Different strokes for different folkes

Promise and deliver — that rule applies to any presentation. But, presenting to people of cultural backgrounds different from our own demands special attention. What people expect from a presentation might differ from culture to culture. Germans admire a logical structure, they think the best presentations are in-depth, detailed, and have enough evidence, facts and documentation. Others will only listen to us if our facts are brief and selective — Americans for instance. We should never assume that our international colleagues will share our view.

In our experience, Americans find it very hard to present in front of German listeners. Germans value people who are what they consider “konsequent,” i.e. logical, dependable, reliable, consistent, and thorough. To them, it is the art of presenting a logical and detailed sequence of arguments. They are less inclined to go for the hard sales pitch. We will be better received avoiding the hard sell. In order to get a German person on our side, we have to make sure our argument is comprehensive and consistent. By all means, we should be positive and enthusiastic about our topic. But at the same time we have to support our enthusiasm with solid facts and rational arguments.

As the saying goes: “Different strokes for different folkes.” Swiss psychologist Carl Jung said: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” In our globalized world we have to make an effort to get a better understanding of different cultural backgrounds — our own as well as that of people we are dealing with.

Axel Wendelberger