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. But planning and preparing an overseas meeting and corporate event program will require having domestic meeting planning skills and strong grasp of how laws, languages, and cultural norms are different in other countries. To help navigate these issues, here are five "need to knows" with important guidelines to help you with the planning, structure, and production of your global meeting. Know the customs and educate your attendees.
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. 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.Know what to expect in language barriers.
When traveling to a country that speaks a different language, be prepared for any language-centric challenges that may arise. 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. Know what travel documents are needed.
When traveling, it is important to verify that your travel documents are in good order before you board the plane. A valid passport must be shown before entering any country, with many asking that the validity of the passport extend three or six months after your departure. Along with a valid passport, be advised that many countries require an appropriate visa to be granted to the passport holder before entering. Not only can the processing time and requirements differ from country to country, but each may have multiple visa types, so knowing which type of visa you should apply for is crucial. A Saudi Arabian business visa, for example, is different from a Saudi Arabian work visa. In India, your meeting may fall under an Indian business visa or an Indian conference visa. Embassy websites will have further information on the visa types, requirements, and timeframes to obtain visas. There are also third-party companies which can expedite your passport or visa process so that everybody is ready to board the plane with no difficulties upon arrival. Know how to manage the unexpected.
Throughout your meeting planning and while your event is in progress, you will likely face challenges that could easily be solved domestically but become complicated overseas. For this reason, have back-up vendors with whom you can easily communicate for every aspect of your meeting, from transportation to technical support to tour guides and more. Know when to have fun.
Most importantly, set a meeting agenda that leaves everyone enough time to relax, explore, and take in all the charm and beauty that this new country has to offer. In a global partnership, courtesy, preparedness, and appreciation are key. Keeping these front and center will give your meeting program the edge to make it a memorable success. Sarah Hines is passport and visa specialist at American Passport & Visa International (APVI), the leading provider of expedited U.S. passport and travel visa processing services to individual and corporate travelers. Registered with the US Passport Agency and over 90 embassies, for over 15 years APVI has assisted thousands of tourists and business travelers obtain their US Passport or travel visa in as little as 24 hours. For more info, visit www.apvi.com.