By Nikhil Agarwal ‘10, MBA in Global Management
Over the last couple of days we have been interacting with Ms. Hang Thi Huynh CEO and co-founder, and Selene Alcock of K-biz Consulting based out of Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa province located in South East Vietnam. We have had couple meetings with them at beach café’s (Yes! According to Ms. Hang they are better place for brainstorming! We agree) to understand their current situation, finalization of the work plan, and making sure we are meeting each others expectations for this consulting engagement.
Today was different though. We had the first business meeting in my life involving a translator. Mr Minh Quang Le, one of the co-founders and chief financial consultant for K-biz consulting, spent some time talking about the current situation at K-biz. The meeting involved Ms. Hang who acted as a translator for the team. Trying to gain knowledge from colleagues about business meetings with translators helped me make the most out of the meeting without crossing any cultural or business boundaries.
Meetings involving a translator can be quite a frustrating experience for a lot of people. My observations about preparing for a meeting involving a translator:
1. Always maintain eye contact with the person speaking to you. It is difficult as you do not understand what they are trying to say, but looking at them helps the speaker subconsciously feel that you are paying attention and are 100% committed to the conversation.
2. Smiling, nodding and copying the facial expression of the speaker also makes him/her think that you are keeping up with the conversation and would enable a smoother flow of information.
3. While listening to the translation from the translator, try to swap looks between the translator and the speaker and do not hesitate to nod or smile at the speaker in between if you agree with something he/she said. This ensures sustained interest of both the speaker and the translator.
4. Try to look at the speaker even though you are talking to the translator while addressing a question. This along with a little bit of hand motions or animation helps the speaker to get some clues about the question, sustains his interest, and also signals to him that you are giving your 100%.
5. On occasion, the translator will start answering the question themselves, forgetting to translate the question to the speaker. The easiest, and most polite way to deal with this is to take the name of the speaker in the next question, and frame the question as “ We want to know what Mr. XYZ thinks about this ?”
6. Using common words in languages, such as English, that the speaker understand and saying those words while looking directly at the audience helps to make a connection. Also using the audience’s name on multiple occasions strengthens that connection.
7. Overall, keeping a positive outlook towards the meeting, patience, a smiling face, and courteous mannerism goes a long way.
We dive into more interviews tomorrow with K-biz clients and prospective clients which include both English and non-English speakers. Hopefully we can make the best out these meetings to enable our discovery process.