Want to be the BEST International Keynote Speaker? Here are 5 Things you MUST do.

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of providing digital marketing keynote presentations around the globe over the last 10 years. International speaking brings its own set of challenges beyond regular presentations.

Personally, I find international audiences to be extremely interesting to work with – I enjoy learning about new cultures, different business challenges and how digital and marketing are perceived in different places.

That being said, International audiences present some unique challenges for international speakers. I’ve presented around the globe – from the US to Europe to India to Asia to South America both with and without translators, and I wanted to share the 5 things that can make or break your success as an international speaker.

1. Speak a Little Slower

If you are speaking to a diverse international audience or one where english is not their first language, or where they are used to a different language, try to speak a little more slowly than you normally would. Americans especially tend to speak quickly, but keep in mind that slowing down your pace will make it easier for your audience do understand and digest your message.

2. Choose Simple Words

If your audience isn’t native english speaking, aim to use simple words to make your points and avoid phrases and expressions that people may not be familiar with.

I’ve had non-native english speaking coworkers ask me about expressions like “content trumps media” or “a bird in the hand”. Be more aware than normal of your word choices.

3. Customize Your Content

Make sure that your content is customized and relevant for the audience and if you really want to hit a home-run, show that you understand and appreciate their culture (if you have a specific audience).

For example, a number of years ago I saw an international speaker speak in Cincinnati and he opened with a picture of him eating Skyline Chili (a local favorite) to build rapport with the audience.

4. Avoid Humor

Humor doesn’t always translate well, so be VERY careful. For example I sometimes use a joke about my dad being an Elvis impersonator, but in some countries it is disrespectful to make fun of your elders.

Humor also isn’t always picked up by international audiences as the jokes usually rely on some existing knowledge. Be very careful with humor and especially sarcasm. In speaking in Brazil a fellow speaker made a joke about trading his drug addiction for a music addiction, and the audience thought he was a drug addict.

5. Explain Things that Need It

Try to be sensitive to the local culture and explain things that need it. Keep in mind that the context may be different, so be prepared to offer quick explanations of things that people may not understand.


Speaking to international audiences can be fun and rewarding. Take the time to prepare to make the most out of your presentation and connect with the audience.

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