12 Tips for Facilitating International Virtual Meetings

International MeetingWhen planning an international meeting, conference or retreat such as the one pictured here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at some point it will be necessary to hold virtual meetings. My company has planned and facilitated team building retreats and planned corporate events in 13 (soon to be 14 countries). With clients from 16 countries, virtual international meetings are something we do on a regular basis. These tips are based on my experience.

  1. When discussing logistics, don't assume, ask.
    Rather than imposing an approach with which you have been comfortable, first find out more about how the venue or DMCs usually operate. They may have some excellent ideas and you will get better results tweaking what they are doing rather than insisting on a totally new approach.
  2. Select a platform that is available to all countries and which will work smoothly from a technical point of view.
    I won't discuss platforms today but just be aware of the fact that some platforms work better in some countries than in others. The right platform will reduce technical challenges.
  3. Don't wing it. Have an agenda.
    Particularly if you are working with event partners outside North America, meetings may be much more formal and a casual approach could come across as unprofessional.
  4. Invite input for the agenda and send it and accompanying written document out  ell in advance of the virtual meeting.
  5. Use simple uncomplicated language in all written communication, and go to "voice" if necessary to clarify.
  6. Don't be too pushy. 
    Set mutually agreed upon deadlines based on input from your overseas contact about what is realistic.
  7. Always send a summary and keep it simple.
    In North America, many organizations have gotten away from minutes but in other parts of the world, they are still standard. At the very least summarize next steps and who it to do what.
  8. Pick a time slot.
    Usually there is an overlap towards the beginning or end of the work day.
  9. Book 33% more time than you think you'll need.
    With the possibility of technical glitches and to give all participants an opportunity to get used to accents and clarify anything that isn't clear, international virtual meetings can't be rushed.
  10. Take the time to clarify, confirm and summarize throughout the virtual meeting.
  11. Take advantage of trade shows like IMEX and EIBTM to meet your suppliers face-to-face.
    This will go a long way towards improving the quality of future virtual meetings.
  12. Don't be afraid to use some light humor. 
    It does break down barriers even across cultures.

For more tips, also read Hybrid Meetings: 10 Tips from the Fresh Conference For Integrating Technology on Cvent Event Blog and 11 Tips for Teamwork with Destination Management Companies (DMCs).

Photo Credit: International Meeting Planning, Executive Oasis International

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