Keynote speaking at Gala Awards Banquest

Keynote speaking at International Gala Awards Banquet

The end of the year found me  doing a whirlwind lecture tour in
the Baltic States & Finland. I also undertook some interesting engagements here in the UK, culminating with being the keynote speaker at a Frost & Sullivan’s prestigious Excellence in Best Practices Award Gala Banquet. What interesting people I came to meet running some fascinating businesses. The occassion offered unparalled access to European Industy’s movers and shakers.  Needless to say Christmas arrived very quickly! 

Frost & Sullivan Excellence in Best Practice Awards:
The much anticipated and highly competitive Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service, and strategic product development. Industry analysts compare market participants and measure performance through in-depth interviews, analysis, and extensive secondary research in order to identify best practices in the industry.

F&S Gala Awards DinnerMy presentation “Developing Roots & Wings for your Company” explored how businesses can develop a culture of excellence that filters down from the leader to all members of staff. This builds individual self-confidence, self-esteem and self-belief that in turn enables each individual and the organization in turn to reach full potential. This talk covered the need and the ways in which an organisation can adapt for foreign markets to do business with greater knowledge, understanding and success.

HSBC’s Women In Business ConferenceDr Deborah Swallow
Held in Weybridge, UK, HSBC’s conference also featured Karen Darby
of uSwitch fame as a keynote speaker. Although it was our job to inspire the women who attended to reach their full potential, I certainly received my fair share of inspiration from the audience! One of the main topics being discussed was home-life balance to which I contribute my own story of how I ended up redefining what ‘success’ means to me and my observations that in a partnership with children, I believe, one of you has to put home and family first and the other has to put work first. And, I’m one who firmly believes that there is life after children!

Export Mentors ClubEstonia: Export Mentors Club
A welcome return to Tallinn saw my sixth visit to Estonia where I spoke to members of The Export Members Club on behalf of Tallinn City Enterprise Board. My talk was on the topic: ‘Playing to Win: how to raise your game in international markets’.


Estonia: Tallin University of  TechnologyTallin University
‘Communicating Across Cultures’ was my theme for the
lecture I gave to staff and students of the Tallin University of Technology. My thanks go to Professor Peeter I was humbled to find that we had standing room only for the event.


Deborah Swallow in Tampere UniverstiyFinland: Tampere University of Applied Sciences  
December found me visiting Finland – a place I love – and my first visit to Tampere. Although a little cold the first snows still had not really arrived. My presentation to staff and students was on: The Implications of Culture on Effective Knowledge Sharing in Multi-Cultural Groups. 


Latvia: Conference on High Performing Virtual Teams Tallin Univeristy 2
The pace was still high energy as I arrived in Latvia to
address a conference whose theme was on High Performing Virtual Teams. The topic for my breakout session was: ‘Knowledge Sharing in Global Teams’. This highlighted that people from different cultures have fundamentally different beliefs about the proper roles of bosses and subordinates, and even about the nature of knowledge itself. Therefore, transferring knowledge is not as straight forward as one thinks.

Deb-CokeLondon: 3 Day MBA
Back to London to deliver one of my ‘3 Day MBA’ courses. These are always enormously satisfying. There is always such a range of people – different industries, different nationalities, different challenges – but with one thing in common: a hunger to thrive in the global market place. Three days of wall-to-wall ideas and solution finding – we are all exhausted but invigorated at the end of the course.

Essex: Education Sector Lunch & LearnDebby at Blyth Eden Conference
Blyth Eden were the hosts of a special Lunch & Learn session for
educationalists in the Essex region where I was invited to address delegates on ‘How Different Cultures Teach and Learn’. This talk emphasised the differences in expectations about the roles of teachers, students and pupils across cultures, and highlighted the unexpected problems that arise from this.

PASSION for the PLANET Radio Interview
Finally, I got to say my piece on the radio, about the importance of respectful communication in a widely diverse community, when I was interviewed by Chantal Cooke. PASSION for the PLANET is a radio station that is dedicated to ethical living in a very broad approach.

Europe is now generally defined by it’s 47 countries thougheurope
only 27 of them are European Union members and even fewer are in the Euro Zone. Ancient Greece is considered to be the birthplace of Western Civilisation and its legacy has influenced ‘The West’.  However, Europe has its own cultural divides as mentioned below.

So far in this section you’ll find the  Top Ten Tips for doing business, along with opening times, holiday dates and festivities for the following countries: Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, France, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Hungary.

The North/South Divide

There is a distinct difference between the southern countries of Europe and the Northern ones. In the south, the pace of business is much slower and unpredictable. Time is to be enjoyed. Relationships and emotions play a large part in influencing the success of business deals. Both Italy and Spain have adopted a more time-efficient/’professional’ approach to business to compete in a globalised world, so cannot be defined by the old stereotype of  ‘maňana.  However, the pace of life is much slower than in Northern Europe. The southern countries are sometimes regarded as not being completely trustworthy; this is because their values-system is about pleasing you and is very different from the rule-bounded north. August is the holiday month.

The Nordic Countries

The Nordic Countries are very different from the rest of Europe in their attitudes and behaviour and it is useful to mention this at the outset. The Nordic region comprises Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland and their associated territories. (Scandanavia comprises Norway, Sweden and Denmark). They are all driven by a strong work ethic, are exceptionally honest, and are very tolerant of people who are different from them. The two things they deplore are bribery/corruption (dishonest) and tardiness (disrespectful). They believe in working towards the common good and looking after those who are more unfortunate than themselves. However, they are ‘straight’ talkers and this can be seen as being very brusque. July is the holiday month.

Eastern Europe and the Balkans

The speed of thinking and working is a lot, lot slower than in Western Europe.  Although people use e-mail, their use of technology may not be as frequent. It is difficult to get a firm commitment to a meeting; this is a power play. You will be asked to phone on the day, then again later in the morning, and again in the afternoon. A typical response is: “I may be busy, so I can’t tell you now”. Business activity grinds to a near halt during the latter part of July and most of August for extended summer holidays. You need to know how to get around the gatekeepers. Bribing is common place and people are suspicious of you if you do not participate. Don’t get frustrated at the amount of time spent drinking coffee during the working day.

The Finnish-British Chamber of Commerce organised a lecture together with the traditional Shrove Tuesday Lunch at Garbo’s Restaurant with over 30 participants.  Dr. Deborah Swallow,deb a cross culture specialist from 4C International Limited, gave us a presentation on how to present internationally.

According to Deborah Swallow presenting to international audiences has its own tricks. One should always keep in mind the expectations of the audience. Cultural differences in the audience affect greatly how people react to the presentation and whether or not the message of the presentation is received.

According to Dr. Swallow adapting your way of presenting according to the audience is the key in communicating the message properly. Understanding the differences is important because we need to meet the expectations of our listeners. Whether we want to sell a product or a service or introduce a change in working practices, we need to create rapport with our target audience.

The history of every culture shapes the way of communication for example; many of us can for example recognize the basic difference between the Finns and the Brits. Finns as Members of Nordic countries are concentrated on fact-based propositions while a British audience is instead eager to hear the benefits offered to them. In Nordic countries the communication is very informal when in the UK the titles are very important. A Finnish audience is also much quieter compared to a British one.

An audience is rarely an example of the two extremes, but rather somewhere between them. But one should be aware of whether your audience comes from an individualist or collectivist background, whether they think conceptually or associatively, and whether their language is expressed by doing, thinking or being.

According to Dr. Swallow Finnish people are seen to rely rather on logic with their attitudes and thinking than with emotional appeals. One should still keep in mind that emotions are an important part of communication in many cultures. For instance with Latinos you’ll have to win the hearts of the listeners instead appealing to their logic. Americans love giving powerful and emotional presentations. They aim to tell stories that appeal to the listener’s emotions. “Tell a story to your audience because it will last more than facts”- they believe.

Dr. Swallow also gave us few good tips of the usage of humour in international presentations. In the USA it is common to start a business presentation with a joke and it is a good way to break the ice. The French enjoy playing with language and admire those who can make linguistic jokes in French. In Britain humour is often used to connect with the listener and to create a rapport or to soften a conflict or a crisis. In contradiction, Germans dislike humour in serious business contexts and in Japan humour might be seen as a lack of respect for the situation.

However, Dr. Swallow advised us Finns to appeal to the minds and hearts of our international audiences and to keep in mind that being different does not mean being better or worse!

Finn-British Chamber of Commerce (published March 2009)