Giving Speeches in a Global Marketplace

International Presentations

By Terri Morrison
Copyright© 2013 all rights reserved

At a consortium of eminent German venture capitalists, Herr Doktor Gregor Geld introduces the next speaker: an ambitious entrepreneur we’ll call Mr. Driver.  As Mr. Driver strides confidently toward the podium, he smiles broadly, slides his left hand into his pants’ pocket, and says “Thank you, Greg, for that wonderful introduction!”  He’s itching to crack a scintillating joke before dazzling the audience with his brilliant business plan.   Hopefully, Mr. Driver notices the eyebrows shooting up in the front row, and forgoes the joke.

He’s already committed several faux pas in front of his audience.  Business is serious in Berlin, and German executives do not generally bestow “winning” grins upon prospects from the podium.  Neither do they insult the crowd by keeping one hand in a pocket while speaking or greeting someone. (Bill Gates recently did this with the President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye – an image that made headlines throughout Asia.)  And in a public forum, Germans often use formal titles and last names.  Dropping Herr Docktor Geld’s first name in such distinguished company was presumptuous...even if they're friends socially.

Luckily, Mr. Driver skips the quip, and delivers a thoroughly researched business plan.

No Laughing Matter

Many presenters like to open their speeches with a witty line or two.  But clearly, one joke does not fit all.  Why does a funny story fly in Seattle and fester in Singapore or Shanghai?  It’s not just the language barrier.  As White and Jackson described in their article “What’s Funny?” (Psychology Today), joke content can be a reflection of broad cultural norms.  For example, pornography is illegal in Singapore, so comedy with any type of sexual innuendo is not so amusing, but slapstick or violence may get a laugh. 

Besides bad translations and inappropriate topics, the entire concept of humor can differ globally.  Americans often use jokes as a release valve to cope with anxiety and lift spirits.  However, the Chinese don’t traditionally dispel stress with comedy.

They historically use it to make a point, demonstrate a moral, or instruct someone while being entertaining.   It can also be disconcerting for Asians to see a figure in authority – an invited speaker – behaving informally by telling jokes or expecting attendees to laugh out loud!  Instructors and speakers are held in high respect in China, Japan, and much of Asia - and laughter is not expected during the proceedings. It can be a sign of nervousness or embarrassment rather than joy. 

There is not generally a Q&A section at the end of Asian presentations either.  Since class participation is not the norm in China, students (who turn into executives) are used to quietly listening to speeches at work.  It could embarrass an entire room if one attendee grabbed the spotlight away from the speaker, just so he or she could pose a question!  

But without your opening bon mot, or an interactive exercise, how do you grab your audience in the first few moments?

Elementary, My Dear Watson
In his excellent piece “How to Give a Killer Presentation” (Harvard Business Review) Chris Anderson describes coaching the speakers at TED Talks who have 18 minutes to deliver. He believes that “Many of the best talks have a narrative structure that loosely follows a detective story.  It has to be engaging…the quality of the idea, the narrative, and the passion of the speaker is more important than speaking style or multimedia pyrotechnics.

Visual Appeal
Some people despise Powerpoint slides. They correlate them to verbose, boring speakers.  After my seminar at the ACTE (Association of Corporate Travel Executives) convention at the terrific Marriott Marquis in Times Square this year, Jon Purpura, the Director of Global Accounts and Global Agency Sales for United Airlines, came up and stated “Terri, when you said that you had 100 slides, I rolled my eyes and told my associate…This is going to be terrible - no one needs 100 slides!  Well, I just want to tell you, I wish you had more slides, and I want you to come and do this presentation at our global sales meeting!”

Why so many slides?  Because I have hundreds of examples of global negotiating techniques, ethical viewpoints, gestures, gifts, communication styles etc., and all have corresponding slides.  For example, there are countries that impose prohibitions on competitive or manipulative advertising.  There are no Coke and Pepsi wars in much of the EU, and there are no “Call Now!” numbers in French ads.  In Saudi Arabia you should avoid using pigs or dogs (no Porky Pig cartoons!), and never use the flag in any manner (Allah’s name is on it).  

Whether you use 1 or 100 Powerpoint slides, flipcharts, or avatars on a big screen – know your audience!  Be aware of the jobs, languages, business and social practices of the attendees.  It will help you engage with them, and prevent you from delivering an embarrassing faux pas along with your brilliant presentation.

[bf]WIN A FREE BOOK! CONTEST:  What’s your Cultural IQ? [end bf] 

True or False?  Besides How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie wrote a classic book called Public Speaking for Success.

[bf] Email your answer [end bf] to 
A free copy of [ital] Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands®: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than Sixty Countries [end ital] and [ital] Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands®: Sales & Marketing [end ital] will be awarded to two correct respondents, courtesy of F&W Media and McGraw-Hill.

June’s Answer: True. Observant Muslim men do not generally wear gold jewelry.

[ital] Terri Morrison is a Speaker, Co-author of 9 books, and is working on her 10th.  She is also Editor of Kiss Bow or Shake Hands® Digital - available through McGraw-Hill.  TerriMorrison@kissboworshakehands Twitter @KissBowAuthor.   Tel (610) 725-1040. [end ital]

Presentation Logic article version in 

Libraries and Art in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania

There is not a great deal of intercultural communications data to be found in this post.  That's because it's about two interests that I enjoy supporting in my spare time: Art and Libraries. I started volunteering to book the art shows and write the publicity for my local library in Newtown Square, Pa. last year.  Right now we have a wonderful show by the very popular artist, Nick Santoleri (  Here's an example of his work:

"Peaceful Afternoon" by Nick Santoleri

But this blog is really about an exceptional show by the Marple Newtown High School Advanced Placement Artists which the Newtown Square Public Library will host throughout June.  I wrote 1,400 words about it for a local publication because I enjoy entwining things that I love together, and this show is my hat trick: Art, Schools, and Libraries!  I wish all graduating students great success in their future endeavors - and I hope all the arts, schools, & libraries flourish in your town!

"Victoria" (with floating bowl) by Sean Toth 


"Laurel" by Sean Toth


Johnny Folliard & a selection of his Glass and Clay Art



May I Have Your Card?

My April "World Wise" Business Traveler USA Column

3 ½” x 2” (US), 3.37” x 2.12” (Europe), 3.583” x 2.165” (Japan)

Global business card dimensions vary. So does card stock, font, color and the content on the card. Add in different languages, titles, methods of exchanging and storing cards…and your potential for faux pas increases precipitously. 

That is, if you even remember to bring your business cards with you.

Sidney Elston III, author of the political thriller Razing Beijing, was caught empty-handed back in the 1990’s. As a top GE engineer, Sid was the technical spokesperson for the GE90 aircraft engine (which powers Boeing 777s). The technology was highly attractive to airlines and resulted in many international marketing trips. 

After one exceptionally prestigious presentation in Tokyo, Sid found himself having dinner and drinks with Japan Airline’s board of directors. Unfortunately, as the formal exchange of business cards began, Sid realized his were sitting on a bureau back in the hotel room. JAL did not ultimately select the GE90 – (for whatever reason) – but Sid now carries some very sharp business cards all the time. 

Gen X execs in the USA sometimes seem to regard business cards as a boring necessity. Why bother with a card when it’s more convenient to “bump” phones to exchange information? And with ubiquitous Internet access, you can Google, FB or get LinkedIn to everyone anyway.

But can you afford to ignore business practices in other markets? In South Korea, China and Japan business cards are considered an extension of you, and should be treated with respect. Their value is belied in their formal presentation; and your credibility in many Asian, Middle Eastern, and African countries can rise with the correct execution of a card exchange. Conversely, a mangled proceeding can detract from a good first impression.

Larry Cahill, technical director at Environmental Resources Management, witnessed several painful introductory moments with acquaintances in Asia. 

At one event, a US manager pulled out a stack of cards held together with a rubber band. They were bent in the center and smudged. Of course the Asian prospects received them politely, but those sloppy cards and his lackadaisical attitude was a factor in his losing that business. 

At another meeting, an American executive seemed to think he was in a casino. He flung his cards around the table like a blackjack dealer, bloviating all the while and barely glancing at the ones that clients respectfully handed to him.

As Larry observed, slipshod behavior can make you look like an amateur, and damage a sale. Here are ten guidelines for ensuring that your business card exchange in Asia is successful.

1. Have your business card translated into the target language on one side. If your firm is extremely large or particularly old, consider adding those statistics to it. 
2. Also forget about your privacy and include a mobile phone number, so your contacts can text you. (Texting is huge in China, and much of Asia.)
3. Buy a business card holder. Place it in your jacket pocket or your purse. Never put it in your back pants pocket.
4. Bring plenty. Never run out; a lack of cards may imply you have no job, or are absent-minded and therefore unreliable.
5. Hold the card with two hands. Keep your thumbs on the edges nearest you. Make sure the data on the card faces the other person. Try not to cover important data with your thumbs.
6. Bow slightly as you offer the card to the other person. If you are in the subordinate position, put your card lower, or underneath, your contact’s card.
7. When making a simultaneous exchange of cards, offer the card with your right hand. To convey respect, you may support your right wrist with your left hand. Receive your contact’s card with your left hand and then hold it with both hands.  
8. Thank your contact. Look at the card closely, and be sure to make a polite comment or two.
9. During meetings, put the cards on the table in an orderly manner. Don’t scatter them around or play with them. Writing on them is insulting to the owner. 
10. When it is time to leave the meeting, carefully pick up all the cards and place them in your business card holder.

Be careful with imagery on your cards. Avoid pictures of dogs, pigs and other animals that can be considered unclean (or food items) in different parts of the world. Also ask about the use of specific symbols, like flags, since they may be impolitic or taboo to use in marketing materials. (For example, never use the flag of Saudi Arabia. Allah’s name is on it.)

Whatever options you choose, be sure that your cards are easy to read and will fit into standard card holders. Then when you are asked for your card, you’ll be prepared to present an attractive, interesting 2-dimensional memento of you. 

Respect Yourself! Who do you think you are?

Tips on Doing Business In A Global Economy

Terri Morrison has written a series of bestsellers that prepare business people for international negotiations.
Now that our world operates in a global economy, it's vital to know how to best conduct yourself when negotiating in a foreign country.

Terri Morrison has found success co-authoring a popular series of books that prepare business people for international negotiations. Her book, Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than Sixty Countries, was named "one of the Best Business How-To-Books of 2006" by the Library Journal and has sold more than 285,000 copies.

Morrison got married several years ago and her publishers wanted her to keep the name branded on those best sellers. But she’s known by her married name, Terri McCarthy, at the Newtown Public Library, where she helps out by promoting the Library’s many special events and exhibits.

“I've lived in Newtown Square for a good number of years and love its convenience to Philadelphia, New York, and Washington,” she says. “While I have lived elsewhere, I was born in Miseracordia Hospital in Philly, and was actually one of the kids in the first graduating class from East Senior High School in West Chester. My library cards have stickers from all over Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. Book nerd? Yes indeed,” she adds.

When asked how she got the idea to write Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands, she replied, “ I founded my firm, Getting Through Customs, in 1990, and built the Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands Database first. So before there was a book - there was an electronic book! The [print] book version came along because AT&T said ‘it's very nice to have this information on the computers, but we want something that we can hand out also.’ I knew we did not want to make binders, so I looked through a book called The Writer's Market and sent query letters to seven or eight publishers who produced international business books. I followed them up with phone calls the next day, and within two months, we had a contract for the first Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands.”

The book became such a best seller because knowing how business protocol works in different countries can make the difference between losing or sealing a deal. Morrison’s book Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than Sixty Countries gives readers a brief overview of the history, government and cultural customs of a country. Each entry also gives tips on how to approach meetings and negotiations.

Greetings, gestures, forms of address, type of attire to wear to the meeting will vary from country to country; the book prepares the reader for the best method of success. Should you come to the meeting with a gift and, if so, what sort of gift is appropriate?

Tips on dress, gestures and forms of address are also listed for each country.

What are the other no-nos that will make the wrong impression? Morrison has it all concisely listed out country by country.

Her Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands: Sales & Marketing book, published in 2012 by McGraw-Hill, also became an bestseller and ended up as No. 2 on BusinessWeek’s best business book list. This book offers advice on presentations, business cards, promotions, negotiating, communicating and tips on selling and marketing in 20 different countries.

Morrison also conducts seminars in intercultural communications and writes columns for Business Traveler Magazine, Toastmasters and Executive Travel.

She recently gave a talk entitled “Global Fluency: Guide to Doing Business Around the World” in Collegeville for the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association sponsored by Pfizer.

She gives business presentations for many corporate, governmental, and higher educational institutions, and  says she always “strives to make her seminars informative and entertaining.” Clients include the American Bar Association, American Airlines, American Express, Boeing,Cisco, Deloitte-Touche, DuPont, Ernst & Young, Franklin Templeton Investments, IBM, Microsoft, NATO, Orbitz, Pepsi-Cola, the National Association of Realtors, the National Business Aviation Association and multiple World Trade Associations.

She also writes a column for Business Traveler Magazine, sharing her knowledge of business etiquette and strategies for success.

Morrison is happy to announce that she will be starting work on her 10th book this spring, her first with the American Bar Association.

For more details, visit

Gender Matters

Gender Matters

By Terri Morrison
© Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved

In person, anyone can tell I’m female, but online my name can be mistaken for a male. Sometimes I receive invitations for speaking engagements addressed to Mr. Morrison. Generally, I call and gracefully inform them that I’m a woman, and they laugh or apologize. It’s no issue. But there have been odd occasions when my gender mattered. In one instance, I was actually bluntly turned down by a conference coordinator for being the "wrong" sex! Bizarre, particularly when one considers where it took place—Silicon Valley, USA. A place where lawsuits run wild and free.

In some other countries, however, his behavior would have been both legal and commonplace. In those environments, being female means you must carefully orchestrate your business and social activities to protect your credibility.

The Asian challenge
Asia can be a challenging environment for women executives. According to Ms. Joanna Saavides, Former President of The World Trade Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it can be extremely important for women to present a knowledgeable and competent image in Asia—particularly in Japan, a very competitive environment. Some years ago, she held a responsible position at a factory in a rural area outside of Tokyo. Initially, there was a lot of resistance both from the Japanese factory workers and from a transferred male executive who reported to her. Things came to a head one day when he exploded during a meeting, stating that he had had enough, and that he wanted to leave the project halfway through. In front of everyone he blasted at her: "You’re the boss, you handle it!" She affirmed: "Yes, I am the boss, and we have the capability to achieve these goals." She calmly stated the way it would be done and worked through the issues with the team. After her effective management of that incident, she received far more cooperation from the entire staff—both Japanese and American.
"If something goes wrong during an international assignment, I think what works is competency. It can take some time for people to determine you are qualified, but stay professional and be patient. Never be disappointed and don’t panic at problems. Just think things through to achieve your goals."

Pay attention to me
Another issue that female executives encounter abroad is being ignored in meetings.
Many friends and clients have related horror stories about being the only woman present in a meeting, and trying to manage a sales call or negotiate a contract. Unless you prepare correctly, clients may completely ignore you, from the initial address to the room ("Good afternoon, gentlemen…"), to the Q&A directed solely at your male coworkers or employees.
Cathy LeRoux, Program Manager with Sabre’s IT department, relates a specific instance:
"I was in charge of the meeting (a fact-finding visit), but the customers directed all their questions and responses to my male counterpart. After a half dozen rounds of, I asked a question, the customers responded to my male coworker, then I asked the next question, the clients eventually understood that I was the one they needed to address."
Of course, you can brief your male colleagues on appropriate behaviors before you step off the plane. For example, if a client initially only asks questions of my male associates, they just turn to me and say, "Well, Terri, what do you think?" It may seem a bit ham-handed, but it works.
Mary Fox, Program Manager at HP, offered the following tips to establish credibility in work situations:
"Show you know the topic under discussion. You do not want to be seen as an assistant (particularly in Japan), but as a peer. Also, NEVER start a sentence with, ‘I’m sorry…,’ unless you really have something to apologize for. Women tend to use that expression inappropriately and it can make you look weak."

Difference of interpretation
Be aware that there are a multitude of female/male behaviors that can be interpreted differently in various countries. Cultural traditions vary, and perceptions of western women are different than indigenous females. In Tokyo, male colleagues will probably treat you differently than male coworkers in Toronto. Sometimes people do not know how to handle us. Even our body language is completely opposite from their traditions. Eye contact is intermittent or non-existent between the sexes in many cultures. If you look a man right in the eye and hold your gaze steadily (which is expected in the United States), that may easily be misinterpreted in countries like Mexico, South Korea or Morocco.
Appropriate attire is also somewhat difficult to master. For example, a red suit is not that unusual for female executives to wear in the United States, but according to Herbert S. Ushewokunze VII, a consultant for U.S.-Africa Business Development, a woman in red can be interpreted as a tart in parts of Africa. There go the red shoes too, I suppose.
Security issues for women business travelers would go on for pages, so we shall leave that topic—along with the stories on being searched at the airport—for another day. But consider safety from every angle when working internationally, from the moment you plan your trip to your return home.
In a perfect world, an executive’s gender—like her race, religion or age—should be irrelevant in any work-related event. However, since we don’t live in Utopia, there will always be some aspects of our jobs that involve extra adaptations or sensitivities because of the differences among us.
Finally, I’m reminded of another entertaining scenario that occurred two years ago, at a luxurious resort where I had been booked to speak to a meeting of CEOs. Standing at the podium, I waited for the Executive Director to read my brief bio to this elite group. I listened to him clear his throat and begin, "Good evening, gentlemen. Before I introduce our distinguished speaker, Terri Morrison, I’d like to ask her a brief question…Ah, Terri, did you hear the one about the blonde…?"
Actually, I’m more of a redhead

Dinner and a Deal

Dinner and a Deal

is my World Wise Column for March in Business Traveler Magazine.

Glucose levels and mirroring aside, breaking bread together is just good business.