Dear Ali: I recently held a presentation at one of our business meetings and for some reason, some of my Arab colleagues appeared to be bored by what I was talking about. Could you advise me what I did wrong? JA, Abu Dhabi
Dear JA: Too bad I wasn't there to see your presentation. What is boring to us might not be boring to you. We Arabs who work in the business world often have to listen to presentations that are badly presented. Don't take it personally; it might have been the topic or the way you presented it.
It could be that you started by explaining every detail of your company's history, and lost the audience's attention as a result.
I know something about presentations from when I deliver my speeches or intercultural workshops. Trust me, the best thing to do is to start with the key aspects of your presentation, then give one or two examples that can be applied to this region and explain them in a positive way. Avoid sentences that are too long, or slides filled with text.Try to add visual elements that your Arab colleagues can relate to. This will keep them interested in what you have to say.
Arabs are generally difficult customers to impress, hence you have to wow them. The most important part is your first line of introduction and the first slide, which should be either a unique image, story or video that is not that long. The video should be translated into Arabic and have subtitles.
Remember, at the end participants will remember the body language, so if there wasn't any excitement, inspiration and positive energy all the facts will be forgotten once they leave the room. Therefore, ensure you also either bring models, images, books or anything that could keep them wanting more.This will leave a great impression them.
You can become a better presenter if you practise catching the audience's attention. Once you master that, your presentations will be successful.
Dear Ali: I come from the UK and have been living in the UAE for about a year now. I have heard how dangerous it is to talk about politics or sex. Is this true and if so, how come? AM, Sharjah
Dear AM: Your question is very important. I would say, let's relax. It's not dangerous to talk about anything as long as it not offending anyone or harming someone's reputation.
You can talk about sex, politics and religion in the UAE, but it would be advisable if you do so with your friends or people whom you trust and know very well. If you want to speak about sex it would always be seen as awkward to bring it up with the opposite gender, especially in public.
Regarding topics such as politics and religion, I also suggest that you become familiar with them. try to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or 9/11 and their significance to Arabs. It is probably wise never to engage Arabs on these topics but if you do, just try to stay friendly about it, keep it neutral and speak in general terms. For example, if someone asked you how you feel about what the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories, and you say something like: "Oh, I think the Palestinians really have to learn how to live with the Israelis," you would appear to agree with what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. And if that is not the case, then people will get the wrong impression of you.
Everyone who deals with and lives in the Arab world should understand why these issues are sensitive to us. With that knowledge, you'll understand us better and address any subject you want.
Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow //www.ask-ali.com">www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.