How to prepare for business meetings abroad

A business trip to a foreign country can be an exceedingly rewarding experience. You get the opportunity to soak up another culture as well and visit and see places you might not have otherwise have had the opportunity to in your personal life.

Preparation is the key to a successful business trip and if you’re going abroad there’s a lot more to consider besides.

As anyone who’s ever travelled will know, people in other parts of the world do things very differently to they way you might do them in your home country. For example have you ever tried to visit a shop in a French village in the middle of the day? Or, have you ever seen people’s reaction in Japan should you blow your nose in public?

These customs extend into business too, giving you an extra aspect of your trip that you need to be prepared for.

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Plan your itinerary carefully

What do you and your company wish to accomplish by the end of this trip? Knowing your goals and tailoring your trip towards them should be your ultimate priority.

Confirm any meetings you would like well in advance and don’t try to cram too much into each day.

Factor in transportation between meetings and consider any delays that could occur.

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Be culturally informed

Knowing the history, everyday culture and customs of a country is important, but a knowledge of work related customs is imperative.

The importance of punctuality with respect to meetings, acceptable negotiating styles, where to sit in a business meeting and how to refer to people are all vital pieces of information if you hope to successfully achieve your goals.

Some countries like small talk before launching into business, some cultures frown upon talking abut business over dinner, some cultures insist on it. Even as something as seemingly innocuous as slipping a person’s business card into your back pocket after receiving it can be seen as a major insult in some countries.

Learn the language. Not fluently of curse, but be serious in your attempts to learn at least greetings. Having English as your native tongue can often be a curse as it is often expected that everybody else should speak it too. Making a small effort can go a long way.

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Take precautions

If you are travelling alone there are a number of things that you must consider for safety’s sake.

Always make sure a copy of your itinerary is given to family, a friend, a colleague or all three so people know where you are supposed to be at any given time. If you are staying in corporate housing which has a local telephone number, ensure people are aware of it.

It’s also a good idea to take copies of your important documents such as passports and driving licenses and leave them with a family member. Ensure that your work colleagues know who to contact in an emergency.

Take travel advisories seriously. If your government advises against travel due to terrorism, natural disasters, wars or disease outbreaks then reconsider your plans. Know the geography of the country you are visiting so you can make an informed decision if a problem only affects a certain region.

Always take out appropriate travel insurance whenever you travel abroad.

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Stay connected

Have a think about just how much you rely on electronic equipment. Mobile phones, lap tops, tablets, headphones are all vital pieces of equipment that most of us use every day. Especially on a business trip.

Are you carrying the right chargers and adaptors for them? There’s nothing more frustrating than remembering your mobile phone charger only to realise that it won’t plug into the wall of the country you are visiting.

Another thing is mobile connection plans. Does your provider allow you to make international calls? Do you need to put another plan in place whilst you are away? Would it be more economical to use a local SIM card?

If you are going to be available by Skype, FaceTime or some other VOIP provider does everyone know this who needs to?

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Get some decent accommodation

Sleep and relaxation are an important part of travelling. One of the top tips of business travel is to look out for corporate housing in the form of extended stay apartments. Often these are apartments which aren’t available to the general public.

These are vital for extended stays. You have more space, it feels more like home and you will feel much more comfortable than you would in a hotel room. A spacious bathroom, a sofa to relax on and a fully equipped kitchen goes a long way to putting you in the right frame of mind for that important meeting.

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