Clarity and Confidence – The Importance of Language with Susan Heaton-Wright | Superstar Communicator #44
I’ve been leading business meetings, presenting at seminars and talking into a microphone for so long that I forget how challenging public speaking is for so many people, even when it’s in your native language.
I was forcefully reminded a few weeks ago when I was invited by a friend to join him at a workshop for public speaking in a small city in Spain. There’s about 30 in the group, all local business people. Despite being in business, and meeting others every day, they still feel the need to build their confidence in front of others. Normally, they’ll practice their presentations in their native Spanish. On this occasion, though, they had to present in English – very much their second language, and not one they use every day, as none of them have Anglophone clients or contacts.
So not only was I reminded of the stress that even experienced business people go through when standing in front of an audience, I could clearly see and understand the additional difficulties of communicating clearly and effectively in a different language. This was in a small, unthreatening, group of friendly peers. All except me were also in the position of having English as a second language, so couldn’t be too judgemental.
I was hugely impressed by these people’s courage, and the effort they had put into preparing their presentations and trying to get the language right. Perhaps, with English as first language, only I noticed the errors they made. I spend a lot of time with Spaniards and others for whom English is a second language, so I’m very used to common errors – I know what they really mean. But if these people were presenting to a purely British or American audience, sometimes some people would definitely get the wrong message.
It made me very conscious of my own shortcomings and the risk of miscommunication when I have meetings and presentations in Spanish. I may not get nervous, and I may have been using the language for many years, but it’s still my second language and I speak it far from perfectly. That doesn’t stop me – but does everyone I speak to really understand what I mean?
I had this in mind when, just a few days later, I met Susan Heaton-Wright. Through her company, Superstar Communicator, she helps business people communicate more clearly and effectively. She’s developed courses and training tools to help native English speakers improve their confidence and clarity, and how to avoid getting misunderstood when speaking with people from other nations. Susan also spends much of her time running other courses to help non-native speakers communicate well in English.
The subject of language and communication fits in really neatly with our recent podcast discussing how to adapt to the business culture in other countries. If we’re to be successful in international business, we need both to understand the other culture and be sure that what we say is properly understood.
About Susan Heaton-Wright
Susan Heaton-Wright is an impact, communications and speaking trainer for emerging leaders and the creator of the Superstar Communicator™ philosophy. She is an international speaker; the MD of award winning music company, Viva Live Music, podcaster and a former prize winning international opera singer.
She delivers seminars, workshops and individual training for many companies including Astra Zeneca, Shell, AXA and Quintiles. She is regularly interviewed on BBC Radio Five Live; BBC2, local radios and international podcasts. Susan has contributed to articles in Forbes, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Thrive Global, The Scotsman and trade publications.
Susan is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, The Royal Society of Arts and the Incorporated Society of Musicians. She leads a project of musicians in Greece annually, to deliver music workshops to refugees in Athens as part of the ‘Love without Borders’ charity.
Podcast: Superstar Communicator
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