Presenting Overseas? Watch your P’s, Q’s and Hand Gestures

Here are five basic tips to get you started and to ensure that you are well received and welcomed back:

1) Refrain from making typical American gestures anywhere while traveling. The OK sign, the index finger and thumb forming a circle, is an obscene gesture in Brazil, impolite in Greece and in many areas of Russia. In Japan it means money and in France, zero or valueless. The V for victory sign, (palm pointing away from you) or the peace sign, if reversed, (palm pointing toward you) would be tantamount to using the impudent middle finger in many countries. Slapping the fist into the palm of your other hand, is another variation of “____you” in Italy and Chile. Thumbs up in Australia is rude. Beckoning someone with the index finger curling toward you is rude in Australia and south-east Asia. Snapping fingers to get a waiter’s attention in France will result in your being ignored as an ill-bred lout. Watch how locals hail a taxi to avoid embarrassment and to actually get your cab to pull over to you.
2) The way you are received by your audience will be greatly determined by their culture, beliefs and practices. Thoroughly research the demographics, psychographics and rules for proximity, prior to your trip. Reading the local papers prior to your presentation, will give you clues as to what their international perspectives are, as well as, provide insights of their current events.
3) Print materials and your business cards in acceptable colors, utilizing their language on the reverse side. Abbreviating states, provinces, titles may result in confusion on the part of your foreign colleague. Learn how to properly give and receive business cards in Asia. Read it respectfully before placing it in your case. Carry your cards in an elegant, tasteful card case and never let someone see you write on their card.
4) Speak slowly and distinctly. Remember that your audience or colleagues may have learned English at Oxford, or in school as a third or fourth language. Your American English may not translate easily. Cultivate a form of International English, without American vernacular, sportsy phrases or slang. If you speak rapidly at home, practice slowing down your talk, so that your international audience or translators can keep up. Running words together, “Whatdayawanna do?” is not easily understood. After all of the preparation, numerous contacts and considerable expense, to not be understood would be a grave error. It is your responsibility to not be misunderstood.
5) Start in your initial e-mails by mirroring their formality, salutations and closings in your replies. Mis-spelled words do not enhance your image. Be doubly careful when using Blackberries or PDA’s to respond. Greeting someone with “Hey” may be acceptable at home, but not to your overseas contact whether writing or speaking in person.
While these tips barely touch on the barest minimum knowledge required for successfully presenting overseas, there are many resources available to bring you up to speed. Do your homework on intercultural communication, prior to your trip and you will feel confident, well-informed and be considered a well-respected world class executive.

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International speaker-trainer and cross-cultural communication expert,Catherine Mowbray Lorenz sees the potential in every individual and company. Her expert knowledge and training moves possibility into profit! If you are looking for simple, no-cost easy ways to boost your sales and  improve relationships in the overseas market, get your FREE communication and presentation tips now at:

Join the discussion One Comment

  • That is a really good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very accurate info… Appreciate your sharing
    this one. A must read article!

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