” As said before, Americans are focused on bottom-line ROI so do not feel offended. I suggest you smile and reply, “Okay, let’s discuss the specifics of your concern and let’s work out a solution.”

 

  1. American business leaders are less formal. Times have changed in America. It’s not uncommon to have a meeting with a CEO and her or his team and the average age is 30. Younger people are very informal in business settings and this concept has grown to include most business people of all ages and all ranks. To be polite, you may begin by addressing your American hosts as “Mr. Johnson” or “Ms. Adams.” They will usually immediately say, “Call me James” or “Christine is fine.” A word about female business professionals: The title “Ms.” is preferred to “Mrs.” or “Miss.” Still, most women will also suggest you call then by their first name.

 

  1. Arrive on time. Business meetings in America are scheduled with a start time and an end time. Not being on time is considered disrespectful to your host and no one likes being stuck in a meeting going past the end time. Americans usually squeeze meetings in between an already over-packed schedule. They will often have to leave immediately for another meeting. If a meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM, be in the reception area five to ten minutes early. This also gives you a few minutes to relax and gather your thoughts before being called into the meeting room.

 

 

  1. In the introductory phase of meeting Americans, men and women will always extend their hand to shake hands with others. I often get questions about the proper way to shake hands. Here are the simple steps I suggest:
  • Hold your right hand straight, your palm facing left.
  • Extend your hand so your thumb gently folds on the top of the other person’s hand, parallel to their thumb, and your fingers gently fold around the lower side of their palm. You hand will be enveloped by the other person’s hand so that your palms are touching. Do not just grasp the fingers.
  • Gently squeeze the other person’s hand while looking them in the eye and smile.
  • Slightly shake three quick times and release.

 

Avoid greetings that include hugs, kisses on the cheeks, and shaking hands then hugging. Americans are usually caught off guard when these greetings are used and many times this leads to awkward and sometimes embarrassing moments between them and their foreign guests.

 

Of course, there are many other big and small differences that can make or break having a smooth and productive meeting with U.S. businesses. I’ll share more in my next article. In the meantime, feel free to submit questions you have about communicating more effectively with American business leaders. The more aware you become of these differences means you have the knowledge you need to adapt your verbal and non-verbal business-to-business skills with contemporaries in other countries.

 

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Got a media interview coming up? Here are some tips

Got a media interview coming up?

If not now, just wait.

Today, it isn’t a matter of “if” you are interviewed by a member of the media, but when. In this 3 minute interview with Simon Lock, President of CommunicationsMatch.com, I was asked to give three good tips to help executives prepare for an interview.

 

 

For more information, have a look at Simon’s website : 

  • https://communicationsmatch.com/
  • https://communicationsmatch.com/insights-blog
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Fake news! What if you are a victim?

I was recently interviewed by Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch.com, as part of CommunicationMatch’s Insights video series. Check it out for a variety of short, yet highly informative, interviews with global communication experts on hot topics of the day :

My topic: Tips for managing fake news. Click below and in 3 minutes you will get 3 great tips!

For more information, have a look at Simon’s website : 

  • https://communicationsmatch.com/
  • https://communicationsmatch.com/insights-blog
Three "Don’t" Tips from a Public Speaking Coach

Three “Don’t” Tips to Remember for Any Speech or Presentation

I’ve been a public speaking trainer and coach for more than twenty-five years and have helped hundreds of clients overcome a variety of public speaking challenges. Often the task is not so much telling a client what to do, but more what not to do. Below are three major rules to keep in mind if you want to be perceived as a credible and confident communicator in any professional situation:

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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton debating

2016 U.S. Presidential Debates: A Global Lesson in Speaker Training

On September 23rd I had the tables turned on me. Rather than being the coach for a media interview, I had the honor of being interviewed by Anna-Marie Capomaccio, a reporter with Radio France Internationale (RFN). This U.S. presidential election has gained extraordinary global interest and RFN is following every step of it for their 40 million listeners around the world.

The interview with me was part of a series of stories RFN is doing on our 2016 presidential campaign and the debates leading up to the November election. The story was broadcast Monday, several hours before the first debate.

I was asked about the “behind the scenes action” of a U.S. presidential debate, and specifically what kind of preparation each candidate, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, might be doing. I was also asked to comment on how I would prepare them if I were coaching them. While each candidate has specific – and well documented – challenges, the objective of every candidate in any presidential debate is the same: Persuade the undecided voters to your side.

The art of persuasion, at its core, is the ability to clearly communicate your viewpoint in a way that is relatable to your audience. How is this done? By first knowing exactly what your audience cares about most and telling them what they want to hear. But, how you deliver your messages makes a huge difference in whether you win or lose the support of others.

As I said in the interview, if I were working with either candidate I would remind him or her that people are basically persuaded by three things. Yes, what you say is very important, but how you sound when you say it, and how you look when you say it can either help or diminish your credibility and buy-in from your audience. Presidential debates also give candidates the opportunity to look and sound presidential under pressure.

Body language and vocal quality have huge impact on the impression others have of a speaker. Looking and sounding confident and in control is essential to being a successful speaker or debater. Avoid sarcastic facial expressions or losing your “cool” and yelling. Maintain a neutral or positive facial expression – no matter what your opponent is saying. Your voice should reflect compassion, caring, strength, defiance, and determination depending on the point you are making. Don’t butt in. Don’t go over time. Keep your messages simple, short and relatable to the audience.

Most of us will not be preparing for presidential debates, but strong communication skills can make or break a career. If there is a public speaking problem you struggle with, I would highly encourage you to read the three part series on my website that gives many more tips for becoming a more engaging and credible speaker.  

And, one final note: In past elections studies have shown that the final presidential debates typically didn’t change the poll numbers enough to have a huge impact on the election. But this campaign hasn’t been “typical” in any aspect – and neither are the candidates. It will be interesting to see how the debate styles of the two candidates evolve over the course of the next month!

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LEADING WASHINGTON D.C. MEDIA TRAINER INTERVIEWED ON RADIO FRANCE INTERNATIONLE

Carmie McCook, President of Carmie McCook & Associates, a media interview and public speaking training and coaching firm based in Washington, DC was interviewed by Radio French Internationale (RFI) September 23rd to offer professional insights on the first U.S. presidential debate held September 25th at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York. The interview aired on RFI last Monday morning, several hours before the debate.

In the interview, with RFI reporter Anna-Marie Capomaccio, McCook was asked to share with RFI’s 40 million global listeners, how influential are U.S. presidential debates to the outcome of an election, her thoughts on what candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump should be doing in preparation for the most talked about presidential debate in recent history, as well as what her advice would be to each candidate if she were coaching them. She also addressed what each candidate should try to accomplish during the debate to swing “undecided” voters.

Carmie McCook is a nationally respected, award winning executive communications expert, recognized for helping high-profile professionals become more powerful and credible communicators for any media interview, B2B presentation, or public speaking event. Carmie has taught thousands of executives, company spokespersons, and other prominent individuals how to confidently handle interviews with virtually every U.S. and international media outlet, such as ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, BBC, NPR, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Times of London, Le Monde, Al Jazeera, Business Week, Washington Post, and numerous trade and business publications. For a full list of training services offered by Carmie McCook of Carmie McCook & Associates visit www.carmie.com.

Radio France International is a French current affairs radio station that broadcasts worldwide in French and 12 other foreign languages. It draws on the expertise of its Paris-based editorial teams and unique global network of 400 correspondents to provide news bulletins and features which give listeners the keys to understanding the world. Some 40 million listeners around the world tune into RFI every week (weekly audience without extrapolation) and its new media platforms attract 10 million visits a month.

For public speaking and media training tips follow Carmie:

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Simplifying complex messages: Part 3 – Use big-picture concepts when explaining complex topics

What is the Electoral College and how does it work?  What is net neutrality? Why don’t viruses respond to antibiotics?

These are just a few examples of questions some my clients, who are subject matter experts in their different fields, have been asked by reporters in long-format radio and TV interviews, and by audiences during Q&A sessions on panel discussions. They are all complex topics and, if you, as one of the speakers, are not properly prepared, the answers could go on far too long, get far too technical, and leave listeners far more confused than enlightened. However, doing this well takes practice and developing your “K.I.S.S” skills: Keep it simple, stupid.

Too often very smart subject matter experts have a tough time explaining a complex topic without sounding like they are reciting a Ph.D. thesis. They start from when the earth cooled and proceed to go into detailed explanations of every aspect of the topic.

So how can you take a complicated idea and present it in a way that is easy to follow? I offer two pieces of advice: Start thinking conceptually and, if before a live audience, use Infographics when possible.

Thinking conceptually: Start by thinking ahead of who is in your audience and their relationship to the topic. Look at the question from their perspective. Step into your audience’s shoes and jot down the questions they are probably asking in their heads. These are usually broad, big-picture questions and always go back to their real questions of Why should I care? and What’s in this for me? From there, group the questions into categories and respond to each in the simplest of terms. I always encourage keeping categories of information into no more than three categories. It helps keep the answers more concise and is easier for your audience to follow.

Infographics: Sixty-five percent of the world’s population is made up of visual learners. This means when complex topics are supported by simple graphics, they become much easier to understand. Obviously, this can only be used when the TV program is designed to show your graphics as you speak or if you are speaking to a live audience. Infographics consist of a series of simple images, graphics, and, sometimes, a few key words.

For example, let’s use the question, What is the Electoral College and how does it work? To explain what it is, first there needs to be a very short explanation on it origin and why it was created. Next, in the simplest of terms, explain the process. Use real examples that are relatable to the audience. Lastly, explain how this process impacts the American voter.

Okay, I know this little outline may still leave many of you scratching your heads. So, I highly recommend you look at a terrific example of how Electoral College expert Tara Ross explains the Electoral College using simple language and great Infographics: www.prageru.com/courses/political-science/do-you-understand-electoral-college.

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Simplifying complex message – Part 2

Revisiting the scenario from last week: Recently, I was listening to a radio news program where a medical scientist was attempting to explain how mosquitoes transmit the Zika virus. The long, technical, response from the doctor sounded just like that: extremely technical as if he was presenting to a panel of medical students. If the show’s host had not forced him to break down his explanation, the audience would have been lost and tuned out within the first 10 seconds. This all boils down to two points: Know your audience and present “what is in it for them” upfront.

If you are the subject matter expert on a complex topic, your knowledge on that topic is appreciated. But, any time you are speaking to an audience outside of your peer group, it should never be assumed that the audience fully understands all of the terminology and insider acronyms that you would use with your colleagues. You want to present the information in a way that is relatable and relevant to your audience. In the case of the medical scientist explaining the transmission of the Zika virus to thousands of people across the U.S. on national radio, it would be safe to assume that the majority of the listeners had little knowledge on this topic. The solution: Keep it simple.

The best way to explain complex messages to a broad audience is to use relatable, everyday examples and analogies that the audience is familiar with. And, use simple language. Lose the acronyms and jargon. The audience already knows you are smart, this is not the time to impress them with your extensive vocabulary. This is the age of very short attention spans. You must capture the attention of your audience quickly, so get to the “what’s in it for them” information as soon as you can. That is why they are listening to you; they want to quickly know, from an expert, how your topic will impact their lives.

Next week I’ll discuss an approach on how to break things into essential concepts and how to communicate them efficiently during a media interview.

Confused woman
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Simplifying complex messages

Recently, I was listening to a radio news program where a medical scientist was being interviewed on the Zika virus. The question was, How do mosquitoes transmit this virus? The three minute response from the doctor sounded like he was reading a PhD theses on the molecular biology of infectious diseases. The show’s host kept saying, “So, in simple terms, how would you explain this to our audience who aren’t scientist?”

This is a common scenario and often a huge challenge for subject matter experts speaking to reporters on complex topics. Whether explaining technology, astrophysics, medical breakthroughs, or other intricate processes, most experts feel they must explain every step of a process in order for everyone to “get it.” And, naturally, they lapse into using insider acronyms, words, and phrases that leave listeners looking like a deer in headlights.

When acting as a spokesperson or subject matter expert, it is important to remember your primary responsibility is to clarify and explain the topic. A media interview, broadcast or print, is not the time to break out the academic, engineering, scientific or technical vocabulary. This is the time to keep things simple and explain basic concepts.

But, how? When you are so immersed in a topic/subject/product/technology, it’s easy to skip the foundational elements, and jump right into the details. While you may think you will sound really smart and knowledgeable, you are  most likely confusing the heck out of the reporter and the audience – neither of which is ever a good thing! Over the next three weeks I’ll share a few quick, but highly effective, tips that will help you  simplify complex and multifaceted topics and specific key points: Here are today’s tips:

  1. Support statements with simple facts, charts, or visuals that are relatable to the general public.
  2. Use analogies and metaphors. Using comparisons to something that people do, see, or experience everyday  will help with comprehension.
  3. Tell a story. Storytelling that relates to the topic helps keep your audience engaged when the topic is technical and dry.

Next week I’ll share three more techniques that help provide clarity and eliminate confusion when the topic is complex.