Doing presentation in Japan

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Have you been asked to deliver a presentation during seminar in Japan or maybe you are developing your business here and you will be meeting with various business partners to who you will need to deliver a presentation and you are wondering how you should do it? Let me help you with that, pointing out a few elements to which you should pay attention to when doing business presentation in Japan.

  • Do your slides

Assuming you will be delivering presentation in English, remember that many Japanese don’t feel comfortable in English, so put all important information on slides. It will help them better understand the key points and get to them later on, when needed.

However now, it gets tricky. In Western countries, we like simple presentations with only key points, explain the whole concept verbally, while in Japan they prefer to have every-single-word written down.

It is your decision what to do. Do you want to adjust to your listener customs and expectations or… not. I will try to give you all information, however you have decide which one will be working the best for you.

Saying that, Japanese LOVE to have all the information on the slides. This is why listening to your counterparties you will most probably see that their slides are completely fully covered with words.

This is very similar to Japanese websites, where on the top page you will find almost everything. One of the reasons for that is they like to have all information at one place, the other (and believe me, I do see the craziness of this situation) quite often Japanese take a nap during the presentation, so to ensure they will not miss a thing, everything will be wrote down on the slide and will be available to them later on. Most probably if you are doing a business presentation to your Japanese business party they will pay attention, however situation will differ if you will deliver speech during the seminar.

Yes, for me it is rude, however try not to get offended if you will experience that. There are many things behind this behaviour that you don’t see and they have nothing to do with you. Also, especially with senior business people, I have observed they tend to close eyes to better focus on what you are saying. However trust me, it is very difficult to distinguish which one is which.

I have prepared an example of Western and Japanese slides, so that you can better understand what I am talking about.

Western style

Japanese style of the same slide:

Another the very important aspects for Japanese is to quickly access your company, its performance and capabilities. This is why 99% of presentations you will see a very details Corporate Overview and I would suggest you to prepare a similar slide.

 

  • What to say, how to say

Japan is a very humble culture, however when it comes to business, you must show that you are competent. When starting the presentation tell about you, your achievements, your company and people you came with. It is important that your Japanese counterparty will see that they deal with professionals who know the business they are in. However remember, it is not America, so be careful how you present yourself not to be taken as an arrogant and disrespectful. I would suggest to present a key, dry facts and don’t spent too much time on them. Later on, during the lunch or nomikai you may talk about is in more details.

If you plan to make a joke at the opening, better check before with some other Japanese if they i) understand it ii) also find it funny.

Japanese rather don’t like public Q&As. So during your presentation rather don’t ask the audience questions (unless you know the audience well); most probably nobody will answer it as they fear to be wrong, don’t want to get humiliated, don’t want to sound incompetent in Japanese. Also vice versa, at the end of presentation, give our audience a chance to ask you questions, however don’t be surprised if there will be no reaction. If they have question, they will most probably approach up after the presentation, so make sure you will be available for few minutes at the end.

One point worth noticing here. You are a foreigner delivering a presentation in Japan and you will be treated differently. I did come across a number of presentation, where Japanese so much wanted to speak English, that during the Q&A they didn’t want to let the micro go. So I guess it is all case by cane, however my role here is to prepare you for the situations, that you might not face back in your home country.

And last but not least, speak slowly making sure, that your audience understands your English.

What are your experiences with delivering presentations in Japan? Do you have any other advises?

頑張って!Best of luck!

 

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