There are some slight differences in preparation and delivery when speaking in the Caribbean or West Indies
Recently I presented for a government group in Port of Spain, Trinidad. There were four things that stood out for me as being different and I will share those in this article.
I am based in Vancouver BC with a vacation home in Palm Desert California. Typically my husband Reg and I have vacationed on the western side of North America such as Hawaii, Mexico, and California. I have worked and spoken in Hawaii a number of times with clients but recently was asked to do a keynote for a government group in Port of Spain Trinidad. The event was a business development event for entrepreneurs and they wanted my keynote on working with multiple generations as it relates to succession planning and running the business.
The meeting planner found me on the Internet and liked what she saw and contacted my office to invite me as the keynote speaker at the event.
I have spoken in six different countries over the years and have learned to investigate and ask specific questions related to etiquette and expectations.
As with my normal preparation we scheduled two calls with the meeting planner to discuss the goals, the audience and the demographics of the group. In addition to my normal pre-program questionnaire questions I asked about cultural distinctions and specifically I asked what they liked and disliked about North American presenters. This information helped tremendously and the client agreed to our request to have travel booked by their office (with my choice of itinerary and business class) as well as full fee was to be received by our office no less than thirty days prior to the date of the event. Once this was all completed I was off to Trinidad.
The meeting planner had suggested if I had time to book an extra day for sight seeing and I did build that into my schedule. I highly recommend anyone traveling to a place they have never been before to try and do this.
Once there here are the four things I noticed and noted for future speaking events in other countries:
#1- In our pre event calls the meeting planner asked me to come to their office the day after I arrived so that they could show me around and take me for lunch. In Trinidad they are very proud of their culture and they have expectations that their visiting presenters will be available for them to visit with as much as possible. That visit the day before my keynote provided me with a cultural insight that I would not have otherwise seen. They treated me to a traditional Trinidad food lunch and were proudly sharing their food knowledge. - Lesson be prepared to be available for the client more than you would expect with a North American client
#2- The meeting planner expected that I would stay for the entire event both before and after my keynote. In Trinidad visiting guests are highly regarded and they value the speaker spending as much time as possible with their groups. They asked me to go for celebration drinks after the event and urged me to try one of their traditional libations. Rum and coconut water! - Lesson be prepared to extend yourself more than you would for a North American audience ( I arrived at the event for 7:00 am and keynoted at 9:00 am and did not get back to my room until 9:00 pm)
#3- The MC and the speakers prior to my keynote were very formal- they observe the protocol of mentioning every dignitary in the room. At first this panicked me because I did not have the list of all of the previous speakers or guests and then I decided that I would not risk stating all of those in attendance ( I found out later that this was a good decision because if you leave out even one name then that person is offended). I was also informed that they do not expect their guest speakers to do this. Phew! - Lesson pay attention to the protocols but trust your gut on how you should handle them- I was miked and did not have an opportunity to ask the meeting planner about addressing the protocols
#4- My style of presenting in North America is very fast and I often ask my audience members to text me questions while I speak- I had to slow down just a little bit as it turns out that Trinidadians speak very very fast themselves. They also do questions and answer a little differently after I spoke they invited me back up on stage with their country economist while we were both asked questions from the floor. This was an interesting experience as the audience asked very intelligent questions of both myself and the economist and it made for a unique dynamic to the overall event.- Lesson be ready to be pleasantly surprised by the unique ways that meetings are run in different countries- at one point the economist related to my content to make a point about the countries economy
Also, by spending an extra day for pleasure the meeting planner was thrilled to take part of her day to take me to their beach, for me to have their well know shark n bake and to experience more of their region and their culture. I have made a new friend for life.