International Event Planning: 10 Tips for Clarifying and Managing Expectations

When event and meeting planners manage meetings and events on home turf, there is usually a shared set of expectations. When venturing to foreign shores, venues and clients may have a different set of norms, expectations and standard business procedures. It's an excellent opportunity to pick up new ideas and learn from best practices around the globe, however, it is extremely important to

  • engage in a dialog to ensure that all parties are clear
  • communicate clearly with clients and manage expectations

When dealing with hotels and clients in other countries, here are some of the areas in which expectations may be different:

  1. Confirmation of Room Availability: In North America, a detailed email usually confirms room availability, dates, pricing, and payment terms. In some other countries, it may be standard to just send a short email confirming room availability and have the event planner provide the details.
  2. Handling of Credit Card Information: In North America, it is not usual for venues to fill in the authorization with full details, pricing and due date and leave it for the guest or client to sign it and add credit card information. In some countries, this may be illegal; the guest will need to fill in the authorization form in writing. 
  3. Booking Hotels and Transportation: In the Province of Ontario in Canada, for example, only registered TICO travel agents are permitted to book hotels, resorts, and transportation for clients. Event planners are permitted to obtain quotes for clients but bookings can only be made by the client or TICO registered travel agents.
  4. Submitting Credit Card Information: In Ontario, only registered TICO travel agents may collect credit card numbers and pass them on to hotels and transportation companies. In other parts of the world, event planners regularly submit this type of information on behalf of clients.
  5. Confirmation of Reservations: In some countries, for corporate groups, confirmations are sent out after all payments (deposit and final) have been made. In other countries, the confirmation is sent when the deposit is received.
  6. Check-in Procedures: Some destinations use group check-in but there are other destinations at which all guests, including groups, must check in at the front desk.
  7. Dress Codes: While business casual is acceptable for many offsite meetings in North America, there are many parts of the world in which clients will expect formal business attire (e.g. Europe, Asia, Caribbean).
  8. Formality of Presentations and Speeches: During a recent trip to Jamaica for the funeral of a family member, I was reminded that, in the Caribbean and the UK, protocol for speeches, especially the opening, is much more formal than in North America.

    Compare the introduction for speeches delivered by 2 members of the British Royal Family:

HRH Prince Henry of Wales in Jamaica

His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge in Canada

  1. Snacks: In North America, a continental breakfast is a standard part of the meeting package. Snacks usually consist of baked goods and cold items. In Southeast Asia, hot snacks with meat and vegetable items are expected at all breaks and the breakfast that comes with the meeting package.
  2. Lunches: The working lunch is a North American phenomenon. In other parts of the world a lunch break is just that, a full break for lunch. While in North America, sandwiches are considered to be fine for business lunches, hot items and buffets are the order of the day in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. 

Taking the time to clarify expectations can greatly reduce misunderstandings. Don't assume, ask:

  • What is your usual process for_______?
  • What format/template do you usually use for (then state the name of the document)?
  • How much time do you realistically need to prepare the _________ document?

If necessary, discuss how standard processes can be adapted to meet the needs of the client.

Photo Credit: congresinbeeld

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