The goal of a presentation is to impress the listeners with your product or plan and give them an opportunity to air any questions up front so that they leave the room confident that all problems can be handled smoothly. This can be a challenge when presenting across cultural and language gaps.
Take an American who has customized a product for his company’s Japanese customer. Typically, he will give an energetic, enthusiastic presentation, demonstrating the various bells and whistles his firm has added to the product. He may rely on verbal explanations as he points out key features, rather than using highly detailed slides. The Japanese engineers who are listening will watch intently and may raise no questions or concerns, even saying it all looks “fine.” Understandably, the presenter will think he was a success!
Quite likely, though, his Japanese counterparts will leave the meeting and go on to talk over what was presented. Possibly they were left with concerns they had not raised and were confused about some of the features. All this uncertainty would only come out later, leaving the American presenter disappointed and perplexed.
This can be avoided with some simple forethought:
- Tone down the energy, speak more slowly, and pause between sections of your presentation to sum up what you’ve just said. Many people tend to speed up when they get excited, which makes a presentation even harder to understand.
- Distribute written materials, even a simple agenda, outline or list. Japanese generally understand written English better than spoken English, so a document can help them follow along. Written materials can also be studied later.
- Make time for an informal discussion after the presentation. It can be more comfortable to raise concerns in a more relaxed setting.
- Don’t expect an immediate answer. The Japanese team will need to mull over the information and discuss it further. Schedule a follow-up meeting specifically to hear the formal reaction to the ideas put forth in the presentation.
Japanese business etiquette training and seminars are a specialty of Japan Intercultural Consulting. Please contact us for more information on how we can help you prepare for successful interactions with Japanese clients, customers, and business partners.