To broaden our horizons, Meetings Today posted on The Meetings Community, or MeCo, cyber community asking for international meeting planning advice. Following are some response highlights.
Dr. Paul O. Radde, Founder, The Thrival Institute
For Dr. Paul O. Radde, a speaker and author of the meetings industry seating book Seating Matters, a very basic communication tip should be on every planner’s and attendee’s radar.
“Toll-free numbers—such as 800/888/877/866—typically don’t work outside the U.S., although some work in Canada," he said. "Contact your credit card company in advance to ensure you know how to get in touch with them when abroad."
“Also, make sure you know how to get + on your phone: Open to dial mode," he added. "Hold down the ‘0’ for two seconds, and the ‘+’ should appear.”
Sherry Parks, Owner, Corporate Planners Unlimited
A frequent source for international meetings articles, Sherry Parks stresses that even some of the most basic things can be very unfamiliar when taking a meeting outside of the U.S.
“Contracts and terms are totally different,” Parks said.
“The inclusions we expect in the States are different or not offered,” she added. “Even simple items like booking the right ground company to support tours and airport pick-ups is a detailed challenge, as many are out there to select but few actually show up and do the job.”
Parks emphasizes that planning international meetings is almost an industry unto itself, and that planners who execute a meeting overseas must take ample time to learn the cultures and laws of the destinations they are considering, along with any religious and political considerations and using the U.S. State Department as a resource for travel advisories.
“Also, learn to use hotel brands that are related to U.S. companies if possible, or at the very least well-established hotel companies that offer many hotels and not individual properties,” Parks said. “There is no recourse [when they do not provide] what they agreed to, even by contract, when they are a standalone property."
Stewart Mann, Founder and CEO, Wild Rooster Events
Teambuilding and custom events specialist Stewart Mann has developed programs for major corporations such as McDonald’s, Mercedes-Benz, Nike, Shell and Toyota, among others.
“My golden tip would be to mind the gap—the language gap—and pay extra close attention to proposals and contracts,” Mann said. “They package things quite differently over the pond and the contractual language varies greatly from country to country.”
Andrea H. Gold, President, Gold Stars Speakers Bureau
Meetings industry veteran Andrea H. Gold, who is a moderator at MeCo, can draw from years of experience booking speakers throughout the world, along with her network of MeCo colleagues.
“Remind them to check for visa requirements,” Gold said.
“I once was casually speaking to a speaker who was headed for Asia quite soon and I mentioned visas,” she added. “Turns out she needed to have one and hadn’t realized it!
“And from the planners’ perspective, I would make sure they provide a checklist or vital information for both speakers and attendees regarding travel-related requirements for their international meetings,” Gold continued. “The whole area of culture and accepted—and taboo—social customs applies here, especially if the meeting takes place in a very different culture.
“I would appreciate getting a ‘skimmable’ list of recommended and unacceptable behaviors, dress or customs from the meeting organizers,” she said. “It’s very easy to accidentally offend when ignorant of local customs, including any gender-sensitive social values.”
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