As the business world continues to grow, with multi-national companies opening offices in diverse countries, meetings and industry conferences will require more international travel than ever. But crossing international boundaries can cause concern for some delegates. Will there be a language barrier? How will attendees know where to go? According to a recent white paper, The World of Female Business Travel, 54 percent of respondents stated that they were concerned about cultural etiquette and customs when visiting a different country for business.
How can meeting and conference organizers put business travelers’ minds at ease when attending international conferences?
Do Your Research
Being sensitive to all cultures is vital. Organizers will need to complete in-depth research about attendees to ensure that their different needs are anticipated as much as possible. Some of the more obvious needs, such as providing signage in different languages and ensuring that language barriers are not an issue, are a given. But what else should you research to improve the experience of international business travelers attending your event?
Dietary requirements are one place to focus your attention. Depending on where in the world your attendees are travelling from, many factors may need to be taken into consideration when planning the food that will be on offer. Some religions prohibit the consumption of meats, while others require meat that is slaughtered in a certain way.
For this reason, it is always best to have plenty of selection, including lots of vegetarian and vegan options. This can be a safer route to take than trying to accommodate various preparation requirements. Beverage preferences are also worth researching and preparing for, as again, different nationalities like to have a variety of choices available. For example, some cultures prefer tea over coffee (or vice versa). Depending on the nature of the event you may be planning on serving alcohol. Some cultures do not partake in drinking alcoholic beverages, so it’s always best to have several non-alcoholic options available.
Another area that is vital to research is what business travel looks like for each country. Provide details to attendees, taking their journey into consideration whether it’s by air, car or rail. Simple tips on which transportation hubs are most convenient, including an idea of costs and times are all fantastic ways to help business travelers prepare for the journey.
Personalize the Experience
Once you have carried out the above research, you will be in a much better position to offer personalization to attendees. This allows delegates to feel that their individual needs have been anticipated and accommodated. It helps them feel prepared for the event and gives them an idea of what they can expect. This is perhaps even more important for attendees who will be travelling internationally.
Providing business travelers with a personalized itinerary ahead of the event will help them decide which talks, events or meetings are relevant to them and allow them to plan their time at the event. It’s also a good idea to provide directions to all venues to attendees in their native language so that they do not struggle to find where they need to be when they do arrive in the destination city.
Finally, providing business travelers with cultural information, including etiquette and customs, can be invaluable. Include a list of helpful details about the country in their welcome package. For example, professionals visiting France for a meeting might find it helpful to know that business attire is preferred over casual, a light handshake is preferred, and that it’s common for people to interrupt one another during meetings. This will help alleviate any concerns attendees might have about saying or doing the wrong thing in front of important contacts.
Melissa Hirst is marketing and public relations manager at CT Business Travel, experienced business travel management specialists.