US-Americans learn how to present early in life. Therefore, most business people are capable of presenting in a highly professional as well as easygoing and entertaining way. So in front of a US-American audience, do not merely read your Powerpoint slides, but talk freely, knowledgeably, and in a light-hearted manner. You’ll score if you appear to be competent in the matter, confident as a presenter and show a winning personality.
First of all, the introduction to your presentation should be as positive as possible. Tell a short story or make some self-deprecating remarks. After this positive introduction though, you should follow the motto K.I.S.S. – “Keep it short and simple“ or “Keep it short and straight”.
Exhaustive descriptions are out of place in presentations for US-Americans. Refrain from going too much into detail when talking about the background of things or any procedures. Only present the details that your US-American audience needs to be able to understand your presentation. Come to the heart of the matter as soon as possible. The principle to follow is: Time is money!
Complicated calculations, derivations and any other form of more detailed information don’t belong in the presentation itself, but in a well-prepared handout. But again, you should make sure that you only provide the information that is useful for your listeners or segmented groups of persons.
PowerPoint presentations for US-American audiences should be designed in a modern, clean and neutral way. Use basic colours only, don’t overload the slides and as mentioned already only show information that is really of relevance. Depending on the industry and location of the US company, you should work with state-of-the-art technology, visual elements, etc. Visualizations are usually very well received due to the high degree of information transfer.
The principle K.I.S.S. also refers to the question, how long you should speak. So inform your audience in advance how long your presentation will take. As soon as you realize that you might be speaking any longer than announced, let your listeners know. Overrunning time doesn’t usually go down too well.
Formulate your presentation as positively as possible! US-Americans show enthusiasm even for the smallest of things. Therefore, when communicating with US-Americans you should consider a different grading of the words you use: “Good” for example doesn’t mean anything more than mediocrity. If you think something is good, then you should say at least something like „That’s great!“ Should you think something is even better than that, use stronger expressions. Talk about “brilliant ideas“, “a fabulous outcome“, “outstanding teamwork”, “an excellent plan” or „fantastic results“. Should you get the feeling that you are exaggerating then this might be just right for US-Americans.
US-Americans communicate very directly. Be prepared for questions during your presentation. Say thank you for the question and answer in a polite way directly facing the audience. In order to adhere to the designated speaking time, it might be a good idea to postpone questions to the end of your presentation. Just let your listeners know before you start what you would prefer.
If you yourself would like to ask a question during a presentation held by a US-American colleague, make sure that you don’t sound too negative. Praise the presentation and ask only “a question for better understanding”.
Being too honest can be seen as rude and impolite. Before you say what you really think or even point out some weaknesses in the American presentation, it is better to mention something positive first, and then raise your concerns. Your conclusion, however, should always sound optimistic and be focused on the outcome.