How to Make an Overseas Meeting Go More Smoothly

For meeting attendees, overseas events promise new experiences and opportunities. For meeting planners, however, overseas events promise new challenges and obstacles.

"Whether you are planning to 'go global' for your annual industry conference, top-performers grand incentive program, or for an exciting work retreat, choosing an international destination can be a fabulous breath of fresh air," says Successful Meetings contributor Sarah V. Hines. "But planning and preparing an overseas meeting and corporate event program will require having domestic meeting planning skills and a strong grasp of how laws, languages, and cultural norms are different in other countries."

Given the unique challenges posed by international meeting planning, preparing a few simple resources in advance of an event can make a world of difference.

For example, consider creating a cultural "cheat sheet." "From understanding the language to currencies to customs processing, be prepared for lifestyle differences that may not be obvious. In Japan, for example, handshakes are often considered inappropriate upon meeting. Instead, new acquaintances exchange a quick bow," Hines says. "Educating your team on cultural and business customs will not only avoid a faux pas but will also show your destination partners (tour guides, hotel and tech coordinators, ground transportation teams) that you value and respect them. Make sure to have a tip-list for all of your attendees in their meeting materials so they are aware, too."

Preparing for language barriers also is smart. "When traveling to a country that speaks a different language, be prepared for any language-centric challenges that may arise," Hines continues. "Make sure you bring or arrange for an interpreter(s). Remember that you are doing much more than offering a service: you are acting as a liaison for your company and your culture and offering a bridge for a prosperous union between you, the property, and other local partners. Every opportunity to accommodate your hosts should be taken to free up more time and attention toward the success of your meeting."

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