The Education of An International Meeting Planner
So, after conquering the domestic market for conferences, you want to make your mark and morph into an international meeting planner. That is going to require continuing education, in everything from translation and linguistics to the international exchange rate.
And then you need to negotiate with suppliers from different countries and cultures in order to secure the best deal for your company and your attendees. Sounds tough, but it can be a fun and rewarding adventure, once you figure out exactly what you need to do.
Do Plenty of Research
When you plan a large gathering of professionals overseas, you are going to need to cover a lot of details that domestic conferences do not demand of you. You will want to make certain that the venue meets your expectations and the expectations of your attendees. Many times, that entails an early visit to the site. You need to make considerations for helping guests obtain the proper visas, providing translators and exchanging currencies.
This is an older article from Business Insider and it focuses on meetings in China, but the practical advice holds for negotiating and conducting business in an unfamiliar culture.
Site Inspections Across the Globe
To make sure that a location or venue is appropriate, you may need to make a site visit prior to the meeting. While an extra international trip sounds exciting, know that you need to be evaluating every aspect of the airport, hotel and meeting space from the point of view of anywhere from 50 to 1,000 attendees. The state of the airport, the efficiency of the customs agents and the transportation all need to be considered when you step off the plane. From there, you want to make sure that the hotel has a high standard of accommodations, including secure WiFi and the best, cleanest rooms possible.
Then you get to the meeting space. Will it accommodate the size of your group? What about the technological possibilities? If you are planning a medical conference, there may be a need to obtain proper audio-visual equipment that can handle detailed presentations. Those slides of pharmaceutical studies and medical advancements will not show themselves.
Visas For Your Guests
It may make sense to work with local ministries or authorities in order to facilitate proper visas for attendees. When it comes to science and medical-based conferences, many countries would be intensely interested in having high-end knowledge seekers and teachers in their midst. And providing a list of reputable currency exchange providers in your chosen city would be extremely helpful to guests.
Translators For Hire
Should you provide translators? That depends on the size and makeup of the group. While English may be a standard language, especially in highly technical fields like medicine, it never hurts to make your conference and the programming as accessible as possible. Do plenty of research to determine the cost and the potential logistics. Cosmopolitan, international cities such as London, Paris, Barcelona, Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing all will likely have thriving translation companies that provide such a service. It may be a challenge to find what is needed in small, more provincial cities across the globe.
Negotiating with Service Providers
Negotiation is going to be quite different, depending on the country and nature of the service you require. Cultural differences make for vast differences in social practices and business norms across continents. Be sure to tread very carefully when you are engaged in talks with the various suppliers that a medical conference would need. Lodging for large groups is a whole different ball game in Beijing than in Los Angeles. And the food offerings are likely to be strikingly different across the ocean from the United States.
Hotels in Singapore may be more concerned with meeting room rental fees rather than individual room revenue. Restaurants in Europe have much more restrictive tipping policies and very specific dining rules and regulations than places in America. Doing your homework well in advance of a site visit will result in a smoother negotiation, no matter the service.
Locking In Contracts
Even if you have a very experienced legal department on your side, and especially if you do not, engaging the services of an international law firm with experience in handling contracts across countries is very important. You don’t want to be stuck hotel-less in Dublin because you did not meet the room requirement when attendance turned out to be much less than expected. Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of every clause will make for a very enjoyable conference.
Even with all this extra effort, transitioning into an international meeting planner is essential in certain industries. As the world of medicine and medical conferences becomes increasingly globalized, the skills needed to pull off meetings across cultural lines will become more and more valuable.