In Focus:  Power Points

At least this war is over: without a doubt, Microsoft’s Powerpoint has won the battle for best presentation software, now represen- ting the de-facto standard around the world. If everyone creates presentations the same way, at least you know you won’t have to worry about that aspect when preparing your pitch for that up- coming meeting with a foreign customer. Right?


While the tool may be universal, there is great local variance in how it is used. As with many other aspects of doing business, cultural preferences are a strong factor in what makes presenta- tions effective. When preparing for important business meetings with international counterparts, you’ll want to pay particular attention to three aspects:


In certain Western countries, colorful, animated business presentations convey characteristics such as ’creative’, ’dynamic’, and ’success-oriented’. Unless your profession is strongly design-oriented, however, consider that this may not work well across cultures. Mexicans, the Swiss, Singaporeans, Turks, and many others view doing business a ’serious’ activity. Delivering what they might see as an over-the-top presentation can damage your reputation and credibility with such counterparts. In addition, superstitious beliefs are associated with many colors in China and other parts of East and Southeast Asia. Using yellow may be read as arrogance, since that color signals royalty in China. Red is a favorable color, but only as long as it is not used for text. As many more such pitfalls exist, realize that you may have to learn about them. Alternatively, resort to using only black and white on your slides.

Pay attention to differing paper formats as well. Your stylish slides might look odd when printed in A4 size instead of the Letter format for which you designed them.


No consent exists across individuals, corporations, or countries as to what constitutes ’the right amount of information’ given in a presentation. Where some prefer to present only the big picture, others expect to cover much greater levels of detail. Again, this choice has a strong cultural component. In so-called ’high uncertainty avoidance’ cultures, such as Japan, Korea, or Germany, presentations are generally expected to provide extensive background information and detail about the proposal or issue addressed. In contrast, businesspeople in the United States or the United Kingdom, for instance, tend to focus on high-level aspects. There, ’diving too deep’ into the details may put off audiences.

Another content consideration, at least when presenting to groups whose native language is different from yours, is whether to translate your materials. If an interpreter is available, should you have your slides translated or not? Quite often, the best choice is to do both, i.e., to present the information in both languages. That way, you can easily navigate your slides while your audience is able to read them in their native language.


A variety of factors determine what people consider ’effective’ presentation delivery. Should your oral explanations closely follow the text shown on the slides, or is it better to give outlooks on what is yet to come, talk about context, or ad-lib about aspects not covered on your slides? The former style is strongly preferred in Japan, while the latter may be more effective in Brazil, for example. Should you underline key points through expressive body language (Italy) or strictly control and limit your movements (China)? Invite interruptions to stimulate lively discussions (France) or state that you will take questions at the end (Thailand)?

None of these choices will make a good, well thought out presentation irrelevant. But knowing about cultural preferences and adjusting your style accordingly may boost a presentation from good to great – which could make a big difference for the outcome of your business interactions.

This article is also available in PDF format  (requires Adobe Reader ).

Book Of The Month
Speed Lead


A fresh look at how to lead global organizations effectively may require doing less, not more.

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Web Site Of The Month
Turkish Embassy


An extensive introduction to the country's economic policies and strategies, culture, trade and travel.

(click title to visit this web site)


Quote Of The Month

Even though you know
a thousand things,
ask the man who knows one

( Turkish proverb )


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Lothar Katz is the founder of Leadership Crossroads.  He has a wealth of experience in achieving productive coopera- tion across cultures and driving business success on a global scale.
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Global Business Practices:
Ten Tips For Doing Business in Turkey

  • Although 97 percent of it land mass is in Asia, Turkey views itself a part of Europe.
  • Turkey is the only Muslim country that is secular, stricly separating religion and government.
  • Many Turks are immensely proud of themselves and their country. You may never be able to recover if you offended someone, even if done inadvertently.
  • Strong relationships are vital in Turkey. A third party introduction is usually the most powerful way to contact a potential partner.
  • While meetings may start considerably late, Turks generally expect foreign visitors to be punctual.
  • Initial small talk is important and can be extensive. Wait for your counterparts to bring up the subject of business.
  • Communication may sometimes appear vague, especially early on. Watch for subtle messages that may signal issues and concerns.
  • Make sure to treat senior executives and elderly people with the greatest respect.
  • The American ’OK’ sign, with thumb and index finger forming a circle, is an obscene gesture in Turkey.
  • Crossing your arms while facing another person is considered rude.

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