In our global world, international meetings have become a necessity for businesses of all sizes. Skype, Zoom, FaceTime and other mobile technologies make it easier than ever to meet virtually with clients or colleagues from around the world between in-person meetings—virtual meetings are less expensive and more convenient than boarding an international flight.
That doesn’t mean international meetings should be unorganized or impersonal. Even with a screen and a thousand miles between the two of you, efficient meeting etiquette stands. And in some cases, being available at one in the morning is necessary.
Keep these five pointers in mind when interacting with an overseas company to maximize the success of your meeting and strengthen the business relationship.
Write a Thorough Plan
Meetings have gotten a bad rep in the past few years as being costly and wasteful of time. To reduce the chances of this happening with your international meeting—which was likely already time consuming to plan and schedule—write a plan. This helps to ensure that the discussion is focused, organized, constructive and purposeful.
This framework should include all the topics you need to cover in the meeting, how they should be addressed and what the benefits are to everyone concerned. Share this with the other meeting parties when completed. Understanding the basic direction and content of a meeting before it starts shows the overseas counterparts that you’re efficient and reliable, while giving them a chance to prepare resources and questions.
Make Yourself Available
It’s critical that you respect differences in time and be available whenever possible. This shows that you respect the meeting participants and helps both parties stay connected despite distance.
“There’s nothing that disconnects us more, whether you’re down the street or across the globe, than being inaccessible. [In our business model], we both practice and preach this,” says Ted Rollins, global entrepreneur, Co-Chairman and Founding Principal of Valeo Groupe.
Rollins continues, “We routinely get up in the middle of the night to accommodate our various teams’ schedules. We put them first and work within their time zones when possible.” Keep this in mind, for especially sensitive topics and situations.
Adapt Your Perspectives
When engaging with people of another nationality, remain aware and sensitive to the cultural nuances that differ from yours. This is both respectful and valuable—in order for everyone to be on the same page, you have to communicate effectively and in a way that they understand:
“Examine the value of connecting with attendees where they’re most comfortable and consider what languages will be spoken at your meeting. We find that meeting planners in Canada, for instance, will often publish two versions of their guide – one in English and one in French, ensuring everyone is on the same page regardless of ‘hello’ or ‘bonjour,’” says Jordan Mcarthur of Guidebook.
Use Visuals When Possible
Present visual cues to illustrate and emphasize the main takeaway points of the discussion. Arranging data on graphs and charts, or creating PowerPoint slides to paraphrase information can help non-English speakers stay on track if concepts get lost in translation.
The additional effort of preparing visual media also indicates that you are thorough, meticulous and conscientious in your approach to conducting business.
Send a Follow-Up Email
Send a written follow-up the next morning—based on their time zone—to express gratitude for their willingness to meet. Include a brief outline of the major talking points discussed, so they have material to refer back on if needed, and extend the opportunity for them to send additional feedback or ideas.
Business relationships are collaborative, whether they’re based in another office or another country, so encourage free-flowing dialogue, even after the meeting has wrapped.
This growing trend of remote meetings has become a permanent fixture in the realm of international business. Use these guidelines to ensure your company is available, thorough, and respectful, despite the virtual connection and distance.
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time writer and small business consultant. Her work has been featured on Forbes and Business Insider and she’s written for Manta, Infusionsoft, Business.com and more. Connect with her via LinkedIn.