Last year, SUNY was hosting a special program for Colombian government officials. At the last minute, they had a cancellation and asked me if I could fill in and do a presentation on Leadership Challenges in the 21st Century. They agreed to have a translator present to convert my English into Spanish for the audience. I agreed.Â Then, I followed the Number One Rule that I teach in all our presentation workshops and coaching â€“ BE AUDIENCE DRIVEN.
- I developed content to be valuable for the audience
- I created an organizational structure and style that would allow for interaction, even if there was a language barrier.
- I decided to have the slides translated into Spanish, so while people wait to hear my English translated, they could at least read the words in their language.
- Before I started, I â€œmet my audienceâ€. I knew Spanish was their first language and expected many to also speak some English, allowing them to get something from my speech, if I spoke more slowly, and get the rest from the translator. Â I discovered that virtually no-one spoke English.
- Recognizing that if the audience and I had to wait for each and every sentence to be translated, that would significantly reduce the impact of the presentation. Since I had learned Spanish many years ago, I asked the audience if they would let me try to present in Spanish, with the translator filling in when I was stuck. Knowing that the technical words were in Spanish on the slides, I figured I could probably cover about half the presentation in a broken and often grammatically incorrect Spanish. The audience overwhelmingly told me â€œ Go for itâ€, and I did.
- Turns out I presented almost 90% of the presentation myself â€“ and built a terrific rapport with the audience (and received compliments later).
At Presentation Excellence, and all the other companies with which Iâ€™m involved, our approach is to do â€œwhatever it takesâ€ to meet the clientâ€™s needs if possible.Â A partner once gave a client a fresh shirt he happened to be carrying for an afternoon investor meeting when an accident spoiled the one he was wearing. Good thing I took all those years of Spanish many years ago!
May all your presentations be excellent!