A few weeks ago at the annual Vibe Summit, powered by World Commerce & Contracting, I was honoured to be a keynote speaker. My session was a fireside chat with Sally Guyer, the global CEO of the organisation.
I was invited to participate in the event in December 2022. And over the months that followed, I had email discussions about the structure my talk would take. Closer to the time, I then met Sally via Zoom to discuss the content and flow of the event.
It was my first time at the Vibe Summit, and although it was a fully virtual event, the level of preparation was top-notch. The organisers ensured all technical requirements were seamless, and the event was expertly coordinated.
By the time the Vibe Summit approached, the statistics for the two-day event were impressive: 50+ speakers, 200 companies, and 750+ attendees.
As the only Black female speaker from Africa, I was looking forward to sharing simple communication insights that the international audience would benefit from.
So I prepared my talk on creating an impact and getting results with effective business communication. Now, you may or may not have attended the Vibe Summit. However, if you want to connect meaningfully with other professionals across regions, boost collaboration, and create a positive impact, then note the four simple steps you should take from my session:
1) Overcome the biggest myth about effective communication
To remove self-defeatist perceptions, first, dispel the biggest myth about excellent communication skills — that superb skills are innate and reserved for a selected few. This is the greatest barrier I’ve come across in my work as an international communications trainer, speaker, advisor, and coach.
Anyone, anywhere, regardless of ability or limited by circumstances can become a skilled communicator by self-education, training, and practice.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or extrovert; you can become a persuasive communicator if you commit to the process.
So get rid of self-limiting beliefs. You must believe that you’re capable of creating an impact with your speaking, writing, and interpersonal communication skills. Don’t self-sabotage or you’d miss incredible opportunities to connect with international professionals across the globe.
2) Be mindful of three communication practices when working with international professionals remotely
The pandemic changed the field, and remote work and collaboration are here to stay. To collaborate with professionals across borders, keep the following points in mind:
a) Develop cultural intelligence when interpreting nonverbal communication cues and behaviours
Note that perceptions of body language differ across cultures. For example, are you working in a culture where putting your hands in your pockets while speaking is considered confidence or arrogance? Or is sustained strong eye contact considered disrespectful in your colleague’s region?
Although nonverbal cues may differ across cultures, the genuine smile, the Duchenne smile, is interpreted the same as an indication of happiness, enjoyment, or pleasure. Therefore, smiling warmly is a safe place to start.
b) Speak slowly and loudly when communicating with foreign professionals
And be patient when you’re communicating remotely with professionals/colleagues/partners whose first language isn’t English.
As an international student in the 90s, I came to appreciate the angst that foreigners might feel when communicating with locals in their language.
I was in my 20s, in my third year studying French at the University of Leicester in the UK.
As part of my degree requirement, I had to spend a year in France for a deep immersion into the language and culture. So I chose Pau, a quaint, mountainous town in the Pyrénées region, near the Spanish border. I stayed with a French-speaking Italian lady who spoke no English, so my language skills improved significantly during that year.
The locals were warm and accommodating and seemed to appreciate my effort to communicate in French. But one negative experience marred my otherwise happy time in France.
To obtain a carte de séjour (residence permit), I needed to have my English documents translated into French. So I found a good translation service and approached the lady in charge. I was already nervous because I was unsure I’d communicate clearly. So I tried my best, speaking slowly in French, to explain exactly what I needed. When I stopped speaking, the lady gave me a cold stare and spat out:
‘Nous parlez mal le français’. (‘You speak French poorly’.)
That was in 1999.
I couldn’t describe her today. But I’d never forget how she made me feel…24 years later.
So when communicating with foreign professionals, if you sense that they’re struggling to find the right words, help them along. Rephrase your messaging, strip away long, difficult words, and simplify. Speak loudly, and slowly, and ask if you make sense. Smile warmly; say something humorous if appropriate, and make them feel at ease.
Don’t be like that lady in France, whose unkind comment deflated me and made me doubt my worth.
Be patient. Be kind. Be human.
c) Adhere to the three rules of effective speaking
These evergreen rules of speaking are particularly useful in virtual communication—whether you’re speaking one-on-one, in a group, or communicating at virtual events and summits:
I) Consider your audience so you can tailor your messaging accordingly.
II) Keep your messaging, simple, brief, and clear to dispel ambiguity and boost collaboration.
III) Request and give timely, factual feedback to spur action.
On this blog, I routinely list these rules of effective speaking, and if you’re a regular reader, you know them already. Use these rules to break communication barriers, increase your credibility, and boost trust.
Keep these communication ‘hacks’ in mind when working with professionals across the globe.
3) Draw inspiration from fellow professionals and leaders
While writing my business communication blueprint Influence and Thrive, I interviewed six, accomplished professionals and leaders from different fields, ranging from oil & gas and law to academia. I asked critical questions about the role of effective communication in business and leadership effectiveness, and their insights were revealing.
For the detailed interviews and background, you should read PART IV of the book.
However, below are four of the brilliant takeaways on communication they shared that you should adopt when working with people across regions.
a) Use simple language and be concise. If your idea cannot fit in the back of a napkin, it’s too long.
~ Robin Farmanfarmaian, entrepreneur and seasoned speaker
b) Realise that the higher up you go, the more you realise that your effectiveness is less about your technical skills and more about managing people. Also, include your stories; you connect with people better and they appreciate that.
~ Eugene Okpere, senior executive in the oil and gas sector who brokers multi-million-dollar deals
c) Note that communication cannot be a one-and-done deal in organisations. It should be strategic and continuous. You’re always communicating, by default or design.
~ Gina London, Emmy award-winning former CNN anchor and speaker
d) Remember that emotion triggers action. It’s an effective tool of persuasion, surprisingly not logic. So focus on emotion-building messaging in your communication.
~ Kolarele Sonaike, UK barrister and expert public speaking coach
Take their advice seriously to power your work relationships.
4) Hone your writing skills
One of the most useful tips I give to anyone who wants to connect with influential people and doesn’t have ‘connections’ or referrals, is simple:
Write to them.
Superb writing opens doors. I say this repeatedly and for good reasons. Read about my experience writing to generate support for a worthwhile cause. Then note the steps you must take when writing to capture the attention of influential people.
Writing is a key differentiator you can leverage when no other options are available. But to generate results with writing, you must hone this skill over time and accept 10 hard truths about excellent writing. It’s also smart to adhere to the three rules of great business writing as your guide.
Just ensure that your writing complements your other communication efforts.
The Vibe Summit was a success, and it was a pleasure highlighting some practical communication nuggets the audience could adopt.
The world’s one global village and collaboration is a key driver of innovation and growth.
Therefore, as a true global citizen, use your communication skills to foster alliances, work internationally with peers, and boost business results.
Do you need help with your communication skills?
I love working with ambitious professionals, executives, entrepreneurs, and business leaders worldwide.
You already know my approach, my credibility, and my experience. So kindly get in touch, and let’s explore how my transformational communication coaching and training services will catapult you to success in your career or business.
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N.B: First, third, and fourth images are courtesy of Gerd Altmann via Pixabay. Second image is courtesy of Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke via Pixabay.