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Whether you’ve been asked to speak at an industry conference, address your overseas branch, or conduct training, giving a presentation that will be watched globally and consumed by audiences in a variety of languages will require extra presentation prep. But this process doesn’t have to be daunting.

Taking into consideration each audience, individual language levels and knowledge requires more work on the front end, but following some basic guidelines will make your presentation accessible for everyone in your audience.

Know Your Audience

The first thing to consider is who your audience is. Are you presenting to one foreign language group or multiple?

If you are presenting to only one other foreign market, you can localize your translated presentation. Localization is the process of adapting your document to fit local customs, design standards, and adjusting for cultural references and sensitivities.

Localization is an important step. There are a lot of thoughts out there on why a translation is not enough. If you take the time to adjust for specific cultural and even regional differences in your presentation, your foreign language audience will not only understand your presentation better but you will gain credibility with your audience.

If you are presenting to an audience with multiple foreign languages, you won’t be able to localize for one specific language. In fact, you’ll want to remove specific idioms, or references towards one language or region so you are not marginalizing your other audiences.

Your Audience’s Level of English

Aside from translating your presentation into your target language, when it comes to the actual presentation itself, you’ll need to keep in mind your audience’s level of English.

Understanding enough English to comprehend your presentation material is one thing. But there are some things that just don’t translate, regardless of your audience’s knowledge level.

  1. Humor. While laughing is shared across cultures, jokes made in English don’t always make sense. Something we may find funny isn’t necessarily something a foreign language speaker, with different cultural norms, will find as funny. Often, communication patterns in other cultures take words at face-value, which might make your attempted humor fall flat.
  2. Metaphors & Analogies. Metaphors and analogies are great tools for taking a complex process or idea and simplifying it into something more digestible. However, will your foreign language audience understand the metaphor you are trying to use? Take for example a common phrase used in Russia, “hanging noodles from your ear.” Make any sense to you as a non-native Russian speaker? That phrase has the same connotation as “pulling your leg” in English. Both are simple, harmless phrases used a lot in daily speech, but cause confusion to those not culturally aware of the phrase.

Professional Translation Help

Whether this is your first global presentation or one of many, seeking professional help from qualified translators and localizers can save you a lot of time and confusion.

Professional translators will work with you to optimize your presentation, making sure the English version is culturally appropriate across all languages. They can also help translate and localize the slide deck and transcripts if those will be distributed.

Organizing your content and talking points can be a time-consuming process, find out more about how a professional translator can help.

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