Preparing Effective Presentations for International Audiences

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If you need to give a talk about your product or service to an international audience, your slides or visual aids will likely need to be translated. Here are some ways to make sure your presentation shines in translation.

A quick reminder: in this article, I will use “translation” to refer to rendering your written content in your audience’s language. Of course, the interactive delivery of your content will need to be interpreted, and that is a separate, if related, process. Following best practices for translation will also help your interpreter team!

Use live text

It is a good idea to include any verbal information that needs to be translated, such as bullet points, chart labels and call-outs, or image text, as “live,” editable text and not a “flat” image. That will allow your translation team to match the typeface and formatting of the original and ensure consistency for repeated phrases using computer-assisted translation tools. If there is any content that you would like to leave untranslated, let your team know.

Leave some empty space

Depending on the language you are translating into, the resulting text may expand—be longer than the original. If you packed your slide tightly, content may move around and become hard to read. Leaving some blank space will keep the translated slides legible by eliminating the need to put the text back into position or decrease the font size.

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Format intelligently

You will want to avoid spacing the elements on your slide manually. For example, avoid using carriage returns or the space bar to place various headers or paragraphs. As mentioned above, text length will likely change in translation, and the text you so carefully aligned will look sloppy as a result. Instead, use structural elements like tables, headers, and appropriate slide layouts.

Go for clarity over catchiness

Acronyms and puns may be a great mnemonic device in English, helping your audience grasp and retain a concept quickly. One well-known example from the business world is the concept of SMART goals (one possible expansion is “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound”). As catchy as these devices may sound in English, it is unlikely that your translation will have the same initial letters, rhymes, or puns, or they will have to be introduced somewhat artificially. If you know some elements of your presentation rely on wordplay, it is best to use neutral, informative phrasing in the international version.

Ultimately, it is your content and delivery that will ensure an informative, engaging presentation. Following the best practices above can help reflect that in the translated version, as well.

Published by Maria

Russian health and human services translator based in Rochester, New York

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