I was delivering a Great Demo! Workshop last week in Europe to an international audience and during our first break, a woman came up to me and asked me to:
- Slow down a bit and
- Be a bit more careful with my choice of words.
This was a great reminder – and humbling, personally. I work hard to slow down my delivery and try to choose more “internationally”-understood English words and phrases (and to avoid U.S.-specific colloquialisms), when presenting to non-native English speakers – and I generally believe I do a good job. However, it was clear I could do better…!
It is very difficult for non-English audiences to spend a day or two working in English, as a second language – it can be confusing, at minimum, and very tiring overall…!
During the last few months, I was at a number of sales kickoff meetings, where many of the presenters were from the U.S. (and audiences were very international). The number of U.S.-specific references, analogies, metaphors, examples and colloquial phrases was truly staggering…! Here are some examples that I heard (along with possible non-U.S. interpretations):
- “Hit it out of the park” – [What are you hitting, and why?]
- “That’s the minor leagues” – [Is this a music reference or perhaps a follow-on movie to the Justice League?]
- “The cat’s out of the bag” – [Why was the cat in the bag? What did he do?]
- “That dog don’t hunt” – [Whose dog doesn’t do what? And why?]
- “It was wicked” – [Wicked – is that evil or good, or a referenced to the musical?]
- “Piece of cake” – [Ahh, it must be time for dessert or our next coffee break, yes?]
- “That’s just putting lipstick on a pig” – [Um, why and what did the pig do to you?]
- “Break a leg” – [Sounds painful…]
- “Monday morning quarterback” – [Do they play American football on Monday mornings?]
- “The whole nine yards” – [What happened to the 10th yard? And how many meters is that?]
- “Go Dutch” – [Is that like, “Go Amsterdam FC!”?]
- “It fell through the cracks” – [Are there cracks in our software?]
- “We threw him under the bus” – [Now THAT’s going to leave a mark…!]
- “Off kilter” – [I’m totally lost on this one]
- “Out of whack” – [Too bad, no more whacks in your bag, huh – perhaps the cat has more whacks in his bag…]
Annnnnd, (I hear you cry), how does this apply to demos? Directly!
Contemplate the challenges faced by YOUR customers when they are receiving demos presented using phrases and language that are U.S.-specific – and delivered at rapid-fire pace. One of our top priorities in presenting demos is clarity of communication – so we should take the guidance from my Workshop participant above and
- Slow down
- Choose words and word phrases that are as international-English as possible…!
And by the way, “tabling” something in the U.S. means the opposite in the UK, Australia, and many other English-speaking countries – but that is an opportunity for another post…!