Webinar: Writing for international audiences

Webinar: Writing for international audiences

decorative image of online conf calls

I was thrilled to run a 1-hour online workshop for UNITAR Division for Prosperity on tips on writing for an international audience. Here’s what took place!

In November 2020, I was invited to give a 1-hour virtual workshop for UNITAR Division for Prosperity on writing for international audiences.

The need: Development professionals

Project staff have to write: concept notes, project documents, letters to donors, training material, evaluation reports, terms of references, inputs to this that and the other document, etc. etc…there’s never an end.

All this writing comes on top of a project manager’s main job of designing and managing projects and trainings, coordinating with partners on the ground, and building relationships with donors.

Your lecture was so clear and easy to understand!

— Feedback from a participant

So while writing is a big and important part of a project manager’s job, most staff haven’t been trained in writing for international audiences.

Many do the best they can, adopting older templates and writing styles that don’t always reflect the growing movement towards more concise, active, clear language.

The participants

The UNITAR Prosperity staff are a lovely group of smart and dedicated multi-language development professionals from around the world — my favourite kind of people to work with 🙂

So I was especially excited to share with them my passion for plain language and to hopefully impart some practical, usable tips that they could immediately put into action.

The content

The 1-hour workshop covered the tips:

On the latter two tips, I’ve written before:

More on using short words, concise words, and short sentences
More on finding the verb, cutting repetition, and eliminating “throat clearing”

The tailoring

The blog posts above addressed scholarly writers but in this webinar, I had fun coming up with examples matching the UN context (a good way to make use of my years of working with organizations like UNICEF, UNDP and ILO!).

Examples on this slide are expressions you’d find in many international organization documents and reports 🙂

Interaction via Zoom

In online webinars, we know it’s much harder to interact with each other compared to in-person trainings. One can’t necessarily even see all participants — there can be connectivity issues, personal circumstances, etc., so people keep their cameras off.

So for the practice examples, where participants could try out the tips as we went along, I kept it simple.

Those who wanted to could unmute and speak (a possibility in this 10+ people group), silently gesture (thumbs up/down, put up a number of fingers), send the preset Zoom icons, or of course type in the chat.

Judging from the many smiles I saw on the screen, this seems to have worked OK 🎉

I would like to take a series of Ema’s lectures.

— Feedback from a participant


Incidentally, I didn’t see this before the webinar but it turns out UNITAR, which has a lot of experience running online trainings, has some resources to help you design online events:

Image of UNITAR's online resource, How to turn face-to-face into online events. Links to the UNITAR page.
UNITAR has resources on how to create and run effective online trainings: “Making Online Events More Inclusive,” “How to Turn Face-to-Face into Online Events,” and “Designing Learning Events.”

So…next I do plan on writing about the first two tips…and hopefully share some slides too. [UPDATES: Happy to share now a post about “Knowing the big picture” (20 April 2021) | “Be consistent” (17 June 2021)]

Thank you, my dear colleagues at UNITAR Prosperity! You made this webinar a joy because of your interest and openness!

Wondering whether your staff or group could benefit from a fun webinar on writing for international audiences? Let’s discuss! Please contact me via the form or email me at info@theclarityeditor.com.

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Practicing what I preach: Improving my writing | The Clarity Editor

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