Wednesday, January 11, 2012

10 Important Points to Keep in Mind When Addressing a Global Audience

Editor’s Note: Jose Popoff was an audience member of a webinar I conducted to a global audience. While Jose enjoyed the webinar, he felt I could do a better job in addressing such audience. He is right. When speaking to international audience, you need to do things differently. I asked Jose if he could share his advice. Here it is.

Whether you are writing an article, book, blog post or addressing an audience live, online i.e. via webinar, television, or radio, there are things you should consider if you are delivering your message to an international crowd. In the 21st century more and more speakers and writers are addressing global audiences and when doing so, it is helpful to be sensitive to differences in such a heterogeneous audience. Not only is this good advice for those addressing these audiences, it has the added benefit of modeling for viewers, listeners, or readers, how they can adjust their work as well.

10 points to keep in mind when you are speaking to the world

1. We don’t all measure the same
Sometimes you want to share what the climate in your zone is like, or what is the distance from the MIT to your house, or the average heights of your students, or your weight (if you’re confident enough to do so). When doing so, please consider that we do not all think on the same units of measurement. While Americans think of Fahrenheit, miles, and feet most of non-US citizens think in Celsius, kilometers and meters. So, when you tell your audience something like: “It´s 55 out here, so I´m wearing two coats..”, keep in mind that to Latin Americans for example, 55 is actually very hot! A very versatile site I recommend to instantly convert units of measurement is  All you have to do is type something like: “Convert 55 degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius” and the site will do the rest.

2. Avoid abbreviations
When reporting your location, avoid using state, city or district abbreviations such as PA, CA, TX, etc. Not everyone in the world is familiar with them.  When you mention abbreviations of your particular location, it gives the impression you are only introducing yourself to your own co-citizens.  

3. Acknowledge and appreciate time zones
If you are hosting a webinar, it would be nice if you had a list of the different time zones of your audience.  This might require you to check your registration list ahead of time.  Now, to do this, you should use a webinar software that provides a dropdown of countries instead of only US states and “other”. I must confess I find it a bit baffling when I have to register as “other” since the droplist only includes US states; for a webinar intended for anyone in the world...or not(?).  Thank and flatter those who are listening to you at difficult schedules for them. To have an idea on different timezones and convert them, this site: may come in handy.  Now, I want to point out that I have never conducted a webinar myself, so my opinion here comes out as an international attendee, which I believe you will find as useful.  It does require a little effort, but it is one that will pay off as you will make your crowd feel welcome and truly invited.

4. Know your geography and world culture
You might want to enrich your geographic and cultural knowledge. This way you will know the exact location of an unexpected visitor from Jakarta, Indonesia for instance. Try to find out important and unique facts about other countries.  Did you know, for instance, that Australia has the world´s largest coral reef barrier? or that Brazil is now the 6th world´s economical power? or that Honduras is geographically located in the exact middle of the whole American continent? Sites like might help you in this department. If geography is not your strong suit, pull up a map. is a great option for finding a location.

5. Know where tools work and alternatives around the world
Remember when presenting that a tool you use in your country, may not work in another country, especially if some services include phone voice and sms.. Before you present, find out what other people from around the world are using by tapping into your personal learning network. Simply, build a matrix on a Google spreadsheet. Indicate the various tools across the top and countries across the sides. Reach out to your PLN with a Tweet or an update and have them fill in with alternatives in their countries.

6. Poll your audience with global tools
If you are in the middle of a presentation and want feedback from your audience in the form of a poll, use services that allow Twitter or provide a simple URL for voting. Poll services such as polleverywhere or wiffiti allow this feature. Sms services are mostly only allowed for US providers and selected countries. Those who allow international sms require some extra expense from your non-US listeners (international sms); expense that you cannot expect from your receptors.  Allow sms polling only when you have targeted every country from your audience and know that the service applies to them.  Using sms service alone for an international crowd might make some feel unwanted.

7. Avoid the usage of jargon and/or idioms
Not everyone is familiar with them. If you encounter yourself in the necessity of using them, explain their meaning. Some jokes or puns might be applicable or understandable in some places and some might even be found offensive.  Try to pretend that the Dalai Lama is part of your audience.  Ok, that is just an idea.     

8. Use plain English
As you probably know, English is the world´s second language. Even webinars from places like Netherlands are held in English. Consider then that this is not mother language in all countries. Don´t assume everyone can catch up with you when you are speaking very fast. Pace, elaborate, and speak plain English avoiding pompous terms.  Devoted listeners will try to go to a translator to try to keep up with your terms but then they might lose track of your presentation.

9. Explain terms that may be geographically specific
Consider that educational systems vary among countries.  Terms like “Common Core Standards” are not used in every country.  This does not mean they do not exist but that they are dubbed differently.  But don`t worry, nobody expects you to be aware of all the intricacies of educational systems around the world!  However, think global!

10. Be mindful of acronyms
USA is a country that particularly loves to use many acronyms. This does not mean everyone in the world is familiar with them. Always tell what an acronym stands for, no matter how obvious it might sound to you. Trust me, not everyone knows what PLN stands for, including American teachers!  I have come across acronyms such as MLK, IRL, SM, STEM, PBL;  can you tell the meaning of all of them?  Not everyone knows.

José Popoff is an innovative Physics and Chemistry teacher in Honduras, C.A.  You can find him on  


  1. Interesting points. What is a PLN anyways? ;)

  2. I think you broke your own rule of avoid abbreviations when you listed your location as Honduras, C.A. . . .

  3. Hello Anonymous. I actually specifically referred to as state, city, or district abbreviations. Globally, I believe, the mentioning of your country suffices (That´s what I type when I introduce myself internationally). It is funny, in my location I was going to write "La Lima, Cortés, Honduras" but then I thought it was pointless since internationally my country is not well known (let alone any city). :) The C.A. thing was actually a plus.

    However, I do appreciate your comment and observation.

  4. Great post. I hope this gets picked up on. I would like it to be required reading for international speakers coming TO my country as well.

    New Zealand

  5. As a person who doesn't know what C.A. stands for, as I don't see it as a common abbreviation, I think that avoiding all of them is pretty helpful for clarity and convenience.