Here are a few tips from planners on cross-cultural attendee considerations they’ve run into across the continents.
Heather Coplestone, managing director
Destination Pacific Australia, Sydney
Something that has come up when dealing with Aussies in Australia is the duration of dinners, i.e., the length of service. As you will be aware, Aussies (and in fact Kiwis) are pretty laid-back and go-with-the-flow people, and one of the aspects delegates like is relaxing over a delightful corporate dinner and Australian wines in a restaurant, enjoying the cuisine and the company of other delegates attending. These dinners are not usually a fast-and-furious, in-and-out affair.
David E. Rome, CMP, DMCP, director of sales
BBC Destination Management, New Orleans
We find that we need sparkling or bottled water at dinner service for international reservations or private events; they strongly dislike tap water. We have had Brazilian clients that want to eat dinner at 9 p.m. in the U.S. Also, I’ve learned when meeting Japanese clients, a small gift of food that can be shared with their office back home is customary. We normally offer a box of pralines as a gift to Asian clients—and not only at first meetings but at all subsequent meetings.
Maria Rosaria Broggi, vice president communications
Italians are strongly individual people, they hate huge impersonal spaces and conference rooms without natural light, with an echoing sound system and packed with attendees. Better to split into small spaces for educational sessions and use the auditoriums just for plenary and keynote sessions. Italians love to be involved in the experience and be part of it; they don’t stand to sit and just passively listen; the risk is that they can be distracted and play Ruzzle all the time. I won’t give any suggestions about the food, it would be a waste of time [because] Italians always think “Italians do it better.” I just can tell you, don’t try to imitate Italian food, but leave them to enjoy the experience of local tastes.
Jon Bradshaw, CEO
The Meetology Group, West Sussex, UK
National holidays—don’t organize a meeting and expect Americans to come on July Fourth! And timing—remember how jet lag can affect behavior. Late social events for a U.K. audience in the U.S. are a killer.