Yoshito Hori, president of GLOBIS University, managing partner of GLOBIS Capital Partners, shares his views from an entrepreneur's perspective.
In the modern, globalized economy in which we operate, it’s not unusual to have to make the same presentation to different audiences who have different values and expectations.
In my role as a venture capitalist, for example, I have to pitch funds both to Asian investors in Asia and to Western investors in the United States.
Each audience is looking for something different in the presenter.
As a rule, the Western audience tends to prefer their speakers to be aggressive, physically dynamic and somewhat self-promoting. Above all the Western audience wants to be impressed by a show of energy.
The Asian audience is different. They prefer speakers who deliver their presentations in a quieter, humbler manner and include something of a personal note. The Asian audience wants above all to like the speaker and feel a sense of rapport with him or her.
Since these preferences are polar opposites, having the right delivery for the right audience is crucial.
The high-energy style that works well in the West can come across as disagreeably boastful and egoistic in Asia.
Equally, the softly-softly Asian approach can be misperceived as weak, boring and unfocused by a Western audience.
Martin Newman, the British personal impact consultant famous for coaching the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid team to victory, is someone who believes that the style of delivery of a presentation is all-important.
And he has the data (not to mention the track record!) to back up his point of view.
According to Newman, what you say (the “verbal” element) accounts for a paltry 7% of the overall impression you make on your audience.
Surprisingly, it’s the non-verbal stuff that really matters.
How you speak (“vocal”) accounts for 38% of your impact, while how you present and project yourself (“visual”) accounts for a whopping 55% of the total impression.
In presentations, it’s not content, but tone, that is king.
Personally, I’ve been trying to develop a “universal presentation style” based on fusing the best parts of the Asian and the Western approaches. With a little tweaking, it should work anywhere.
I’ve boiled it down to these 3 simple rules:
• Be energetic—but don’t be hyper.
Too much energy and too little energy can both be alienating. I think that projecting a soft, warm energy (like an old-fashioned light bulb) works better than a display of raw power because it establishes a sense of harmony between you and your audience.
• Be personal—but don’t be sentimental.
The personal touch is good, but be careful not to go too far. Ryutaro Nonomura , a Japanese politician who started sobbing loudly when asked to explain what he’d done with a large sum of public money at a press conference, ended up as a global YouTube sensation of the wrong sort. Be personal, yes, but don’t get maudlin or hysterical!
• Be factual—but don’t be overbearing.
Audiences everywhere appreciate a well-structured and concise presentation that covers all key data points. At the same time, you want to avoid presenting your track record in the bragging, in-your-face style of a WWE wrestler on a winning streak. Sometimes a little modesty works wonders. For example, when you present a graph, why not let the numbers speak for themselves, without hitting the audience over the head with every little detail?
Now that so many companies—I’m thinking particularly of the tech giants like Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google—post videos of their new-product presentations on the web, people everywhere can learn from the best, and global presentation tastes are slowly starting to converge.
Of course, the godfather of the whole Silicon Valley presentation style was the late Steve Jobs of Apple. As a fan of Buddhism and Zen, Jobs was obsessed with simplicity and clarity, whether in hardware design, software interfaces or presentation style. Although he did tend to hyperbole when describing Apple’s new products (“revolutionary,” “incredible” etc.), everything else in his presentations—the language, the setting—was stripped-down, modest, even austere.
It makes sense, given Silicon Valley’s location on the West Coast, just across from Asia, that what Jobs came up with was an Asian-Western hybrid presentation style—casual but rigorously structured, entertaining but not frivolous, simple but not simplistic, intimate but never drifting into irrelevance.
I too believe that in presentations, as in automobiles, hybrid is the way of the future, and the style that works best globally.
What about you? Have you ever presented to a culturally unfamiliar audience? How did it go? Why not share your personal do’s and don’ts with us? Given the diversity of LinkedIn’s membership, I’m looking forward to some valuable and actionable feedback.
(Cover Photo: Rawpixel / shutterstock)