All event organizers in CEE are dealing with the same question, especially if it comes to smaller, local events – should the event be in English or not? Here are some useful tips for those who decided to go against the tide and make local community speak English.
1. Ask yourself who is in your target group
English is generally the language of the startup industry and we should all be aware of that. If a startup CEO doesn’t speak English he or she will probably not go global with the product/service. Ask yourself who are you targeting with the event. Do you want to gather people with global aspirations or local entrepreneurs focused on the market in your own country. Take also into consideration the age of participants. If you plan to organize an event for kids or seniors, you may consider your native language as a better choice.
2. Don’t be discouraged by single criticism
If you’ve chosen English as a primary language of the event, be ready for criticism. Some “patriots” will tell you “You live in country X so you should speak the language of X”, some will tell you that it is too stressful for participants to pitch in English. Criticism is important however, take into consideration the number of people submitting complaints like that. If you reached 1000 people with your online communications and got 3 critical comments about the language, there is probably not much to worry about.
3. Run all communication in English
From the first day of the event promotion, do communicate in English. Do not be afraid that people will not come because they don’t understand your message. People are better at English than you think. Even if they don’t feel confident enough to speak, they do understand simple, written messages. Make it clear in event agenda that everything will be in English, and you will be fine, just don’t stress.
4. Take care of the right attitude
It is our job as event organizers to create an atmosphere of a safe place where participants can make mistakes, learn and improve without any judgemental comments when it comes to their language skills. We usually know when we make mistakes and the most important part is to break the inner resistance from speaking English publicly. Local events should be an occasion for startups to practice the pitch in English so that next time they are on stage at a big, international event, their performance will be significantly better.
5. You can’t make everyone happy
Experienced event organizers know that there is always someone unhappy and there is always a reason to be unhappy about. It may be the fact that you run the event in English, but it may also be the lack of gluten-free vegan food or too many photographers documenting the event (all examples come from my real-life experience ;)). The important thing is to be aware that while organizing an event for 100 people you are not able to meet all expectations, however, if you follow tip number 3, you have one expectation less to meet – everyone knows the event will be in English.
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Introducing English as a primary language at the event is usually painful for local communities in the early beginning. But isn’t leaving the comfort zone what pushes us towards success every day? 😉