How do French communication agencies communicate?

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communicating across culturesRather, how do they come across when pitching – in English – to international clients

Communication et Entreprise, the oldest association of professional communicators in France, has asked me to run a workshop for French communicators who need to present or to pitch in English to international clients.

Core expertise

I’ve run these types of workshops before, for big companies such as Airbus or Sanofi-Aventis, to boutique firms like Infinancials. It is also part of the work I am doing with the PRES Bourgogne Franche-ComtĂ©.

So I have a great deal of material to choose from to design the seminar, but need to adapt the pedagogy from a two to three-day format to a one-day session. You’ve got it: that will probably be the biggest challenge.

I’ve been playing with a neat (free) mind-mapping tool to let my creativity distill the main points I wish to convey in a resonating and participative – and quick! – way and make them stick.

Tell me a story

This is where you, dear readers, come in. Storytelling stands out as the best technique I can use to boost these participants’ learning curve in one short day. I have stories, but need more.

You are all communicators and have experience – as clients or service providers – observing how different cultures communicate and are perceived.

What I would love to collect from you are sharp nuggets, vignettes or short stories on presentations you’ve seen delivered by French communicators in English.

  • How do they differ from those of a native English speaker or other nationality?
  • What did you like? What worked? What did you dislike? What didn’t work?
  • What surprised you (the “huh?” factor)?
  • How did they build a rapport with you? How did they build trust?
  • How do they organize information? Did you follow naturally or were you lost?
  • Did they convince you and if not, what could they have done differently to do so?

Feel free to go wide here: successful communications are a complex mix of verbal, vocal and non-verbal and culture-specific attributes. If your stories are funny, all the better – laughter is a terrific pedagogical tool!

If you wish to be cited in the workshop and handouts, I’ll be happy to give you credit if I use your story. And if you’d rather share your stories off-line, shoot me an email here.

Tell me a story!

* Photo credit:


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  • On 27 September 2011, I posted the following on my blog at
    Seeking_#1: Graphic standards to accommodate cultural preferences
    Can anyone point me to a graphic standard (charte graphique) catering for the cultural preferences of readers of the different language versions of bi- or multilingual technical publications.

    This series of ‘Seeking’ blogs is the direct result of frustrating experiences involving English-language versions of technical publications laid out using graphic standards developed by French agencies to meet the cultural and artistic preferences of French customers (i.e. the company publishing the magazine, brochure, datasheet, etc.) with little thought for the cultural preferences of the technical (i.e. most engineers) English-mother-tongue readership of the English-language versions.

    Many layout templates designed by French graphic artists present problems for into-English translators and their end readers (i.e. the customer’s potential customers), including:
    1) No white space between paragraphs; yet studies in the US demonstrate that American readers at least often choose to skip any text that appears as a single, large, indigestable block.
    2) Higher proportion of text in ALL CAPS than corresponding layout designed in English-speaking countries*; whereas English-language sources on typography often point out that for English-speaking readers, ALL CAPS is the equivalent of shouting and difficult to read. More.
    3) High proportion of headings in ALL CAPS which, in technical documents for technical readers can make it difficult to distinguish between selected acronyms, plural acronyms, initialisms and other words (IT vs it; CATS vs CATs vs cats, etc.). Tradenames and product names with mixed upper and lower case letters are another frequent problem in this area (e.g. InDesign).
    4) “Quotations both in quotation marks and in italics” where, in English, the usual practice is one or the other, not both. See How to format block quotations. Also Rules about quotation marks.

    Web templates by English-mother-tongue graphic artists at Webmaster Templates.