Category Archives: Presentation

Communication Article: Define Your Terms to Solve Cross-Cultural Communication Problems by Ethan Becker

Communication Article:  Define Your Terms to Solve Cross-Cultural Communication Problems

By Ethan Becker

So you think you can do business internationally just because you send your employees overseas? You’ve sent your employees to the HR cross cultural class. They learned how to kiss, bow, and shake hands, and now you’re ready to do business internationally, right?

But … wait. Something’s wrong. Why isn’t your international business thriving? Why are you still running into problems with your international counterparts telling you “yes” one day and then not following through?

After working with clients in South East Asia since the 1990’s and living in Malaysia with my family for almost a year conducting research and coaching senior leaders of some of the largest organizations in the region, I’ve gained insight into this pesky long-lasting conundrum that so many international teams have faced: cross-cultural communication problems. Not only have I explored the communication psyche of the senior level executive, but I’ve also studied the perspectives of the multiple levels throughout the ranks. So my insight into this problem is well rounded. I’ll share the problem, and most importantly, how to help minimize it.

The Problem

The cross-cultural communications problem is a breakdown in the meaning of verbal language and body language. Here are some examples:

  • A manager from India speaking to a colleague from the United States comes across as condescending and arrogant without knowing he is conveying that attitude. The Indian feels he is simply showing confidence. To the American, he is being offensive. The American doesn’t respect the manager. How likely is it that the two can form a productive working relationship?
  • A man from Singapore meets with a woman from the United States. To him, research means that, if three friends agree on something, it’s a fact. To her, research means paying a firm $50,000 to call and poll people for a month. The man and the woman leave the meeting in agreement that they will research a new product and then go to market with it, but they never discuss the meaning of the term “research.” What do you think will happen when they meet again at the end of the month to do a progress check?
  • A manager from Germany delegates a critical job to an Asian subordinate. The subordinate says “yes” after the delegation is complete. Upon the due date, the work is not done. The manager asks “Where is the work?” The subordinate replies, “It’s on my desk.” The manager continues, “Is it done?” Subordinate: “Yes.” Manager: “Can I have it?” Subordinate: “Yes.” Manager: “so where is it?” Subordinate: “On my desk.” Manager: “So why is it on your desk?” Subordinate: “Because I’m still working on it.” Manager: “But you said it was done.” Subordinate: “Yes.”… Sound familiar? The manager becomes frustrated and associates the “yes” comment with deception or incompetence. In reality, it’s a fear of sharing bad news with a source of authority. How can the German manager foster an environment where the Asian subordinate is comfortable enough to transcend her upbringing about disappointing authority to be honest?
  • A woman from Malaysia meets with a man from England. They are designing an event for the company. The man from England is discussing the take-aways from the event, and he is referring to lessons that people take away and retain. The woman from Malaysia believes that “take-aways” refer to hand-outs and gifts that people will take away from the event. Do you think the meeting is a productive one or simply causes confusion?

 The Fix

Fortunately, there’s a fix for cross-cultural communication problems. It involves these three actions:

  1. Paraphrase. Repeat what others say in your own words to confirm your understanding.
  2. Define terms. When it’s your turn to speak, invest time in creating common definitions of terms. It’s okay to stop the flow of the meeting to do so. Taking time now to define your terms – even if it’s only by asking a simple question such as “what do we mean by take-away,” and then answering it – can save time and energy later on. Be patient, and plan for extra time for this.
  3. Never assume. Don’t take it for granted that everyone is using terms in the same way. Tone of voice may suggest understanding, but that doesn’t prove that you’re on the same page, so always double-check.

It’s true that communication problems can crop up in non-multicultural environments. But in multicultural environments, communication problems are significantly worse. If you’re prepared for them, you’ll avoid costly communication breakdowns and strengthen productivity in meetings.

Pay attention to the fix, and you’ll thrive. Don’t, and you’re wasting valuable time.

Ethan F. Becker is the author of “Mastering Communication at Work” (McGraw-Hill) and President of The Speech Improvement Company. Visit him online at


Presentation Skills: How the Academy Awards Can Teach You on How to Give a Great Awards Speech!

Presentation Skills:  How the Academy Awards Can Teach You How to Give a Great Awards Speech!

It is that time of year again. The Academy Awards is on Sunday and each winner will be giving us their Oscar winning awards speech. Some speeches will be great and some speeches will not be great. Either way, we will remember them.

You don’t need to be Denzel Washington or Meryl Streep to give a great awards speech. Whether you are giving an awards speech in a business meeting or banquet, it is important to know what are the basics of giving a great awards speech. During your awards speech, it is important to be excited about your accomplishment, yet be humble. During your awards speech, it is fair to acknowledge your efforts, yet acknowledge those who helped you (your team, parents, etc.). During your awards speech, it is important to let the audience know how much you appreciate the award and those who gave the award to you. But most of all, please keep your awards speech with the time limit.

The following are great resources to help you give a great awards speech and be remembered for the right reasons:

Awards Speech Article

How to Give the Perfect Oscar Awards Speech

Awards Speech Video

OnPoint Motivation & Success Newsletter Available Now!!!

The April 2012 OnPoint success newsletter is available now!  You will learn how to take advantage of career opportunities, stay motivated during challenging times, and how to present yourself so that your audience wants to act on your message.

Read your copy of the OnPoint newsletter at OnPoint success newsletter!


JumpStart Monday: Motivational Quotes for Great Presentation Skills

“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” – Dorothy NevillPresentation Skills,  Acceptance Speech, Rewards speech

Reward and/or acceptance speeches are some of the most difficult speeches to give.    It doesn’t need to be that way!  You are under pressure to appreciate the moment, be humble, and appreciate others.

The following are seven secrets I learned from watching Academy Awards acceptance speeches and how you can apply them in your life:

How to Give an Acceptance Speech: Seven Presentation Secrets Learned from the Academy Awards

By Ed Sykes

Academy Awards come and go, but one thing is a constant: bad acceptance speeches. You may never win an Academy Award, but you may be asked to give an acceptance speech for an accomplishment in your business, your career, your community, or your organization. Sometimes your acceptance speech will be for what you accomplished, or for what your team has accomplished.

Will you be ready when it is your time to give an acceptance speech?

The following are seven presentation secrets on how to give an outstanding acceptance speech in any situation:

  1. Prepare For the Moment – You may have heard the Oscar winners say, “I really didn’t think I would win,” or “I really didn’t think I would be standing here tonight,” and then give an acceptance speech like they didn’t think they would win. Well, my question is, “Why did you think you were invited to this gala event?”  (Read the rest at Reward Speech)

JumpStart Monday: Motivational Quotes for Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking!

‎”We can learn to soar only in direct proportion to our determination to rise above the doubt and transcend the limitations.” – David McNally.

Many times we put limitations for success upon ourselves.  This limits our ability to achieve success in many areas of our life.

One of the biggest limitations we put on ourselves is in public speaking.  We think, even before we speak, that we are not good public speakers.  The secrets in the following article will help you eliminate your fears and remove the limitations so that you can be successful and soar when making presentations:

How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking in Seven Powerful Steps

Have you ever avoided a career or business opportunity because it required you to speak publicly? Did you ever have a great idea you wanted to share in a group setting but didn’t because of your fear of speaking in front of a group of people?


You are not alone in the fear of public speaking. In my travels, I have seen where the fear of public speaking have kept otherwise very successful people in all walks of life from achieving their full potential. When you let this fear dominate your life, you lose out on promotions, business opportunities, community activities, and most of all self-confidence.


The following are seven powerful secrets to empowering you to overcome your fear of public speaking and achieving a new level of success in your career, your business, and your life:

  1. Ask Yourself the Important Question – Ask yourself, “Where does my fear come from and is it real?” Was there a public speaking opportunity in the past that you think didn’t go well or that you felt was poorly prepared? Maybe you had to stand up in front of your classmates in high school or college and someone made what you perceived as a negative comment concerning your presentation. Maybe you gave a good speech but you started to over analyze every detail of the speech.
  2. Face Your Fear of Public Speaking – The fastest way to overcome any fear, much less the fear of public speaking, is to face your fear and attack it. Look for and embrace opportunities to make presentations. Start with non-threatening opportunities such as your children’s school meeting or a non-work related situation and work your way up to more important, high pressure situations such as work meetings. (Read the rest of the article at Overcoming Fear Public Speaking)