When planning a meeting in Asia, do you know that gift-giving in select countries is customary? Or when doing business in Europe you should be prepared for potential tap water charges appearing on your final bill? This January industry professionals, with first-hand meeting experience, shared valuable insights during Convening Leaders’ Global Hub Open Mic Session.
Through open dialogue and storytelling, planners reflected on industry experiences across six world regions. Here are the lessons a few meeting professionals had to learn the hard way:
1. Contract Management – when in doubt, ask questions. The topic of contract management was the first hot topic to generate lively discussion. Planners were quick to remind participants that in Europe, for example, every negotiated outcome should appear in the final, written contract in order to ensure expectations are met. As another planner elaborated, this is because in some European contexts, handshake agreements are more meaningful. With regards to the Americas, especially the North American context, one planner reminded the group to ask questions about every detail, especially taxes.
2. Doing business - it’s all in your approach. Business practices are not standardized worldwide. For instance, planners who have worked in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Middle East learned that sometimes planners must forgo establishing surface relations and invest in cultivating an atmosphere of trust. Participants also recognized the time commitment required to build trust, but were quick to remind everyone that establishing trust, in particular regions, can make or break a meeting at any stage.
3. Communication – you don’t need to be fluent in the local language, just flexible. Many participants shared insights on communication channels and styles while stressing the importance of remaining flexible at all times. In Australia, the communication style is more conversational while Asia is more formal - additionally, planners may need to adjust their work hours to accommodate business discussions in these regions.
4. Cultural perceptions - keep an open mind. While human security concerns must be considered when deciding on a meeting location, the dialogue revealed safety perceptions of some destinations aren't as factual as we may initially believe. For example, in speaking about Africa and the Middle East, some participants encouraged others to look anew on destinations they may have quickly to rule out in the past. Times have and continue to change and and planners shouldn’t let stale stereotypes prevent them from considering an off-the-beaten path meeting. With extra effort and sound research, planners can open doors to a seemingly endless selection of destination possibilities.
5. Cultural training – it may be a worthwhile investment. Let’s face it, we live in a highly globalized world that is shrinking by the second. Working to expand cultural awareness for both professional and personal reasons makes good business sense. Cultural awareness lends itself to productive and respectful interactions from start to finish.