Tips for Solving Cross Cultural Communication Breakdowns in Business

Online trainings are getting more and more popular as they have a whole hand of features which makes them economical and essential in getting groups of people together at short notices to attend meetings or trainings. Board meetings, impromptu meetings can be scheduled at a mouse click. Irrespective of where participants are located, all they need is a computer, internet access, webcam and microphone. They will be provided with Log-in details enabling them to enter the meeting room. Companies are cutting travelling and accommodation costs by introducing online trainings as means of communicating with their customers and employees. Organizers make critical mistakes with preparing to send invitations to participants both locally and internationally to attend the sessions. These trainings are important as they are one of the ways in which participants are able to acquire training skills. Being a member of many groups on Facebook, I receive plenty of invitations to attend sessions. Most of these invitations have omitted to include the time zones: international times (24 hour) which are relevant for the participants to decide whether they will be able to attend or not. For example, an event scheduled for Wednesday at 8pm in the USA (EST) will be Thursday 3 am in Europe (-1 GMT). Here are some important tips to consider when sending invitations to international audience:

  1. Time Zone: This has to be indicated clearly using international time format (24 hour system). Include a link to time zone converter and if you use Outlook, then you have the possibility of sending confirmation via Outlook which then automatically converts the participants local time zone. I prefer to link my event with Outlook as this will not only be saved using my local time and set the reminder so that participants get event alerts from the Outlook calendar.
  2. International Audience: If you have international participants, remember to speak clearly and slowly enough for all them to understand. It would be advisable either to leave the chat on or ask at regularly intervals if everybody is able to follow the training session.
  3. Humor: Apply humor with utmost care. In some cultures humor are seen as a sign of weakness, in other cultures as a sign or appreciate or pity.
  4. Using jargons and abbreviations: Using jargons and abbreviations is acceptable, but can also be tricky. No everybody will be familiar with your local jargons and abbreviations may not necessarily be familiar to everybody. I always try to avoid using them. If you have to use abbreviations it may be appropriate to first write out the words in full and continue with using the abbreviations.
  5. How to address participants: If you are going to have an interactive session, it may be appropriate let everybody know that you will be using the informal first name form and not surname. In some cultures it is not appropriate to address people with their first names.
  6. Record training sessions: It is recommended that you offer the participants’ links to the recorded training session, a way of getting feedback. To conclude, poor cross cultural awareness will have lots of consequences, some serious, others very funny! Nonetheless it is imperative that in the global economy cross cultural awareness is seen as a necessary investment to avoid blunders.

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