Romania versus Estonia – My Speaking Experiences
A few months ago I received an email out of no-where from Genoveva Stanitchi, Events Manager at 2Parale. Genoveva was planning a two day conference in Romania for 2Parale, and I was invited to be one of the international speakers delivering workshops to delegates.
Not knowing anything about 2Parale, and wondering whether my memories of Hostel 2 could become a reality if I take up this opportunity, my concerns were soon dismissed when it became clear that 2Parale are the largest affiliate network in Romania. They also had Rand Fishkin, CEO & Co-Founder of SEOMoz, lined up amongst others, so I was sure going to be in good company.
With the 2 day conference SEMDays having a strapline of ‘All about SEO, PPC & Social Media’, I was privileged to have been identified as the suitable international trainer to deliver a workshop on e-commerce usability, persuasion and conversion – topics which no other speakers would be talking about in any depth. I must say I was relishing delivering the training course, especially knowing that I would be bringing a different flavour of drink to this Romanian party.
But will Romanians be as introverted as Estonians…
This was my next area of consideration. In October 2011 I was invited to deliver a one day training course to marketers in Estonian for Best Marketing, on a similar subject of e-commerce usability, persuasion and conversion best practice. The lack of feedback and perceived engagement from the audience that day was tough going to say the least. I had to seek re-assurance from the event organiser during lunch that the audience could understand my northern accent and that they had turned up to the right training course.
I was that intent on getting delegates to engage and participate that during the afternoon, I really put the wind up them. At 2.30 I said “I have seen that many of you have been making notes during the course of the training. What I will do at 3.30 is ask each of you to share amongst us all the top 2-3 things that you have learnt so far today.” Of course I was keeping my fingers crossed that they hadn’t been drawing cartoons or making a list of what they need to buy on their way home from the supermarket.
The look on their faces was a picture. I can imagine what they were thinking, “who is this evil man, I didn’t sign up for this ordeal”.
At 3pm I really turned the screw by reminding them that in 30 minutes I’ll be asking each of them to share their key learning’s. I did expect some walk-outs but to my surprise they all stayed on.
At 3.30 and with over 40 people in the room, it wasn’t realistic to give everyone time to share their thoughts, so I said that I won’t be asking everyone for their feedback. On the one hand I could feel the sigh of relief, although this then changed to a feeling of ‘will he won’t he’ as the delegates did their best to not make eye contact or appear keen to share their views.
To my complete surprise, after a lady near the front tentatively put her hand up and started sharing her key learnings, this suddenly injected confidence amongst others in the audience. Over the next 10 minutes I was relieved that delegates had been learning plenty, and I was particularly satisfied when a guy at the back of the room, who had looked the most dis-interested through the day, put his hand up and spent the next 5 minutes sharing this big list of things he had learnt.
They say appearances can be deceptive, and this sure was the case during that day.
So how could I get Romanians warmed up and participating?
So my challenge at SEMDays was to get the audience participating from the start – I couldn’t go through another training session wondering whether delegates could understand me or had come in to the wrong workshop. I turned to Twitter to ask my followers if they had any recommendations, and thankfully there was one in particular…
This worked perfectly – to get all 60+ delegates participating I asked “hands up who has ever bought online?”.
Included in my training slides early on were photos and quotes from Pulp Fiction. I was prepared to skip these slides if most of the delegates hadn’t seen this film, but I didn’t. I got the impression this is one very popular film amongst Romanians (for what its worth I love it. “Bring out the gimp” = priceless).
For audience participation, Romanians trump Estonians
What followed was a really enjoyable, interactive workshop. In terms of their willingness to take part, ask questions and respond to questions I was asking of them, Romanians are certainly more confident and open that Estonians.
A dogs got personality, personality goes a long way
Part of my workshop looked at personality and how brands can introduce personality and emphathise more effectively with their target audience. The workshop also used content from my e-commerce usability, persuasion and conversion best practice training course which I deliver for PRWD clients and for Econsultancy.
I recently delivered a presentation for Econsultancy at their Digital Shorts session in Manchester, and below are my slides which feature some of this content.
Five presentation tips for presenting in a foreign country
Based on my experiences below are 5 tips if you are presenting in a foreign country, particularly Estonia and Romania.
- Ask for a show of hands at the beginning, ideally with a question which means most, if not all, people will put their hand up
- Reference iconic UK or US films which participants will more than likely have watched
- Unless people are actually leaving during your presentation, don’t worry that they don’t appear to be engaged – chances are they are very engaged but they don’t show this
- Encourage participants to discuss some of the key issues in their country that relate to what you are presenting on – this can lead to quite heated debate amongst the audience which can be great fun
- Share links to useful content, ideally using short links (I use the excellent Bit.ly) – it seems like people love to have things to do after the training
- Don’t do death by powerpoint, or more precisely death by bullet points – this of course applies to UK audiences too
- .. and a bonus tip – don’t pass up the opportunity to go out drinking with the event organisers. On saying this, taking part in drinking games at 12.30am with a 5am taxi to the airport was great at the time but not such a great idea on the flight back to Manchester