How Culture Impacts WHAT We Say
As stated in a previous post, culture impacts everything we do, and giving a presentation is no exception. People from different cultures have varying expectations and preferences for both HOW a presentation is given and WHAT is presented.
In this post, I’m going to discuss a cultural preference that impacts the WHAT. It has to do with whether the speaker should focus on the problem to be solved or the solution to the problem.
Some cultures require a thorough analysis of the problem before a solution is mentioned. I’ll call these Analytic cultures.
In Analytic cultures, audience members want to:
- Have a full understanding of the problem or situation. If you don’t give them this, they will feel cheated and possibly even insulted. Taking them through a thorough analysis of the problem shows that you respect their knowledge and ability to grasp the situation.
- Understand what is causing the problem and how all the factors involved are linked and interwoven. They believe that if they understand the situation thoroughly, the solution will become obvious.
- Discern the solution for themselves. If you present the solution too soon, you risk offending the audience and being thought either presumptuous or too stupid to understand the problem yourself.
Analytic cultures include Germany, Japan, and Russia, among others.
Other cultures require only a cursory explanation of the problem before the solution is presented. The primary focus of the presentation should be on the solution. We’ll call these Solution-Oriented cultures.
Solution-Oriented audiences prefer:
- A brief explanation of the problem backed by facts and hard data. It would be best if you said enough about the problem to put people in the picture, but you don’t want to belabor it. Going into too much detail about the problem is perceived as pessimistic and negative.
- To be shown several possible solutions, with one (the last) recommended as the best Audiences in Solution-Oriented cultures want to follow the logical process you used in choosing the best solution. They want to know that you considered more than one option and why you discarded the ones you didn’t choose.
Solution-Oriented cultures include the U.S., India, and the U.K., among others.
Knowing whether you are presenting to an Analytical culture or a Solution-Oriented culture helps you to choose and structure your content and make the desired impression on your audience.