The Education of an International Meeting Planner

March 16, 2023

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.

After that, you’ll 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’ll need to cover a lot of details that domestic conferences do not demand of you. You’ll also 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. It also helps to get a handle on some of the not-so-well-known things that might be useful for travelers to know about the country hosting the event. For instance:

  • Chewing gum is almost entirely banned in Singapore.
  • No selfies are allowed in front of Buddha statues in Sri Lanka.
  • High heels are banned in many places in Greece to prevent damage to ancient sites.
  • It’s illegal to walk along the Autobahn in Germany.
  • In Scandinavian countries, you are expected to drive with headlights on at all times.

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 Wi-Fi and clean, comfortable rooms.

Then, you’ll need to examine 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 AV equipment that can handle detailed presentations.

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. Providing a list of reputable currency exchange providers in your chosen city would be extremely helpful to guests as well.

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 your research to determine the cost and potential logistics. Cosmopolitan, international cities such as London, Paris, Barcelona, Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing will all 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 varying norms in social practices and business customs 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. The food offerings are likely to be strikingly different across the ocean from the United States as well.

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. Also, be aware that services, such as spa treatments and excursions, may cost considerably less in some countries, so you’ll want to bring this to the attention of event attendees so that they can take full advantage of what’s available. 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, 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.

You also want to be aware of the differences in contracts depending on the country of your event. For example, many countries in Europe and Asia include breakfast in the hotel room rate, but in other countries this may not be the case. Addressing the details 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.

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