Appropriately Handle Multicultural Audiences

by J.B. Maverick

2 min read

In increasingly diverse cultures, being able to effectively communicate to multicultural audiences can be important to the ultimate success of your small business. This applies not only to reaching a broader customer base but also to communicating with your employees. Having a more ethnically diverse workforce can help you generate business from different ethnic groups, but you first have to clearly communicate your company brand to your employees before they can effectively share it with others. A more diverse staff can benefit your company with new creative ideas, and interactions between culturally diverse employees can help broaden their range of ideas.

Put More Emphasis on Well-Organized Talks

When speaking to a multicultural audience, it’s important to put maximum effort into striving for clarity. You want to take the time to ensure your talk or presentation is structured in a very logical, easy-to-follow format. Make it as simple as possible for your audience to follow along by putting together a presentation where each additional point you make logically flows from the point presented just before it. If you don’t use actual printed bullet points projected on a screen or printed in a handout, then at least use bullet points orally. You can do this by repeatedly stating and emphasizing the main point of each section of material you present. Using the exact same words to state main points at both the beginning and the end of each “paragraph” or section of your talk helps make important points more easily understood.

Increase the Use of Gestures and Images

The words you use to communicate to a multicultural group may not always be clear to them, especially if you’re speaking in a secondary language to your audience. Images and hand gestures tend to be universally understood even across language and cultural barriers. Take advantage of this fact by liberally using images or gestures when addressing a multicultural group. All of your audience members may not immediately grasp the word “higher,” but if you simply point up, or show a drawing of an arrow pointing upward, everyone should immediately get the right idea. There’s an additional benefit to this practice. Using lots of physical gestures, as opposed to just standing still, helps you to better engage with your audience.

Be Cautious With Using Humour

Much of humour is often relative to a specific culture. Phrases that may immediately be recognized as references to classic jokes by most, if not all, of a Canadian audience may be completely lost on audience members with a Hispanic or Eastern European cultural background. The use of humour that’s acceptable in your own culture may actually be offensive to someone of a different culture. Attempting to make a joke may result in a situation where someone feels either confused, awkward, or embarrassed. Even if you know for a fact that you could have a great second career as a standup comedian, resist the temptation to go for humour in favour of focusing on clear communication. Being able to easily communicate clearly with people of diverse cultural backgrounds can be a big help in maximizing the reach, appeal, and ultimate success of your small business. It can definitely help you communicate better with a diverse workforce. Take the time to help your workers learn principles of clear communication so they can also better communicate with diverse clients.

References & Resources

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