Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Humbling, Yet Valuable Lesson

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

  1. Slow down
  2. 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…!

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