Cultural development is driven by factors such as language, climate and environment. For instance, how we communicate can be seen in the climate in which we live. In cold climate conditions, we keep our conversation to a minimum – it is rather short and purposeful, and we sometimes seem to be buttoned up.
Presentation and language style
The fact that small talk is rather a luxury under adverse climatic conditions can also be seen in the language style: we keep it short, words do not have as many nuances and are clearly and unambiguously defined. In German, many words end in consonants or silent vowels. This language is not as melodic as Spanish, French or Italian because of the less pronounced high and low tones. In these countries, vocabulary and vocal melody are much more variable than in Germany or Scandinavia. Accordingly, body language is much more pronounced under warm Mediterranean climatic conditions.
These differences also affect presentation style: Some words are given more weight, often accompanied by facts and figures – the factual level has priority. As speakers we appear focused and compelling in terms of content, speaking a rather plain language: statements are taken literally, content is more important than the overall picture. The language style is direct and detailed, facial expressions and gestures are less important.
For other linguistic cultures, this kind of communication does not sound too diplomatic. The literal translation into other languages would be too direct for most people. They would feel hurt in their honor, it would seem to them as a loss of face.
Gayle Cotton describes further exciting details on this topic in her book “Say anything to anyone, anywhere: 5 keys to successful cross-cultural communication”.
Present in abstract or vivid form?
In the “land of poets and thinkers”, many presentations are cluttered with structures, long-winded explanations and technical information. Luckily, this intensive training allows Germans to listen for a relatively long time and with patience. For example, artificial effects such as shining slides and flashing, movable text modules may occur in individual cases, but they have no particular weight. The most striking feature is the redundant closing slide with the text “Thank you very much for your attention!”
On the other hand, titles are also crammed full of content. But do long formulations with redundant ballast really arouse the reader’s enthusiasm? What do you think about a title like “Perspectives for Climate Policy: The Potential Role of Climate Policy Agreements for the Millennium Development Goals and Realistic Transport Policy Measures to Mitigate and Slow Climate Change”? This fictional example is, of course, grossly exaggerated. A much shorter, crisp title such as “Slow down for climate change!” sounds much more attractive. In scientific terms, the title may not be accurate, whereas the active language style is easy to catch. For sure, this will raise curiosity much faster than in the first example.
Diagrams can boost energy
Many speakers display a detailed structure on their second slide: Introduction – Material and Methods – Results – Discussion… STOP! This approach is still widespread today, especially among scientists. Such speakers certainly do not attract their audience. Instead, it is best to get straight into the topic: a short and concise introduction, followed by the key results. At this point, too, many researchers exhaust their audience’s energy by presenting tables and graphs with all sorts of redundant details – a global phenomenon.
Especially in science, exact numerical data are proof of a well-founded and credible study. But what added value does your audience gain if every detail in your graph is displayed to three decimal places? It is the other way round: Excellent presentations depend on simplification. At a glance, you can highlight some easily recognizable tendencies to guide your audience. They will follow simple and visually appealing tables and graphs much faster. To clarify the most important statements, you underline the information with your own words.
In the second figure, I have skipped most of the numbers, words and lines. The essential data is quickly recognizable. You provide additional information directly in your speech. Even the rainfall and temperature data can be left out so that your audience is focused on your spoken word.
Climate will change – and your speech will succeed
You demonstrate your communication skills by adapting your presentation to the expectations and needs of your audience. They can expect a positive mood and inspiration from your keynote speech. Your sound presentation will be well received with some facts and figures, and your presentation in front of a familiar audience will certainly be very personal.
You will succeed if you identify with your topic as a speaker. If words are easy to understand, content intelligible and you paint moving images in your audience’s minds, that’s half the battle. The rest is a sound mixture of preparation and intuition. If you are ready to get involved with your audience, the performance will be easy. Good luck!
This post is also available in: German