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How to do a presentation in China? Some of my experiences

11.11.2012
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So the culture is different from Western culture we all know that! I am certainly not an expert on China but after living in China for almost 2 years knowing some language and working in a chinese company seeing presentations every week and also visiting over 30 western and chinese companies placed in China I think I have some insights about how you should organize your presentation in China.

Since I recently went to Shanghai in order to to research exchange with Jiaotong University I was about to give a presentation to introduce my institute and me. So here you can find my rather uncommon presentation and some remarks, why some slides where designed in the way they are.

http://www.rene-pickhardt.de/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/ApexLabIntroductionOfWeST.pdf

Guanxi – your relations

First of all I think it is really important to understand that in China everything is related to your relations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guanxi). A chinese business card will always name a view of your best and strongest contacts. This is more important than your adress for example. If a conference starts people exchange namecards before they sit down and discuss.
This principle of Guanxi is also reflected in the style presentations are made. Here are some basic rules:

  • Show pictures of people you worked together with
  • Show pictures of groups while you organized events
  • Show pictures of the panels that run events
  • Show your partners (for business not only clients but also people you are buying from or working together with in general)

My way of respecting these principles:

  • I first showed a group picture of our institute!
  • I also showed for almost every project where I could get hold of it pictures of the people that are responsible for the project
  • I did not only show the European research projects our university is in but listed all the different partners and showed logos of them

Family

The second thing is that in China the concept of family is very important. I would say as a rule of thumb if you want to make business with someone in china and you havent been introduced to their family things are not going like you might expect this.
For this reason I have included some slides with a worldmap going further down to the place where I was born and where I studied and where my parents still leave!

Localizing

When I choosed a worldmap I did not only take one with Chinese language but I also took one where china was centered. In my contact data I also put chinese social networks. Remember Twitter, Facebook and many other sites are blocked in China. So if you really want to communicate with chinese people why not getting a QQ number or weibo account?

Design of the slides

You saw this on conferences many times. Chinese people just put a hack a lot of stuff on a slide. I strongly believe this is due to the fact that reading and recognizing Chinese characters is much  faster than western characters. So if your presentation is in Chinese Language don’t be afraid to stuff your slides with information. I have seen many talks by Chinese people that where literally reading word by word what was written on the slides. Where in western countries this is considered bad practice in China this is all right. 

Language

Speaking of Language: Of course if you know some chinese it shows respect if you at least try to include some chinese. I split my presentation in 2 parts. One which was in chinese and one that was in english.

Have an interesting take away message

So in my case I included the fact that we have PhD positions open and scholarships. That our institut is really international and the working language is english. Of course I also included some slides about my past and current research like Graphity and Typology

During the presentation:

In China it is not rude at all if ones cellphone rings and one has more important stuff to do. You as presenter should switch of your phone but you should not be disturbed or annoyed if people in the audience receive phone calls and go out of the room doing that business. This is very common in China.

I am sure there are many more rules on how to hold a presentation in China and maybe I even made some mistakes in my presentation but at least I have the feeling that the reaction was quite positiv. So if you have questions, suggestions and feedback feel free to drop a line I am more than happy to discuss cultural topics!

Published at DZone with permission of René Pickhardt, author and DZone MVB. (source)

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