Monday, October 1, 2012

PSMJ Tips: Proposals, Presentations, & Language Barriers

Type “language barrier” into Google and you’ll be surprised at the large number of entries describing terminology barriers in professional disciplines such as medicine or science. It exists in architecture and engineering as well, and must be considered when preparing proposals and presentations for a client or prospect whose first language may not be English, but Spanish or German, for example. Keep these tips in mind when dealing with language barriers in your proposals.

• Compose your proposal text in English. That’s how you think! Then hire a good translator to help you get the proposal text into the reader’s language. Hire a translator with technical expertise in your field, since the jargon used in architecture and engineering will have specific translations into other languages.

• Be sure the translator is familiar with the tone, feel, and appearance of proposals done in the target language. In some cultures, the broad American rule of one-third each language, white space, and graphics may not hold. In some cultures, the text is up front, and tables and graphics follow either in a separate volume or in a labeled appendix.

• Appearance must meet the reader’s expectations. A few years ago I transported a proposal clear across Ireland get it professionally bound by one of the country’s leading binderies before it was shipped off to the client.

• Steer clear of translator sites on the web. These sites generally may be accurate in word-for-word translation, but add little or no context, vernacular, or interpretation… or worse, add these items incorrectly! 

Here are several tips for managing language barriers during the presentation or interview:

• Know and obey the cultural dictates of introductions and business card presentations. Our casual American custom of “dealing out” business cards and handing them out in one hand is seen as an affront in some Asian cultures, where the proper way to proffer your card is with two hands and a slight bow.

• Use poster boards done in the target language. This is a powerful way to communicate during the interview without too much pressure. That way your translator can be sure the message is presented properly and accurately.

• Slow down your presentation, whether you are doing it in English or the target language. But do not shout, which is a common mistake Americans make when addressing an international audience or an audience in another language.

• Use the universal language: smile. A smile goes a long way and communicates volumes.

• Know the culture of the target audience regarding dress. In some cultures a red necktie carries a distinct connotation; in others, it is a yellow tie. Know whether it is acceptable to adopt a casual demeanor, such as by taking off your jacket… in some cultures it signifies disrespect.

Your goal is to have your audience listen to your message, whether delivered in written form in the proposal or in verbal form through an interview. By learning the distinctions of the culture, you can minimize the language and culture barrier.

For more vital information on how to effectivly approach business development, register for PSMJ’s Win Work Now: Three 1-Day Business Development Programs. Recharge your Business Development Program by actively participating in these highly focused, targeted programs in the three key Business Development areas - Business Development Strategies, Winning Proposals, and Powerful Presentations.

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