If you present in various locations around the world or even within your own country/province/state/county/city, you might want to consider localizing your slides for your various audiences. The path of least effort is to make one generic version of your slides and just present the same version to all audiences. With the generic slides, you pass up any advantage you would gain from making the slides more relevant and meaningful to a specific local audience. There are some real benefits to localization as local examples can really pique the interest and attention of your audience.
In order to capture some of these benefits, you might tailor your presentation for your most important audience. But you may decide to not put the same effort into subsequent presentations for other less important audiences. Alternatively, you might not realize ahead of time that you’d be presenting the same presentation in another location so you weren’t anticipating having to localize the slides for another audience. If your slides are tuned for one audience (e.g., USA), then they will be suboptimal for another (e.g., Canada). In your mind, you might argue that Americans and Canadians are similar enough that the Canadians will “get” the US-centric slides. No big deal, right?
Localize and Put Your Audience First
Well, you’re essentially putting yourself ahead of your audience. Rather than tailoring the slides to each audience – showing them that they are important to you – you send the opposite message that you don’t care enough about your audience to spend the time localizing your slides for them. It’s not a great message to send your audience. You’re also making your audience work harder to understand your message. They have to see past the content that is tailored to a different part of the world, country, city, etc., and hopefully the localization efforts for one audience don’t impede the ability of other audiences to comprehend the slides.
In Nancy Duarte’s most recent book, “Resonate”, she argues that you (the presenter) are not the hero/star of your presentation, your audience is. Localizing your slides to a particular audience can really help you to connect with that audience, and make them feel like they are the heroes of your presentation. From what I’ve seen as both a presenter and an audience member, audiences really appreciate the extra effort to connect with them through their culture, values, traditions, history, language, etc.
Last week, I presented at a conference in London. One of my presentations was a repeat of one I delivered in the US. One of the core themes in my presentation was related to sports — specifically the Jordan-era Chicago Bulls dynasty. At first I thought it might be too difficult to tailor the slides I had created for the US to another geographic region. However, after recruiting some help from local co-workers in the United Kingdom, I was surprised at how well the concept translated over to another sport and sports team (football and Manchester United).
While it did require some extra time and effort, I believe it was worth the effort as I felt better connected to the local audience. In addition, I received positive feedback on the presentation from several audience members, and they enjoyed the localization of the slides even if they weren’t Manchester United fans. They indicated that too often American presenters fail to make any effort at localizing their slides for European audiences. That’s a missed opportunity in my mind and may even put a wall between you and your audience (especially when nationalism is involved).
You don’t have to present overseas to run into this problem. It can be as simple as presenting slides featuring one team (e.g., Michigan) to an audience based near a bitter rival (e.g., Ohio State). In this case, you not only look ignorant, but you can actually aggravate your audience. Don’t risk losing your audience! Localize (localise if you’re in the UK) your slides accordingly to have a greater impact with your audiences.