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Maya Chan, global thinker
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5 ways to communicate with global professionals

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Every senior leader today has to proceed cautiously when presenting in front of a global audience to avoid cultural clashes. Leadership guru Maya-Hu Chan shares five practices presenters should employ to make sure their message is heard well in an international platform.

Most of my clients are successful leaders in their organisations. They have strong technical skills, extensive business experiences, and more often than not, they are good communicators.

However, when they have to make a presentation to a global audience they run into all sorts of problems. Why is this?

Sometimes this culture clash can be found working against members of the audience in a presentation. How you respond to speakers from different cultures can be equally as fraught with potential for offense!

Many of you will be working at a very senior level and the global audiences you present to may well include senior executives, even board directors.

There is an additional complexity when presenting to senior global leaders – as a group they also have typical traits which will run alongside their country-specific cultural norms.

Of course, it’s hard to generalise about global senior executives, given the dramatic differences that we know to exist in high and low context cultures.

However, senior executives, of all backgrounds, tend to be assertive.  They are also paid to be paranoid – to ask the tricky and tough questions and expect well-thought-through but snappy answers, and they generally don’t like wasting time or effort. They can’t afford to waste time so they’re really only interested in the main points that underpin major decisions.

There is an additional complexity when presenting to senior global leaders – as a group they also have typical traits which will run alongside their country-specific cultural norms.

Given these dramatic differences, here are five methods presenters can use to help them adapt their natural style and pitch their presentation effectively to each audience.

1. Know your audience

Do your homework on them. Find out as much as you can about their business, cultural background, interests, and, if possible, the key individuals in the room.

Read up on the cultural norms of the particular country you are visiting and check that your intended content won’t cause an unintended slight with them.

2. Prepare and practice

This is definitely not a time to ‘wing’ it! Write your presentation or speech well in advance and check or rehearse it with someone familiar with the audience if you can.

This would also be a good moment to double check that your content does not include culture-specific references in your humor!

3. Use more images in your presentation

Always paint pictures of the outcome of a project, not only the process and use visuals to support your ideas.

These work in all cultures.

4. Tell compelling stories   

People rarely remember numbers, statistics, and charts, but they often remember a good story.

Indeed, if you are making an important point, wrapping that point around a compelling story is far more memorable than just stating the importance of that point.

5. Project strength, confidence and warmth

This is easiest to do if you’re well prepared and confident in your abilities.

However, my advice is: fake it if you have to, by learning techniques to convey these qualities even if you are having an off-day. Being a strong, warm speaker will allow your audience to relax and enjoy your presentation.

If you do your homework on your topic and audience; focus on your personal power and warmth as a presenter and stay clear of cultural ‘cul-de-sacs,’ you will find it easy to overcome the common perils of presenting to a global audience.

Ultimately, you will ensure that, no matter what their language or cultural background, your audience believes that you are speaking their language.


As a management and leadership strategist, Maya-Hu Chan is consistently ranked in the top 20 by Thinkers50 in the USA.  Now founder of Global Leadership Associates, Chan helps global organisations manage cross border international leadership. Hu-Chan is one of the headline speakers at Talent Management Asia 2015.

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Held in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong in mid-April, Talent Management Asia is Asia’s biggest conference on talent management and human capital strategy. The two-day annual event is focused on global best practice HR strategy, features an agenda dominated by pan-Asian case studies and leading global thought leader, and attracts a large audience of senior HR generalists & specialists as well as other C-level executives involved in their companies’ HR strategies.

To get a global and Pan-Asian regional view of talent management and to increase your knowledge and skills across the talent management spectrum – recruitment, training & development, compensation & benefits, succession planning, and leadership development – don’t miss Talent Management Asia in April.

 To review the topics & agenda, check out the stellar speaker list and reserve your seat visit before it’s sold out. For more information please contact Carlo Reston on +65 6423 0329 or


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