Bon jour! Merci! Por Favor! Gracias! Salud! Prost!! Tchin Tchin!
After conducting hundreds of corporate events and conferences all over the world, I can now say hello, please, thank you, and cheers in several languages. Beyond those,
I may need a translator.
I love putting on international corporate events and conferences either events in other countries or events in my own backyard with attendees from around the world. These events mean
extra challenges and work, but I’ve never put on an international affair that ultimately wasn’t fun, exciting and a great learning opportunity.
The learning part is important. If you’re holding a corporate event in a country outside your own, here are things to know long before your event team or guests arrive.
Learn about the local area: Start reading local news early to get familiar with the environment and to be prepared for possible hiccups. (Is a train strike looming? Is a controversial election coming up?) Contact the local tourist office for information and guidance. Get to know the area before the event, in person. It’s best to do an advance site visit, but at the very least, get to the venue a few days before set-up starts so you can learn the surroundings. Don’t rely on your venue partner to direct you to critical services such as transportation, hospitals, and suppliers.
Learn about local culture: Learn about local customs and standard practices with things you may take for granted in your home country. Things such as dress code, meeting/greeting protocols, tipping, customs related to food and drink, local holidays, and differences in accommodations (have you warned your guests how small standard hotel rooms are in Japan?)
Watch for legal and financial differences: Just like at home, scrutinize all contracts with local vendors. Be aware that local contract law and legal requirements may be different in other countries. Understand local taxes, exchange rates, and currency fluctuations. Be sure you and your guests understand the country’s visa and entry requirements.
Help your guests: Clear communication to event attendees is particularly critical when an event is held in a country other than their own. Be explicit with instructions, directions to the venue, guidance on cultural practices, etc. While it’s fun to include local food and drink specialties at an international conference, not all guests like to experiment. Have some less-adventurous food and beverage choices available (especially for breakfast. On a business trip, unidentifiable food for breakfast isn’t an adventure, it’s a rocky start to the day…)
Be prepared: Will your local AV vendor speak your language literally and figuratively? Will they appreciate your requirement for flawless AV? It may help to have a translator to ensure there’s no miscommunication. Be especially thorough in your AV preparations and run-through. Equipment and power sources may differ from what you’re used to. Learn what back-up power options are in place.
The most important thing to learn about putting on an international event is this: something is going to go wrong. Probably something you don’t understand or can’t believe is happening. That’s when those words in local language come in especially handy: please, thank you, how much will it cost to get this fixed, and please refill the mini-bar.