4 Tips for Planning a Successful International Meeting


Planning an international event can be complex, but not overwhelming if you do your homework. Whether it’s navigating cultural differences or reviewing shipping manifests, the event planner must manage unique policies, develop local partnerships and spend time understanding the local culture in order to produce a successful international meeting. Here are four tips for planning an event outside of the United States.

1. Leverage Local Contacts

The relationships established with local contacts heavily influence the success of the event. Whether it involves hiring entertainment in China or retaining local security anywhere in the world, your local contact can help you navigate language and cultural gaps where even the simplest request can be misconstrued. Mutually beneficial partnerships enable a smoother planning process and a better understanding of the local business climate. Your contacts are invaluable in understanding important cultural nuances.

2. Give Your Written Word

Understanding nonverbal cues and local idioms is important to reaching consensus while arranging your event.  In many cases, the same words can hold different meanings in another culture.  Does “OK” mean “I heard you” or does it actually mean “I agree?” To ensure your event runs smoothly, miscommunication must be avoided. Don’t just verbally agree on a negotiating point. Instead, put it in writing. Add pictures and detailed photo diagrams for even more clarity.

3. Do Your Homework

Research, research, research.  Do your homework to identify local practices and procedures that might affect your event. Differing customs such as the standard workweek and standard work hours can impact your meeting. For example, while the typical U.S. workweek is Monday through Friday, Middle Eastern countries often work Sunday through Thursday.  Public holidays are frequent in places such as Colombia and India, which lead the way with 18 public holidays per year. Also, keep religious and cultural holidays top of mind; they can impact what is open and available for your attendees.

4. Plan for Surprises

Be prepared for the unexpected. Be flexible and come ready to deal with whatever curveball comes your way. There will always be last-minute changes and surprises when dealing with the logistics of an international event, so don’t let it overwhelm or unnecessarily distract you. When your hard work comes together in a successful event, you will find it both personally and professionally fulfilling, as well as delivering positive outcomes for your organization and attendees.

Cynthia Cortis is a director in Event Services at SmithBucklin. You can reach Cynthia at ccortis@smithbucklin.com.