Natsuyo Lipschutz holding a microphone and laughing while speaking

Persuasive speaking principles are important if you are addressing a cross-cultural audience.  In order for a message to be persuasive, it must take into account the cultural context of the audience, and what works in one culture may not work in another. There are a number of factors that must be considered when crafting a persuasive message for a cross-cultural audience, this article outlines four of the main principles: 


  • Emphasize shared values


When crafting a persuasive message for a cross-cultural audience, it is important to emphasize shared values. In order for a message to be persuasive, it must be based on common values and beliefs. When speaking to a cross-cultural audience, it is important to find common ground and build on that. For example, let’s say you are speaking to a room of senior management who aspire to advance their career to Board level. They probably all share ambition, motivation and desire for personal development so consider how you might draw on these from your own experiences to get your audience to relate to your own ambition and development. 


By emphasizing shared values, you can make your persuasive message more effective.


  • Build trust


One of the most important persuasive speaking principles in cross-cultural communication is to build trust. Different cultures build trust in different ways. For example, Americans can be more pragmatic and task-based, so they’re likely to trust someone based on their skills, track record, and references. On the other hand, South Americans and Arab cultures that tend to be more emotional will trust someone because they like them, have established common ground, and feel a sense of rapport.


In order to build trust, the speaker must be honest and authentic. They must also be willing to listen to the concerns of the audience and address them honestly. The best way to build trust is through sincere communication and mutual respect. 


  • Principles of reasoning


In some cultures, body language and other non-verbal cues are given more weight than the words a person uses. They may try to understand what someone is telling them by deciphering their gestures, energy, eye movements, etc. 


Other cultures where non-verbal communication is less important tend to “say what they mean” more literally.


For example, in countries such as Germany, Sweden and Nordic countries, they focus on what is being said, whereas Asian countries pay more attention to how it is said and body language. 


Having a clear understanding of who your audience is will allow you to adapt your presentation to the cultures of your audience.  


  • Appeal to the law of reciprocity 


The law of reciprocity basically states that,


“If you do something nice for me I’ll do something nice for you. I feel obliged to give back.”


There are several ways you can make this principle effective when you’re giving a presentation: 


  • Offer something first – allow them to feel indebted to you

It doesn’t have to be an actual product or something ‘free’. It could be a secret that you’ve learned or a piece of advice that has really helped you. 


  • Make it exclusive – allow them to feel special

Emphasize the fact that you’ve done your research about your audience so you know what they want, and present it in a way that makes it exclusive or rare.  


  • Personalize the offer – make sure they know it’s from you

Make it memorable by getting them to write it down, or hand something out at the end which helps them remember what you’ve said and know that it’s come from you. 


If you work with people from other cultures and you want to improve your persuasion skills, you need to be aware of how cultural differences shape our communication. If you’re speaking in front of an audience who may be from different cultures, be sure to do your research before you start preparing your presentation so you know how to tailor your One BIG Message® so that it resonates and is remembered. 


To find out more, download my eBook ‘The Three A’s of Cross-Cultural Communication’ 

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