Our Featured Book

Copyright 2000
by Cindy Steiner

An easy-read, how-to book on developing and delivering your message with Punch!

This book explains the value of analyzing your audience to help organize your messaging to get results and to hold your audience's attention.

It also gets into the "how to deliver" the message with Punch!


  • Preparing and Organizing the Message
  • Creating and Using Visual Aids
  • Controlling Stress
  • Refining Delivery Skills: eye contact, voice, gestures, posture, movement
  • Preparing For and Handling Questions
  • Managing Difficult/Challenging Questions or Audience Members

Our Featured Article

by Cindy Steiner, M.A.
International Communications Expert

First of all, what are you up against? Let's look at some stereotypes on both sides of the Atlantic that can influence your business dealings.

What do Europeans think about Americans?

  • "They're extremely arrogant. They think everyone in the world should speak English." Of course, we don't have the luxury of t.v. in several languages just at the flip of a channel and countries just a few miles apart where they speak different languages.
  • "They're superficial and insincere. They smile too much; they're too friendly and casual. They must be phony because no one can smile that much and be sincere."
  • "They're materialistic and spoiled. They collect material possessions and wear all the jewelry they own all at once. All their casual attire must have designer labels showing in conspicuous places."
  • "They're loud." Have you ever been on a European train with a group of Americans? They really aren't what you'd call "soft-spoken".
  • "They're naive. They lack sophistication, worldly wisdom; yet, their naive optimism is delightfully child-like."
  • "They lack culture and tradition." Of course, if these Europeans ever visit the expansive geography we have in the U.S., they quickly realize we have a vast variety of regional cultures - hence, no one single American culture. And, as for tradition, the U.S. is a young country, but don't forget the saying, "Tradition impedes progress!"
  • "They're too fast, unrelaxed, speedy. They eat fast, work fast, and they have no patience. They live for the here and now."

What do Americans think about Europeans?

  • "They are stuffy." No, not really, they're just more formal than we are.
  • "They're snobbish." Actually they are just more reserved and discreet.
  • "They're cold and distant." They just take their time to get to know you.
  • "They're too traditional" True, change is frightening. It has worked this way for many years and it still does, so why change. As the French say, "Plus que ca change, plus c'est la meme chose."
  • "They're very sophisticated, worldly-wise." True, it's easier for them to know other cultures and languages with borders so close. Travel the equivalent of the length of California and you've covered two or three countries and languages.
  • "They're slow." Quality of relationship is important. Service is definitely interpreted differently than in the U.S. Europeans might say,"Fast service? Those speedy, unrelaxed Americans!"

Though stereotypes can definitely pose problems in your business transactions, fore-warned is fore-armed.

What are some differences in values?

If we were to propose a mathematical formula for SUCCESS, it might go something like this:

For Americans:

For Europeans:
Work+Family+Time=Quality of Life

In other words, Americans believe that success is measured by how much money we earn for all the work we put in, and it must be earned ASAP. Whereas, Europeans measure success by how much time they have to spend with their families - work is only a means to an end. We Americans often get caught up in the syndrome of "Live to work" instead of "Work to live"!

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal a few years back illustrates this difference of value systems:
"Americans commonly are granted just 10 days off after one year of service, increasing to 25 days after 25 years on the job. But in Europe it's common to get as much as 30 days off right from the start... Americans see vacations as an 'element of compensation' that must be earned, while Europeans consider it a 'right of employment'...."

As you can see, our interpretation of WORK is quite different from that of Europeans. With understanding of these differences in values, you can avoid some difficulty in your business dealings.

What should you know before you even arrive at your client's office?

Let's begin with the "Five Ws": Who, What, Where, When, Why.

Who is your contact and how do you pronounce his or her name?

What is your objective and that of your contact? What are his/her needs? What do you expect out of this first meeting?

Where is this city, street, office and how do you get there? Is it easier to take public transport? How is the parking situation?

When is the meeting - be punctual! Better yet, be early!

Why were you asked to come or why have you asked for this meeting? Why should your contacts want to listen to you? What's in it for them?

And language? Do you speak their language?

Chances are you don't. So how do you bridge that gap? Simple solution to break the ice: learn a few phrases in their language, like "hello", "thank you", "pleased to meet you", "it was a pleasure" and they will be so impressed that you at least tried.

Of course, your first written correspondence with them was in their language; you'll use interpreters if necessary; and, all your promotional literature, visuals and presentation information are bilingual. Good, you're fine so far. Now, speak slowly and clearly, and avoid slang and jargon. You're on the right track.

What to wear?

Dress conservatively and formally. Above all, don't be flashy - play down the jewelry. One American executive I know who travels often to Italy for business has a good solution to his wardrobe dilemma: he says he simply dresses as they do. When in Rome...

What about greetings and names?

Use last names only! Never address someone by his/her first name unless told to do so. I lived in Europe for many years and never even heard the first names of my neighbors and colleagues. Most company rosters have last names with only the first initials listed. It is considered too familiar and rude to use someone's first name unless mutually agreed upon.

This formality is built into the structure of the languages themselves. For example, in French, German, Italian, Spanish and in many other languages, there is a formal form for our word "you" and an informal form. Use the formal form and the last names only and you will avoid insulting your contacts. If by chance you do get to first name basis, be sure not to shorten double first names: "Hans Peter" is not "Hans". That would be like calling "Helen" "Hel" for short!

As for greetings, shake hands all round like in the U.S., when you first meet or enter the room and also when you leave - shake everyone's hand again.

What about your business presentation?

Adapt your materials and equipment.

Be sure to make necessary conversions: convert weights and measures to the metric system; list prices in U.S. dollars with local currency equivalence and current rate of exchange specified; and change temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius.
Remember that the VCR system is not like ours so your video equipment won't work in Europe. Electricity is 220 volts, not 110 volts, so be careful not to blow up your electrical equipment. Paper size is different - longer and narrower than in the U.S., so photocopies have black edges and our paper doesn't fit in their copiers.
Watch abbreviations and punctuation marks. We use the pound sign (#) to mean "number", but they don't so they wonder what you mean when you use it. Our comma is their period in numerals -1,000 = 1.000 in Europe and decimals 1.5 = 1,5 (1 1/2) in Europe. And, of course, the date is written day first, then month, then year.So if your appointment is for 2/3/98, it is March 2, 1998 not February 3, 1998. It's safest to write the dates like this: 2 March 1998 to avoid confusion.

Adapt your presentation style.

Your style should be "soft-sell". You want to stress quality over price and show stability of your company and a long-term commitment.
Don't open a presentation with a joke. Jokes are often misunderstood; also, Europeans don't take you seriously if you're joking!
Use moderate gesturing and less Hollywood - the more serious you appear, the more seriously you will be taken.
Many European executives have told me that the biggest difference they see between the way Americans do business and the way Europeans do business is this: "Americans oversell and Europeans undersell." Keep this in mind and try to find the happy medium.

Other Notables

  • There are lots of holidays in Europe, so be sure you don't schedule your trip to fall on their days off. Not only national holidays need to be considered, but also local, religious and personal ones.
  • Two-hour lunches are not uncommon, so relax and enjoy.
  • Breakfast meetings have not exactly hit the Continent yet, so don't propose to meet for a business breakfast.
  • Phone calls between 12 noon and 2PM often go unanswered, so don't call between those hours to avoid frustration.
  • The 24-hour clock is used, so your meeting for 2:30 PM is for 14:30.
  • Women in business are few and far between compared to the U.S., so don't be surprised if your top female executive is taken a bit lightly. Depending on the country, I personally have found this often is the case. Try to find out what your contact thinks about women in business before you send her over. Sad, but true - I know from first-hand experience!
  • Service is interpreted differently than it is in the U.S. Here, in the U.S., it is to be fast and often saccharin-sweet. In Europe, it is to be efficient, not very fast and often not at all "sweet." Be patient! For example, in restaurants it is considered rude for the waiter to put the bill on the table; you must ask for it.

In Conclusion...

All of these tips and tidbits of information are, of course, rash generalizations because each country in Europe is infinitely different, as is each individual. But generally speaking, this information should at least ease your entry and facilitate your business transactions with European clients.

So remember: be punctual, formal in manner and in dress, discreet, sincere, flexible, and very patient. You're on the track to enjoying a fruitful business relationship.



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