Six tips for Communicating in a Global World

June 9, 2015

During some recent meetings and exchanges I noticed that periodically we can all use some reminders about how to stay inclusive and accessible when dealing with a global audience.

Practicing a ‘global mindset’ (it is a practice) can help us to remember the small things that make a difference in a global environment, so that they can become routine to us. There is a spectrum of how people engage globally – starting with those that don’t think about these items at all (although they are not intending to make people uncomfortable); those who notice or think about them sometimes; and those who are more consistent. Try to move along the spectrum on your consistency. These little things can make a big difference to effective global communication.

Here are a few quick tips to keep your global radar attuned:

  •  Timezones: If you want to include a global audience, take time zones into consideration when planning anything that will happen in ‘real time’ (webinars, livestreaming etc…) Make sure all communications you send out that have a time also include which time zone that time is in. A favorite website of mine for checking time zones or planning a meeting across time zones is www.timeanddate.com
  •  Bandwidth: Recognize that bandwidth (the capacity to download from the internet) can vary dramatically around the world by availability, quality and cost. This will be important for example if you are on an internet based group call (like skype or google hangout) or a webinar. Some participants may regularly lose the connection or have a harder time hearing. Using just the audio without the video portion can help to minimize bandwidth usage and strengthen the audio connection. Here are some tools for dealing with low bandwidth.
  •  Language: In an online or in-person meeting, if everyone is not as comfortable in English, make sure to speak slowly, and allow for (and encourage) periodic clarifications as needed. At a recent meeting I facilitated we did this via translating more challenging phrases or concepts via the language capabilities of participants who could help out.
  •  Acronyms: Acronyms tend to be very local – the more diverse the group you are communicating with is the more you should minimize the use of acronyms or make sure you clarify what the acronym stands for.
  • Humor: Be careful of humor on social media. It does not always translate in short phrases without more context.
  • Relationships: Despite an increasingly ‘virtual’ world, taking the time to build and nurture personal relationships is appreciated by those of all cultures. It can take time to learn the nuances of communicating with people of various cultures, but it is almost always worth that time investment.

What others would you include?