How Does a Foreigner Become a Successful Speaker in the Philippines?

“As a foreigner, how do you market and sell yourself as a speaker in the Philippines.”

A good friend of mine asked me that a little while ago.

After letting it rattle around in my head a bit, I came up with this reply.

As cliché as it sounds you have to be yourself. Although high powered, dynamic speakers can come to the Philippines to speak and make money, the ones who keep coming back are the ones who are authentic.

I also understand the heart of the Filipino. I am just one of a network of maybe several dozen Philippines based, non-Filipino speakers who routinely are asked to speak at conferences and seminars.  The fact that we have expertise in our fields of specialty is important, but I think what’s more important is that we all have chosen to live in the Philippines. That makes a significant difference.

To a person not familiar with the Philippines, who is just visiting to be a speaker, it will be much harder to really understand the heart of the Filipino. And therefore you would have to work much harder to be an impactful speaker. There will always be a lot of value in sharing knowledge and being a subject matter expert, but if you can’t put that in context of what it means to live and work in the Philippines, you will likely not succeed long term.

That said, I can point out a few things that I think would help a visitor who really wants to learn what it takes to know be successful in the Philippines.

Get outside the comfort zones. Most foreigners stay in relatively rich, safe and easy to get around areas in Metro Manila. To really get to know the Philippines you need to go to the palengke (market place), ride a Jeepney (local transit) and eat some street food (I love BBQ pork on a stick). Now, I recommend you go with a local your first time, but if you can talk about these experiences, you audience will be able to relate to you and have much more respect for you.

Traffic congestion is horrible in Metro Manila. Its an easy target for a shared experience. Saying you were worried you might be late because “Traffic sa Edsa” (traffic was bad on EDSA, the major north-south traffic artery in Manila) will also help. Actually just learning and using a few Tagalog phrases will make a huge difference.

Another suggestion I would make is don’t use up most of your time talking. Breaking into small groups discussions and having interactive learning activities will take the burden off of the audience having to always listen to having a fast-talking and intelligent, foreigner. It can be very intimidating for the audience when that happens. They end up getting, what Filipinos humorously refer to as “nosebleed”. Too much English, too fast and with too much information being the cause. So building in breaks from you speaking is another key to success.

The final suggestion I’d offer my friend, would be to be social. Mix with the audience before the event starts. Be ready to say Maghanda Umaga (Good Morning) when they come in. After the first session and you are on AM break while everyone is having snacks, be ready to mingle some more. And at the end, build in time to take a group photo and group pics. The Philippines is proud to be the most Social Media driven country in the world. Selfies reign. Embrace that fact and you will win a lot of support.

As for marketing, social media and mobile are of paramount importance. You have to push a lot of mobile friendly content through social media to really draw attention to you and your training. And the more that you do to show your interest in empowering Filipinos the more success you will have.

Hope that helps!

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