I had the privilege of training the Chinese store managers of Tods’s group in Shanghai this week. It was the first time I have done so using a translator as they didn’t speak English but it was a great experience.
Using a translator does require a change in approach. My usual style is fairly free flowing and animated. When using a translator, changes are needed.
Firstly, I had to pace myself and slow down. Translating is a difficult and tiring job. You need to speak for no more than a minute at a time. Otherwise, the translator will lose some of the key elements; its simply too much for them to remember is you speak for too long. Make your point, then let them speak.
Secondly, I had to tone down my theatrics. Doing some things that I do without the audience having any context makes me look, well, weird. The translator isn’t going to do the animations so the impact that you get with a native speaking audience is lost.
Thirdly, get used to being shadowed. I move a lot when I present, again its just part of my style. The translator followed me around the room for the first half of the day. I think she was worn out by lunchtime, wherein she tended to stay put.
Fourthly, I couldn’t use humour. Those of you who have heard me speak will know I use humour a lot when I present, both to entertain and inform. Humour is one of the last things to cross language and cultural boundaries.
Finally, get a good one! The translator is literally responsible for passing on your messaging so they need to get it right. I have no idea what Stella (the translator) was saying but the feedback I got from my Chinese/English speaking staff was she did a good job. It’s a tough job for a translator, it’s worth the investment to get someone who has a good CV in this area. Don’t try and get amateurs to do it (which is why I didn’t use my staff, as good as they are).