Speaking to Diverse Audiences

Speech ContestsGiving a speech or presentation to an audience of people who speak various languages or have differing cultural backgrounds requires special tact on the part of the speaker. Here are some tips and techniques on how to effectively engage a diverse audience:

  • Enunciate clearly. If possible, try to speak with a neutral accent to better include all audience members.
  • Don't speak too fast. Remember that the normal pace of speech in one language might become incomprehensible for people relatively new to that language.
  • Be careful with metaphors. Some metaphors that are appropriate in one culture can be offensive to another. A good example is references to sports not popular or practiced in a certain country, or phrases that are comical in one culture yet offensive in another.
  • Know the meanings of words outside your native language. Unless you are absolutely sure of the meaning and pronunciation of a word you are using in a given language, do not use it. In some languages, slight variations of a vowel will completely alter the meaning of a word.
  • Avoid slang, jargon and idiomatic expressions. Diverse audiences may not understand slang from a given country. English phrases such as "that dog don't hunt" or "cool as a cucumber" might be colorful, but the meaning could be lost on a large part of the audience.
  • Be mindful of body language, eye contact and personal space. Posture, mannerisms and eye contact speak volumes and what is taken for granted in one culture might be considered offensive in another.


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