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speaking to a global audience
Public Speaking: The Virtual Text
chapter 14
By Ganga Dhanesh, Ph.D.
National University of Singapore, SIngapore
On the first day of class, the lecturer,
who was new to the job, walked into
the lecture theatre, looked up at the
class that was like a “mini United
Nations” of first- and second-year
undergraduates, took a deep breath to
calm the butterflies in her stomach and
said, “Good morning class! Welcome
to the class on intercultural
communication! It’s wonderful to see
so many of you from diverse nations
and cultures. I am sure we will have a
great time sharing our experiences of
intercultural communication and
learning from each other. By the way,
you may call me anything you are most
comfortable with — Ms. Megan, Dr.
Megan, Dr. Tan, Prof., Ma’am, or just
Megan Tan was off to a great start!
She understood the importance of being
audience centered, especially when the
audience is drawn from diverse
nationalities, as her class was. She had
been extremely nervous the night
before her class, but she had prepared
well. She had studied the student
profiles on the class website, had
carefully selected topics that would be
appropriate for the audience and had
chosen examples with an eye on
keeping them inclusive. She structured
her delivery in a way that balanced
textual content with visual material and
deliberately used language that was
non-judgmental. The students were
delighted that they could address her
according to the norms of their own
We inhabit a universe that is
characterized by diversity.
~ Desmond Tutu
chapter objectives:
After studying this module, you should be able to:
Identify four reasons for
learning to speak to global
2. Explain three barriers to
speaking effectively to
diverse audiences.
3. Utilize the concepts of highand low-context cultures and
polychronic and
monochronic time to tailor
your speech to diverse
4. Explain how Hofstede’s
cultural dimensions can
influence the preparation of
speeches for diverse
5. Elaborate on ways to make
supporting materials
culturally appropriate.
6. Compare and contrast linear
and holistic patterns of
organizing speeches.
7. Describe three holistic
patterns of speech
8. Discuss how verbal
expression can influence
9. Explain how a speaker’s
nonverbal behavior can
impact audiences.
10. Discuss how visual aids can
be culturally appropriate.
Public speaking has often been rated
the number number-one stress inducer
in people. When a diverse, global
audience is added, public speaking can
become a minefield that has to be
navigated with care and sensitivity.
chapter outline:
ï‚· Introduction
ï‚· Reasons to Adopt a Global
o The Economic Imperative
o The Technological Imperative
o The Demographic Imperative
o The Peace Imperative
ï‚· Sensitivity and Respect
o Stereotypes
o Prejudices
o Ethnocentrism
ï‚· Understanding a Diverse
o High- and Low-Context
o Power Distance
o Uncertainty Avoidance
o Individualism-Collectivism
o Masculinity-Femininity
o Time Orientation
ï‚· Selecting Supporting Materials
o Stories
o Facts and Statistics
o Testimony
ï‚· Speech Organization
o Linear Pattern
o Holistic Pattern
ï‚· Appropriate Verbal Expression
o Triangle of Meaning
o Denotative and Connotative
o Communication Style
ï‚· Effective Nonverbal Expression
o Kinesics
o Paralanguage
o Physical Appearance
ï‚· Triangle of Meaning
ï‚· Constructing Visual Aids
ï‚· Conclusion
ï‚· Review Questions and Activities
ï‚· Glossary
ï‚· References
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Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
Speaking effectively to a global
audience requires both knowledge of
speaking principles and an awareness
of intercultural differences. To this end,
this chapter will begin by examining
the need to speak to a global audience
and then the strategies that can be used
to manage the process effectively. In
addition to stressing the need for
sensitivity and respect that underlies
the basic principles of speaking to
global audiences, the chapter will offer
specific strategies that can be employed
at each stage of the speech process,
from speech planning, preparation and
organization, to delivery.
reasons to adopt a global
Martin and Nakayama (2010) argued
that key reasons to adopt a global
perspective in communication include
economic, technological, demographic
and peace imperatives. These motives
can be extended to the realm of public
speaking too.
the economic imperative
Globalization was perhaps one of the
most distinctive phenomena of the 20th
century, resulting in feverish exchanges
of people, ideas, goods and money
across national boundaries. Friedman
(2005) contended that the world has
“become flat” with India, China and
other countries becoming an integral
part of the global supply chain for
snapshot from real life
British Petroleum [BP] appointed a new American CEO, Robert Dudley,
who replaced Tony Hayward, a British national who had been in charge
of BP in 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred in the Gulf
of Mexico. In addition to the obvious issue of being responsible for one
of the world’s worst ecological disasters, one of the key reasons for the
change could be the role that culture played. Hayward was unable to
strike the right emotional chord with the American public.
Americans are used to seeing politicians and leaders display emotion
in situations that call for it. In such a context, Hayward’s British tendency
to crack a joke to defuse the tension made him look as though he was
not taking the situation seriously enough. In contrast to Hayward’s
notorious comment, “I’d like my life back” the new American CEO
Dudley, when asked whether he felt guilty, replied, “I just feel sad. I’ve
been working in the oil and gas business my whole career. It provides a
product that people need, it’s energy, and all of us can’t believe this
has happened.”
If Hayward had taken cultural differences into account, he could have
adapted his crisis communication to his audience, and his comments
might have been more positively received (Crooks & EdgecliffeJohnson, 2010).
services and manufacturing. The top
500 multinational corporations account
for nearly 70 percent of worldwide
trade (www.gatt.org). These global
flows of resources have highlighted the
need for organizations, whether profit,
non-profit or governmental, to address
diverse audiences. Moreover, local
neighborhoods from Seattle to
Singapore are becoming increasingly
diverse. As a result, people who speak
on behalf of organizations need to be
sensitive to audience diversity while
making speeches in public.
the technological
Due to the rapid proliferation of
information and communication
technologies and the advent of modern
transportation systems, the world has
simultaneously shrunk and expanded.
Shrunk because ,in a Twitter moment,
one can communicate with millions of
people, and expanded because
technologies and transportation systems
have enabled access to diverse cultures
and societies across the world. This
situation makes it vital for public
speakers to be conscious of the
diversity of audiences who could be
dispersed around the world but can be
reached instantly over the Internet’s
social networks.
the demographic
Even though the history of the
human race has been characterized by
continual migration and socialization,
one of the most extensive waves of
migration and cultural mixing occurred
during the 20th century. Firstgeneration immigrants often carried
with them a strong sense of cultural and
ethnic identities that made issues of
integration and assimilation hot-button
issues in countries from the United
States to Germany in Western Europe
and to Singapore in Southeast Asia.
Any attempt at public speaking that is
not sensitive to the plurality of the
audience in such an increasingly
diverse and multicultural world is
almost certainly bound to fail.
Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
snapshot from real life
President Barack Obama’s speech at Cairo University has been highly
commended for the respect and sensitivity he accorded to the host
audience. Here is an excerpt from his speech that demonstrates not
only respect towards the hosts, but also sensitivity towards the host
culture by using a common salutation among Muslims, “assalaamu
alaykum.” During his speech, President Obama (2009)said:
“I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted
by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, al-Azhar
has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century,
Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement.
Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and
progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the
people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of
the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim
communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.”
the peace imperative
Worse still, intolerance reflected and
magnified in public speeches can breed
feelings of hatred and violence.
Noreiga and Iribarren’s (2009) study on
hate speech and its relation to hate
crimes in conservative talk radio in Los
Angeles found extensive evidence of
hate speech against vulnerable groups
such as foreign nationals and racial and
ethnic minorities. Further,
Yanagizawa-Drott (2012) found that
around 10% of genocidal violence in
Rwanda could be attributed to
propagandist broadcasts on a radio
station that had called for the
extermination of the Tutsi minority
during the Rwandan genocide in which
around 800,000 people died over a span
of 100 days in 1994.
These compelling reasons for public
speakers to adopt a global perspective
require an examination of the basics of
speaking effectively to a global
sensitivity and respect
Perhaps the most important advice in
speaking to a global audience would be
to cultivate a sense of sensitivity and
respect — a keen awareness of and
sensitivity to differences among people
from diverse cultures and respect for
others who are unlike the speaker.
When speaking to a global audience, it
is imperative for public speakers to
suspend ethnocentric judgments and
engage audiences in an open, tolerant,
sensitive and respectful manner.
According to Chen & Starosta (2005),
the basic components of intercultural
communication competence include
intercultural sensitivity, awareness and
effectiveness. Intercultural sensitivity
requires speakers to know and control
themselves. Intercultural awareness
requires speakers to know and respect
others. Intercultural effectiveness
requires speakers to manage their
behavior. Potential roadblocks to
achieving intercultural communication
competence include stereotyping
people, harboring prejudices against
people and being ethnocentric.
A stereotype is a standardized
conception or image of a group of
people. Stereotypes are akin to a
mental cookie cutter, forcing a simple
pattern upon a complex mass of people
and assigning a limited number of
characteristics to all members of a
group. Stereotypes are simple,
acquired, often erroneous and resistant
to change. People usually acquire
stereotypes through the process of
socialization and through the mass
media, such as cultural stereotypes
portrayed in advertising. Stereotypes
become problematic when they reduce
the wide range of differences among
people to simplistic categories and
transform these categories into
imagined realities, fueling attitudes of
us versus them (Gudykunst & Kim,
1997). It is important for public
speakers to be aware of the stereotypes
they might harbor so that they can steer
clear of using stereotypes that might
offend diverse audience members and
harm the speaker’s credibility.
snapshot from real life
Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio talk show host, has
often been lambasted for using
sexist and racist stereotypes in his
broadcasts. In an article on the
CNN website, Jane Fonda, Robin
Morgan and Gloria Steinem
(2012) of the Women’s Media
Center argued that the Federal
Communications Commission
should ban Limbaugh from the
airwaves. Some instances of
stereotypes of women he
employed included referring to
female cabinet members as “sexretaries”. On another occasion,
he used a racial stereotype,
telling an African-American
female caller he could not
understand to “take that bone
out of your nose and call me
Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
Similarly, prejudices are negative
attitudes toward a cultural group, often
based on little or no experience.
Prejudices may arise from multiple
sources, such as tensions between
groups, unfavourable past encounters,
status differences and perceived threats.
The causes of prejudices could include
societal sources, an innate need to
maintain social identity, and
scapegoating. Expressions of prejudice
can range from subtle non-verbal acts
to outright hostility. Public speakers
can best avoid or overcome prejudices
by increasing personal contact with
groups with whom they do not
regularly interact or through education
(Cooper, Calloway-Thomas &
Simonds, 2007). Similar to
stereotypes, prejudices must be handled
carefully. Public speakers should
question themselves and identify
potential prejudices they might have
toward certain groups, steer clear of
these negative attitudes, withhold
judgment and deliver speeches free of
baseless prejudices.
snapshot from real life
A recent example of
prejudice vocalized by a
prominent person was the
case of John Galliano. The
French fashion house Christian
Dior dismissed its chief
designer, John Galliano, after
the broadcast of a video that
showed his anti-Semitic
outbursts at a Paris bar in
March 2011. The video
appeared to show Mr.
Galliano declaring that ‘‘I love
Hitler’’ and that ‘‘people like
you would be dead,’’ and
‘‘your mothers, your
forefathers’’ would all be
‘‘gassed.’’ While Galliano has
his defenders and the content
of the video has been
contested, observers said that
the company might have
acted swiftly in order to
deflect mounting public
criticism (Saltmarsh, 2011).
snapshot from real life
Ethnocentrism refers to the notion
that one’s own culture is superior to
any other. It perpetuates the idea that
other cultures ought to be judged by the
extent to which they measure up to
one’s own cultural standards. While
ethnocentrism is universal and
contributes to cultural identity, if left
unchecked, it can stand in the way of
achieving intercultural communication
competence (Samovar, Porter &
McDaniel, 2010). In the quest for
intercultural communication
competence, speakers can aim for
ethnorelativism, the acquired ability to
see multiple values and behaviors as
cultural rather than universal. This
notion assumes that no one culture is
central to describing and evaluating
reality. Moving from realms of
ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism helps
public speakers move from egocentric
to empathetic attitudes while preparing
speeches for a diverse audience.
Samovar et al. (2010) proposed some
guidelines to intercultural ethics, such
as respecting differences, seeking
commonalities, recognizing the validity
of differences, looking past the
superficial, withholding judgment and
taking responsibility for one’s own
actions. Suspending ethnocentrism and
choosing the path to ethnorelativism
and intercultural communication
An American professor was in
Singapore to talk about his
research on environmental
sustainability. He was an
authority in the field and the
audience, comprising mostly
Singaporeans, was looking
forward to the talk. However,
he alienated the audience right
from the start of the speech. He
said that after travelling all over
the world, he had decided not
to reside in Singapore because
of pollution and that he would
continue to reside in his home
country, which was far cleaner.
While he continued to speak
eloquently on the topic of his
speech, he had remarkably
reduced the audience’s
enthusiasm by displaying an
ethnocentric attitude. To make
matters worse, he singled out
the Formula One night race
Singapore was then embarking
on (and the audience was
justifiably proud of) and the
resultant pollution it would
cause as a key reason affecting
his decision.
competence are undoubtedly sound
advice. There are specific ways to
prepare and deliver speeches to global
audiences, and the next section explains
the techniques that can be adopted at
each step of the speechmaking process.
Ethnic stereotypes are boring
and stressful and sometimes
criminal. It’s just not a good
way to think. It’s nonthinking. It’s stupid and
~ Tommy Lee Jones
Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
audiences that use low-context
messages, public speakers will need to
focus on their verbal expressions, using
clear, specific and precise words that
convey exact meaning. On the other
hand, while preparing speeches for
audiences that use high-context
messages, speakers should focus more
on non-verbal expressions and the
specifics of the context.
understanding a diverse
The previous section brought out the
importance of addressing diverse
audiences and highlighted the need to
suspend ethnocentric judgments in
favor of ethnorelativism. This section
will examine how a speaker can be
sensitive to diversity in the audience
during the speech planning process.
Diversity in the world is a
basic characteristic of human
society, and also the key
condition for a lively and
dynamic world as we see
~ Hu Jintao
Cultural patterns refer to common
themes through which different cultures
can be understood. They consist of
beliefs, values and norms shared among
members of a group and which remain
stable over time. They make most
members of a culture respond or
behave in more or less similar ways in
similar situations. Of course, not all
people in a cultural group behave in
exactly the same way. Behavior will
vary depending on personality
orientations, individual values and selfconstruals, or the way people think
about themselves (Lustig & Koester,
Scholars have proposed different
cultural patterns to explain cultural
differences among people. Among the
most widely accepted patterns are
Hall’s (1976) categories of high- and
low-context cultures and Hofstede’s
(2001) cultural value dimensions.
Public speakers need to stay critical and
examine how their culture fits into
these patterns and how the speaker as
an individual fits or does not fit into
these patterns. This awareness helps
speakers stay conscious of their cultural
background while avoiding notions of
ethnocentrism as they prepare speeches
for diverse audiences.
high- and low-context
Hall proposed that communication
patterns are organized by the “amount
of information implied by the setting or
the context of the communication itself,
regardless of the specific words
spoken” (Lustig & Koester, 2010,
p.109). Low-context cultures prefer
to use low-context messages, where the
message is encoded in the words used,
or in the verbal expression, and not in
the context. However, high-context
cultures prefer to use high-context
messages, where the meaning is
implied by the physical setting or is
presumed to be part of the culture’s
shared beliefs, values and norms.
People from high- and low-context
cultures differ in their preferences for
types of messages. People from lowcontext cultures tend to use more overt
messages where the meaning is made
very explicit. Low-context messages
are intended to convey exact meaning
through clear, precise and specific
words. Verbal expression is of
paramount importance, while the
context of the speech is relatively
unimportant. On the other hand, people
from high-context cultures tend to use
more covert messages where the
meaning is implicit in the context in
which the words are spoken.
Nonverbal expressions take on more
importance than verbal.
Communication is intended to promote
and sustain harmony and not
necessarily to convey exact, precise
When preparing speeches for
Hofstede (2001), in his study of
more than 100,000 employees of IBM
in more than 70 countries, identified
four cultural value dimensions that
would differentiate diverse cultures.
These dimensions were power distance,
uncertainty avoidance, individualismcollectivism and masculinityfemininity.
power distance
The dimension of power distance
refers to “the degree to which the
culture believes that institutional and
organizational power should be
distributed unequally and the decisions
of the power holders should be
challenged or accepted” (Lustig &
Koester, 2010, p.114). Cultures that
have low-power distances tend to
minimize social inequalities and
challenge authority figures, and they
prefer reduced hierarchical
organizational structures. On the other
hand, cultures that have high-power
distances tend to ascribe a rightful
place for each person in the order, to
not question or challenge authority and
to have hierarchical organization
structures. Public speakers must keep
in mind that audiences from highpower distance cultures are discouraged
from asking questions because it is seen
as questioning the speaker’s authority.
On the other hand, listeners from lowpower distance cultures might be more
used to questioning authority and to
challenge the assertions of the speaker.
Don’t walk behind me; I may
not lead. Don’t walk in front
of me; I may not follow. Just
walk beside me and be my
~ Albert Camus
Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
uncertainty avoidance
The uncertainty avoidance
dimension refers to “the extent to
which the culture feels threatened by
ambiguous, uncertain situations and
tries to avoid them by establishing
more structure” (Lustig & Koester,
2010, p.116). In other words, cultures
with low uncertainty avoidance will
have high tolerance for ambiguity and
uncertainty, encourage dissent, tolerate
social deviance and generally take
more risks and experiment with new
things. However, cultures with high
uncertainty avoidance prefer to avoid
uncertainty. They try to ensure security
and certainty through an extensive set
of rules and regulations. They do not
tolerate dissent or social deviance and
have a low-risk appetite. Therefore,
when public speakers are preparing to
speak to audiences from high
uncertainty avoidance cultures, they
must keep in mind that there are likely
to be more and stricter rules and
protocols governing speeches. On the
other hand, speeches prepared for low
uncertainty avoidance groups might be
more creative or improvised.
Audiences ranked low in uncertainty
avoidance, or greater tolerance for
ambiguity, can consider abstract ideas
without many specifics.
The dimension of individualismcollectivism refers to “the degree to
which a culture relies on and has
allegiance to the self or the group”
(Lustig & Koester, 2010, p.117).
Cultures that rank low on individualism
are highly collectivistic in nature and
demand loyalty to the group. They
believe that an individual’s primary
obligations lie with the group, and they
stress the dependence of individuals on
organizations. On the other hand, in
cultures that rank high on individualism, the autonomy of the individual
is paramount and people are expected
to take care of themselves. Audience
members from individualistic cultures
are responsive to ideas that emphasize
personal achievement and highlight
individual achievement. On the
contrary, audience members from more
collectivistic cultures might prefer
recognition of group or team
achievement to recognition of
individual accomplishment.
America’s strength is not our
diversity; our strength is our
ability to unite people of
different backgrounds around
common principles. A
common language is
necessary to reach that goal.
~ Ernest Istook
public speakers can emphasize ideas
such as cooperation and solidarity.
time orientation
People from different cultural
backgrounds can vary in their
perceptions of time, irrespective of
what the clock shows. Hall
distinguished between a monochronic,
or linear, time orientation and a
polychronic, or cyclical, time
orientation (Samovar et al., 2010). To
people in monochronic cultures, linear
time is tangible and can be ‘saved,
spent, lost, wasted,’ etc. People from
monochronic cultures tend to focus on
one thing at a time. Schedules and
deadlines are sacrosanct and
punctuality is highly regarded. On the
other hand, to people in polychronic
cultures, cyclical time is less tangible
and is seldom considered “wasted.”
People from polychronic cultures can
often be involved in multiple activities
at the same time, with no strict division
among the different activities. They
usually stress involvement with people
and cultivating relationships more than
schedules and deadlines, so punctuality
is not highly regarded.
The dimension of masculinityfemininity refers to “the degree to
which a culture values ‘masculine’
behaviors, such as assertiveness and the
acquisition of wealth, or ‘feminine’
behaviors, such as caring for others and
the quality of life” (Lustig & Koester,
2010, p.118). Cultures that rank low on
the masculinity index tend to believe in
life choices that improve aspects of
quality of life, such as service to others
and sympathy for the less fortunate.
They prefer nurturing roles for both
men and women, and have fewer
prescriptive behaviors based on gender.
On the other hand, cultures that rank
high on the masculinity index stress
ambition and achievement. When
preparing speeches for audiences from
predominantly masculine cultures,
public speakers can emphasize, for
example, performance and
achievement. On the other hand, when
preparing speeches for audiences from
predominantly feminine cultures,
Understanding an audience’s time
orientation can enhance the
effectiveness of a speech to a global
audience. For example, an audience
from a predominantly monochronic
Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
Table 14.1
Countries/Cultures that Vary on Cultural Patterns
Cultural Patterns
Low-context, explicit
communication style
High-context, implicit
communication style
High Power Distance
Examples of Countries/Cultures
Germany, Sweden, England
Japanese, African American, Mexican, Latino
Guatemala, Malaysia, Philippines, Arab
Austria, Denmark, New Zealand
Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, United States
Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan, West Africa
Low Power Distance
High Uncertainty
Greece, Portugal, Guatemala, Uruguay
Low Uncertainty
Denmark, Jamaica, Ireland, Singapore
Masculine Cultures
Austria, Italy, Mexico, Japan
Feminine Cultures
Sweden, Thailand, Chile, Portugal
Monochronic Time
Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Unites States
Polychronic Time
Arab, African, Indian, Latin American, South
Asian Countries
Sources: Lustig & Koester, (2010); Samovar et al. (2010)
culture might expect the speech to start
and end on time. However, an
audience from a predominantly
polychronic culture might not expect a
strict adherence to a schedule. Further,
in the two different contexts, you
would also have to deal very differently
with latecomers. An understanding of
cultural time orientation will help you
in these situations.
I am not struck so much by
the diversity of testimony as
by the many-sidedness of
~ Stanley Baldwin
selecting supporting
The credibility of the materials
chosen to support a speech’s main idea
is culturally dependent. This rule
applies to the choice of stories, facts
and statistics and testimonies, the
materials most often used to support a
or buttress their arguments. However,
“facts” do not enjoy currency in all
cultures. In cultures that value stories
and parables, facts and statistics are not
as well received.
The acceptance of expert testimonies
also varies from culture to culture. In
some African cultures, no one is
regarded as being objective. For
instance, the testimony of a witness
would have low credibility, because
when someone speaks up about
something, that person is expected to
have a personal agenda in mind
(Chang, 2004). On the contrary, in the
United States, testimonies of witnesses
are vital pieces of evidence. These
differences in relative credibility
accorded to testimonies by different
cultures can affect the effectiveness of
a public speech. Employing a mix of
supporting materials might enhance
credibility with a diverse audience.
In many cultures, anecdotes, stories
or parables enjoy high credibility as
supporting materials. For instance, in
Kenya the success of persuasive
messages will often depend on the
effective use of personal stories and
anecdotes (Miller, 2002). Similarly,
East and South East Asian cultures
influenced by Confucianism also tend
to rely on analogies, metaphors and
parables to convey the main message of
the speech (Xiao, 1996). An effective
strategy for public speakers would be to
choose stories and anecdotes to support
their main arguments when addressing
audiences predominantly from cultures
that value such supporting materials.
facts and statistics
European American cultures often
value facts and statistics as the most
credible form of supporting materials
(Lustig & Koester, 2010). Most public
speaking textbooks include a section
that emphasizes the importance of
strengthening main points with facts
and statistics. And, most public
speeches made by politicians, activists
or corporate CEOs are often peppered
with statistics that appear to highlight
speech organization
Members of different cultural groups
have varying preferences for different
organizational patterns such as linear
and holistic.
linear pattern
Speakers from low-context cultures
often use linear patterns, such as causeand-effect, problem-solution,
chronological and spatial. In these
Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
patterns the speaker develops the main
idea step by step, relying on facts and
data to support the main argument. The
main points and sub-points are
connected via transitions, internal
previews and summaries. The speaker
relies more on facts and data, rather
than on stories and emotional appeals,
and contextual understanding is not
emphasized. However, other speakers,
mostly from high-context cultures, use
holistic and configural organizational
patterns that are more indirect than the
linear patterns (Lieberman, 1994).
We have no hope of solving
our problems without
harnessing the diversity, the
energy, and the creativity of
all our people.
~ Roger Wilkins
holistic pattern
In holistic patterns, instead of
directly and explicitly presenting key
ideas, the speaker uses examples and
stories to convey the main idea and
leaves it to the audience to interpret the
message encoded in the examples and
stories told. The main points and subpoints are connected through
implication rather than by clear bridges
and transitions. Cheryl Jorgensen Earp
(1993; as cited in Jaffe, 2004) has
identified three distinct types of holistic
organizational patterns: wave, spiral
and star.
wave pattern
In the wave pattern, speakers adopt a
crest-trough wave pattern in which they
use examples and stories to slowly
build up to the main point at the crest
of the wave. The speaker then winds
down and repeats the pattern,
reiterating main points or introducing
new points at the peaks. Speeches that
follow the wave pattern usually end
dramatically, at the crest. Ceremonial
speakers often employ this pattern,
using repetitive phrases to build up to
the crest.
spiral pattern
A speaker employing the spiral
pattern builds up dramatic intensity by
moving from smaller and less-intense
scenarios to bigger and more-intense
scenarios, in an upward spiral. A
speech about disciplining a child might
use a spiral pattern. First, the speaker
could say that for a small transgression
a child might be given a time-out. The
next scenario could describe a larger
transgression and a bigger punishment
such as being grounded for a day.
Subsequent scenarios could build
further in intensity.
star pattern
A variation of the more linear topical
pattern, the star pattern presents a set of
main points connected by an
underlying common theme. For
different audiences, speakers will start
with different main points, but all main
points will be united by one theme. For
instance, while delivering a speech on
“save the dolphins” to primary school
students, the speaker might start with a
main point that appeals to children,
such as the “born to be free” argument,
and then cover the other main points.
However, when addressing marine
biologists, the speaker might start with
the main point that keeping dolphins in
captivity is harmful to their health.
Then the speaker would cover the
remaining points, all tied to the theme
of saving dolphins.
All patterns, whether linear or
holistic, require careful and skillful
planning and organization. When
addressing a diverse audience, public
speakers should make an effort to
adjust their organizational patterns to
reflect their audiences’ preference.
appropriate verbal
“That’s not what I meant!” Most
people have made a statement like that
at least once, if not many times. Oral
communication between people can
often result in misunderstanding,
frustration and, if you are lucky, lots of
laughter. Why does this happen? Words
can hold different meanings for
different people, because meaning
inheres in people’s minds and not in the
word itself. Public speakers are
increasingly being challenged to reach
beyond the comfort zone of speaking to
audiences predominantly from their
own culture, where their
communicative ability is fairly high
and to study and adapt to diverse
audiences, where their intercultural
communication competency will be
challenged. This section explains how
language and culture influence each
other and what public speakers can do
to use words effectively with multicultural audiences.
What we have to do… is to
find a way to celebrate our
diversity and debate our
differences without fracturing
our communities.
~ Hillary Clinton
Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
most powerful tool. Appropriate word
choice refers to choosing words that are
inclusive and avoiding sexist, racist and
ageist language. For instance, in
certain cultures elders are highly valued
and given a lot of respect. While
talking to a diverse audience, speakers
must avoid language that demeans the
elderly, or any other segment of the
audience for that matter. Some
examples of the types of words to avoid
are given in Table 14.2.
communication style
The interculturally competent public
speaker strives to learn the preferences
in communication styles that a diverse
audience may have. For example,
Asians often prefer an implicit, subtle
style of communication, while North
Americans prefer more explicit, direct
styles. Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey
(1988) have identified two classes of
communication styles that have a direct
bearing on speech delivery: the directversus-indirect styles and the elaborateversus-succinct styles.
direct versus indirect
Whether speech is direct or indirect
is determined by the extent to which
speakers place emphasis on the
explicitness of verbal communication.
In a direct style, speakers place
emphasis on the words spoken. Words
are chosen for clarity and precision.
The intention of the direct-style speaker
is to convey as clearly and logically the
main idea of the speech, without
“beating about the bush.” In such a
style, non-verbal cues are not as
important as the verbal message.
Speakers from low-context cultures
most often use this communication
In an indirect style, speakers place
emphasis on the context of the speech
rather than the words spoken. In the
indirect style, meaning inheres in the
context or is internalized with the
people who are communicating. A
competent speaker or listener in such a
situation would be one who
understands the context: where the
words are spoken, who is speaking and
to whom. People from high-context
cultures usually employ the indirect
style. Often people from high-context
cultures might find people from lowcontext cultures too abrupt,
straightforward and insensitive, while
people from low-context cultures might
not understand why people from highcontext cultures never seem to “get to
the point.”
Sometimes one creates a
dynamic impression by
saying something, and
sometimes one creates a
significant an impression by
remaining silent.
~ Dalai Lama
elaborate versus succinct
These styles range on a continuum,
with elaborate and succinct styles at the
extremes and an exacting style at the
mid-point. In an elaborate style,
speakers use fairly rich language filled
with proverbs, idioms, quotations and
metaphors. For example, speakers
from Arab countries and Mexico tend
to use this style. On the other end of
the spectrum, speakers employing a
succinct style use a lot of silences,
pauses, indirectness, circumlocution
and understatement to convey their
main ideas. The Japanese and people
from a number of other Asian countries
tend to use this style. In the middle of
the continuum lies the exacting style
wherein the speaker will give precisely
the required amount of information —
nothing more, nothing less. Speakers
from Northern Europe and the United
States tend to prefer an exacting style
of communication.
Faced with a diverse audience,
competent speakers will first identify
their own communication style and the
preferred communication styles of their
audience. They then adjust and adapt
their communication style so that the
audience will welcome the message.
effective non-verbal
While interculturally competent
speakers watch their words and verbal
expression, they are also aware of their
non-verbal expression. Linguist
Deborah Tannen estimated that as
much as 90% of all human
communication is non-verbal (cited in
Neuliep, 2006). What’s more, when
verbal and non-verbal messages
conflict with each other, receivers tend
to believe the non-verbal cues more
than the verbal. This insight takes on
added significance in the context of
speaking to a global audience, because
scholars maintain that even though a
substantial portion of our non-verbal
behavior, including the expression of
emotion, is innate and hardly varies
across cultures, much of non-verbal
communication is learned and varies
significantly across cultures. This
section examines several different
categories of non-verbal
communication, how they differ across
cultures, and how public speakers can
use this knowledge for diverse
Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
Kinesic behavior, or body
movement, includes gestures, hand,
arm and leg movements, facial
expressions, eye contact and stance or
posture. Ekman and Friesen (1969)
classified kinesic behavior into four
broad categories: (1) emblems, (2)
illustrators, (3) affect displays, and (4)
emblems and illustrators
Emblems refer to hand gestures that
translate directly into words. For
instance, putting index finger to lips
indicates a “shhh…” requesting silence.
Illustrators, on the other hand, are hand
and arm movements that accent or
complement the words being used, such
as pounding a fist on the lectern to
emphasize a verbal message.
Both emblems and illustrators differ
widely across cultures. For instance, in
the United States, making a circle with
the thumb and index finger while
extending the other fingers indicates
“okay.” However, in Japan and Korea
it indicates money. African-Americans
and people from Mediterranean
countries, the Middle East, and South
America tend to be animated speakers
and use hand gestures liberally, while
in many Asian countries, such as Japan
and China, excessive use of gestures is
not encouraged. Speakers from these
cultures tend to use fewer gestures and
speak in a more restrained and subdued
manner (Gamble & Gamble, 1998).
Why do people always
gesture with their hands
when they talk on the phone?
~ Jonathan Carroll
affect displays
Scholars contend that human beings
tend to adopt universal facial
expressions to convey basic emotions
such as happiness, sadness, anger, fear,
distrust and surprise. However, when,
where and to whom these emotions are
displayed depends on the cultural
context (Ekman & Friesen, 1969). For
instance, in many Mediterranean
cultures, people tend to emphasize
signs of grief or sadness. Conversely,
the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans tend
to play down public expressions of
sorrow, as well as anger, confusion and
disgust. Further, while a smile can be a
sign of happiness, it can convey
multiple meanings in some cultures.
For instance, in Japan, a smile can be
used to mask another emotion or to
avoid answering a question, as well as a
sign of happiness (Samovar et al.,
2010). An understanding of these
cultural differences can help public
speakers to gauge an audience’s
emotional response or lack thereof.
Speakers can also tailor their emotional
display to the cultural context.
Regulators are the actions and
behaviors that manage the flow of
conversation. These include eye
contact, head movements, and
communicator distance. One of the
most important regulators in public
speaking is eye contact. Determining
an appropriate amount of eye contact
between the speaker and audiences
varies across cultures. Public speakers
are encouraged to establish direct eye
contact with audiences in North
America, but this is often not the case
in other cultures. For instance,
Japanese communicators use less eye
contact, as prolonged eye contact is
considered rude in Japan. Eye contact
is expected from receivers in Arab
cultures as a mark of interest in the
speaker’s words. In France, eye contact
is not only frequent but often intense,
and this might be intimidating to some
(Cooper et al., 2007).
Paralanguage refers to the vocal
cues, such as volume, rate and pitch
that accompany spoken language.
These cues contribute to the meanings
people associate with the words
spoken. Some paralinguistic devices,
such as volume, are learned and vary
across cultures. For instance, Latinos
and Arabs tend to speak more loudly
than people from other cultures
(Gamble & Gamble, 1998). To Arab
listeners a higher volume indicates
strength and sincerity, while speaking
too softly implies that the speaker lacks
confidence or is timid. On the other
hand, speaking softly is much
Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
appreciated by Asians. South Koreans
avoid talking loudly in any situation, as
it is seen as rude and unbecoming since
it tends to draw attention to one’s self
(Cooper et al., 2007).
age and cultural background based on
physical appearance (Ruben, 1992).
These inferences in turn affect whether
listeners are positively or negatively
predisposed to the speaker.
A related and important
paralinguistic device is silence.
Hasegawa and Gudykunst (1998) found
that culture influences the use of
silence. They found that in the United
States silence is used to mark a pause
or break in verbal communication.
When meeting strangers, Americans
tend to be conscious of and
uncomfortable with silence. On the
other hand, for the Japanese, silence
during verbal communication holds
immense meaning. Since the Japanese
place a lot of importance on
maintaining harmony and encourage
indirectness and ambiguity to maintain
harmony, silence is often used to avoid
directly saying “no” to a request.
In public speaking, the two main
categories of physical appearance that
could affect audience perceptions are
beauty and clothing, both of which can
feed ethnocentrism. For instance, in
the United States, the cultural ideal of
beauty tends to value the appearance of
tall, slender women and men with
muscular bodies. However, in many
parts of Africa, plumpness is valued as
a sign of beauty (Gardiner &
Kosmitzki, 2002). Interculturally
competent speakers guard against
culturally ingrained notions that could
impede communication. In addition,
competent speakers adapt their clothing
for diverse audiences.
Yet another paralinguistic device,
pitch refers to the highness or lowness
of a voice on a tonal scale. Varying
pitch adds expressiveness to messages
and reveals information such as
whether the speaker is asking a
question or expressing concern. Many
Asian languages such as Mandarin,
Thai and Vietnamese are tonal
languages in which the same syllable
can take on different meanings
depending on the tone used to deliver
the sound. For instance, the meaning
of the word “Ma” could vary from
“mother” to “horse” to “grass” or “to
scold,” depending on the tone used
(Neuliep, 2006). Understanding these
paralinguistic devices and how they
apply to public speaking situations can
enhance the effectiveness of speeches.
Nothing strengthens authority
so much as silence.
~ Leonardo da Vinci
physical appearance
The physical appearance of the
speaker can also affect speechmaking
to a diverse audience. This is because
people often draw inferences about a
person’s socio-economic status, gender,
Two of the most important cultural
issues regarding clothing are modesty
and formality. Culturally acceptable
levels of modesty vary from culture to
culture. For example, in Muslim
communities, women are often
expected to wear loose fitting, flowing
garments that do not reveal the
contours of the body or expose parts of
it (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2010),
and a woman may be expected to cover
her head with a scarf or a hijab. While
delivering speeches to a diverse
audience, competent speakers consider
culturally based sartorial preferences.
For instance, Hillary Clinton’s wearing
of a headscarf while on a trip to Cairo
was particularly appreciated in Cairo
(Huffington Post, 2009).
Wearing the correct dress for
any occasion is a matter of
good manners.
~ Loretta Young
In terms of formality, the United
States has an informal culture where
professors on campuses and
organizations in Silicon Valley often
adopt casual dress codes. Some other
cultures such as in Japan and Germany
are more formal. Among corporate
employees in Japan and in many Asian
countries, there is a general proclivity
for conservative dress styles that
emphasize conforming to society’s
collectivistic nature (Samovar, Porter &
McDaniel, 2010). While addressing
audiences that place high importance
on formal attires, competent speakers
dress appropriately.
As emphasized throughout this
chapter, the most important thing that
interculturally competent public
speakers must keep in mind is to be
sensitive to differences among cultures
and to respect diversity. Successful
public speakers will research their
audience and adapt as far as they can.
At the very least, public speakers must
show respect for audience diversity
while preparing and delivering
speeches. This section has offered a
few examples of how non-verbal
communication can vary across
cultures. Public speakers who need to
address a diverse audience must be
keenly aware of these variations among
cultures and employ culturally
appropriate kinesic behavior,
paralinguistic devices and dress
constructing visual aids
The more varied the listeners’
cultural backgrounds, the more
important it is for speakers to use visual
materials to illustrate their ideas. Wellchosen visual aids are especially useful
to help address language differences
(Gamble & Gamble, 1998; Jaffe, 2004).
However, interculturally competent
public speakers are sensitive to the
Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
review questions and activities
review questions
List four reasons for learning how to speak to a global audience.
Identify three barriers to achieving intercultural communication competence and give examples of each
from your own or others’ experience.
Explain Hall’s concept of high- and low-context cultures and Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Drawing
on examples from your experience, explain how these cultural patterns can help you tailor your speech
to a diverse audience.
Distinguish between monochronic and polychronic time orientations and discuss how these might affect
a speech to an audience that is predominantly from a culture that follows polychronic time.
Discuss ways in which you can make the supporting materials for your speech inclusive and culturally
Name and explain, with examples, any two holistic patterns of speech organization.
What is the triangle of meaning? How does an understanding of this notion help you prepare to speak to
a global audience?
What is the difference between denotative and connotative meaning, and how does it affect speaking to
a global audience?
Explain two communication style preferences and discuss how these preferences would affect speaking
to a global audience.
What are the different aspects of body language that might affect speech delivery in a multi-cultural
context? Explain, with examples.
As you prepare your speech for a multicultural audience, it is important to stay conscious of cultural
patterns, yours as well as those of your audience. This will help you to become more aware of yourself
and avoid notions of ethnocentrism while preparing your speech. Imagine you are giving a sales
presentation to three groups, each consisting of Arabs, Japanese and British. How would you tailor your
speech to each audience?
The transcript of Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a dream” can be accessed at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3170387.stm. Analyze the organization pattern that has been used
to structure the speech and discuss your findings in class.
Watch a TED talk at http://www.ted.com/ in a language that you don’t understand. Analyze the
nonverbal communication of the speaker and identify aspects of kinesics and paralanguage that the
speaker uses to effectively add to the verbal message.
Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
Connotative Meaning
A connotative meaning is the
meaning you attach to a word
based on your personal
experiences and associations.
Cultural Patterns
Cultural patterns refer to
common themes through
which different cultures can
be understood. They consist
of beliefs, values and norms
shared among a group of
people and remain stable over
long periods of time.
Denotative Meaning
A denotative meaning is the
socially agreed conventional
meaning found in a dictionary.
Ethnocentrism is the notion
that one’s own culture is
superior to any other.
High-context Message
The meaning of the message
is implied by the physical
setting or is presumed to be
part of the culture’s shared
beliefs, values and norms.
Holistic Pattern
Holistic patterns, instead of
directly and explicitly
presenting key ideas, use
examples and stories to
convey the main idea and
leave it to the audience to
interpret the message
encoded in the examples and
stories told.
The dimension of individualism-collectivism refers to
the degree to which a culture
relies on and has allegiance
to the self or the group.
The study of body movement
including gestures, hand, arm
and leg movements, facial
expressions, eye contact and
stance or posture.
Low-context Message
A low-context message is one
where the message is
encoded in the words used or
in the verbal expression and
not as much in the context.
The dimension of
masculinity-femininity refers
to the degree to which a
culture values such behaviors
as assertiveness and the
acquisition of wealth or
caring for others and the
quality of others.
Monochronic Time
Monochronic time refers to
linear time; is tangible and
can be “saved, spent, lost
wasted,” etc. People from
monochronic cultures tend to
focus on one thing at a time.
Schedules and deadlines are
sacrosanct, and punctuality is
highly regarded.
Paralanguage refers to the
vocal cues that accompany
spoken language such as
volume, rate and pitch.
Power Distance
Power distance refers to the
degree to which the culture
believes that institutional and
organizational power should
be distributed unequally and
the decisions of the power
holders should be challenged
or accepted.
Prejudice refers to a negative
attitude toward a cultural
group, often based on little or
no experience.
Polychronic Time
Polychronic time refers to
cyclical time. Time is less
tangible and is seldom
considered “wasted”. People
from polychronic cultures
can often be involved in
multiple activities at the same
time, with no strict division
among the different activities.
Spiral Pattern
A type of holistic pattern in
which the speaker builds up
dramatic intensity by moving
from smaller and less intense
scenarios to bigger and more
intense scenarios, in an
upward spiral.
Star Pattern
A type of holistic pattern, the
star pattern presents a set of
main points connected by an
underlying common theme.
For different audiences,
speakers will start with
different main points.
However, all main points will
be united by one theme.
A standardized conception or
image of a group of people, a
stereotype forces a simple
pattern upon a complex mass
and assigns a limited number
of characteristics to all
members of a group.
Stereotypes are simple,
acquired, often erroneous and
resistant to change.
Chapter 14 Speaking to a Global Audience
Triangle of Meaning
Refers to the symbolic,
arbitrary nature of language
wherein the word spoken or
the symbol of the actual
object in nature (the referent),
has no actual connection to
the object it represents. The
symbol and the referent are
connected only by the
thought in one’s mind.
Uncertainty Avoidance
Uncertainty avoidance index
refers to the extent to which
the culture feels threatened
by ambiguous, uncertain
situations and tries to avoid
them by establishing more
Wave Pattern
A type of holistic pattern that
follows a crest-trough wave
pattern where speakers use
examples and stories to
slowly build up to the main
point at the crest of the wave.
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photo credits
p. 3
President Obama speaks at Cairo University
By Chuck Kennedy (Official White House Photo)
p. 5
USAID 50th anniversary event in Mali
By USAID Africa Bureau
p. 8
Audience at a book launch hosted by the African Gender Institute
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Audience.jpg http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Audience.jpg
By African Gender Institute
Dialogue on Diversity Public Forum
p. 8
By Congressman Honda

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