It's been way too long since I published a post, I am sorry for that. We have been busy moving and settling in to San Francisco.
The first impressions are what counts and what lasts:
Curious conversations: Conversations about tech and start ups are all around us
"I don't want to deal with Cisco security..." somewhere in the Potrero Hill area
"My second job at a start up involves hydroponics..." shuttle bus in Financial district
Blended, not stirred: The rich, the homeless, the gay, the hippie, the white collar, the blue collar, they all come together roaming the streets, eating, sleeping, shopping, smoking and mostly enjoying the great weather when they can.
Perfect weather: My idea of perfect weather is cool and sunny. That's what we experience here. A shirt, a light jacket and you are all set, stand still in the sun and you take off your jacket. Roam around in the shade and you can put in on to keep warm. No sweat, no chills, always walking weather
Reservations required: The food scene is fabulous. There is so much great quality food everywhere, that we will probably never go through them all... ever, even if we shortlist them to highly rated places. However, to get into most of these places, you have to have a reservation. And one that is made weeks before, unless you are from Spain, in which a 10.30pm dinner is just fine, or really old, in which a 5pm dinner also works. So we either hunker down and make some reservations or try our luck at places that do not take them in hopes of snagging a seat.
Slopes to kill: San Francisco is renowned for its hills, but only after walking a bike up one do you realize how crazy it is. At some points, the road is so steep, we have found ourselves sliding down, especially if you have slippery shoes! You know what I'm talking about...
I have only officially worked in 3 different countries, but 5 if you count my short stint in Nespresso in Switzerland and African Outback in South Africa, so I am certainly not an expert. But what I have learned, I will share:
1. Pay attention when you are surprised at work
Whether you are pleasantly surprised or ending up feeling frustrated, pay attention to those feelings and analyze carefully what might be the root cause of that. As a foreigner, understand that the innate cultural differences can cause quite a shock to your system. It can certainly be your colleague's unique character, or it might be the common place thing for all natives to do, especially if you start to recognize a pattern. For me, after multiple frustrations, I realize that it was just a cultural response and there were no ill intentions what so ever. If you can't beat em, join'em! 2. There are multiple cultural aspects at play
As you start to dissect why certain situations arise, understand that the culture of the people, the company and individual personalities all come into the mix and they will interplay and leave you befuddled. From my experience, the culture of the natives is probably the strongest underlying factor and the individual personalities come a close second.
3. Let stereotypes be a way to develop relationships
Interactions with your colleagues will quickly help you understand how they see you and what kind of stereotypes they have about you. You will learn more about perceptions of your culture, but you will also learn how to dispel them gently. People are often proud of their "keen" observations and when the time is right, they will share them with you. (I had a boss where he was shocked I added milk in my coffee, he was pretty sure all Asians were lactose intolerant... really odd, but I was able to smooth things over by listening to his hypothesis and engaging in an interesting exchange) 4. Fit in when you need to, but stand out when you should
After learning more about the culture you are working in, leverage the fact that you can fit in when you want to, but really stand out when you should. You will be forgiven because you are different, but more often, you will be appreciated, for doing what's right and daring to break the cultural shackles. 5. Prepare yourself for "20 Questions"
When you work in a different country, people will inevitably ask about your culture and country. So be prepared and brush up on your history, political situation and any interesting nuggets of information! Especially if you are an American, because the pervasiveness of US media is so wide that your colleagues will no doubt already have an opinion about the US. If that's the case, refer to point #3.
There you have it, the top 5 things I learned when working in different cultures. What have you learned?
Now that you have an insight into what kind of a presenter you are, let's look at the kinds of presentation habits you should develop that will help in any situation and style. The 3 basic categories are:
1. Self awareness
Knowing what you are doing is critical when delivering a presentation, every aspect of you is being scrutinized. You ARE in the spotlight. Pay attention to:
Voice (pauses, tone, rhythm, volume, speed)
Space (where you are standing, how you are moving)
Day to day, develop the habit of paying attention to these things. These will be used to increase the impact of your technical presentations.
2. Process orientation
Every time you have a presentation, follow a strict process so you consider everything for the highest impact. Depending on the level of the presentation, you can shorten or speed up this process.
Storyline and flow
Rehearsals (iterate on 3&4)
As you can plainly see, most of the work is in preparation and rightfully so! If you follow a strict process, you make sure your audience will benefit the most from your presentation.
A strong habit is to reflect on how you have done through informal or even formal feedback/ metrics. This will help you to continuously improve on your style.
We will go through the process step by step next to see how it can all come together.
Before you even start thinking about audiences, I think the first step is understanding what kind of a presenter you are and what kind of a presenter you want to be.
It might feel like you want to give a keynote like Steve Jobs, or rouse the audience with a voice and cadence like Dr. King, but what is important is to fit your own style. We hear about being authentic all the time but what it boils down to is alignment. Alignment between your style, your message and your delivery.
What is your style?
Are you a extroverted story teller?
Do you use your hands?
Are you animated?
Are you a thoughtful presenter?
Are you more calming?
Are you a matter of fact kind of person?
Try to put down a sentence or two about your style. Ask your friends or co-workers to describe your presentation or communication style. Note if there are differences between professional and personal "story telling".
Know what kind of a presenter you are today and work to be yourself, but better.
Next up, bridging between who you are today and where you want to be.