Global Events | CEME

Planning Events in Other Countries
Welcome to Video number 28. Please note that everything we’ve discussed in previous videos
applies to planning events outside your own country, but there are a number of very important
considerations and components you must add into your plan and practices when coordinating
any type of event outside yours. The first rule of thumb in planning international
events is: expect everything to be different that what you usually expect. If you want
your event planning experience to be completely familiar and predictable, don’t try to plan
an out-of-country event. The second rule of thumb is: Know your attendees.
If they are people who seldom travel and don’t have experience with international travel
and visiting foreign countries, then don’t force them out of their comfort zone by taking
them to an overseas destination unless there is a very compelling reason to do so.
The third rule of thumb is: International travel can be quite challenging, even for
the seasoned traveler, so make your international events all inclusive to alleviate stress and
anxiety; package the entire event from flights, to transfers, to accommodations and meals
and the event sessions themselves. Remember that within countries there can be
vast differences as well; what you might find for event services in a big city with an international
airport might be non-existent in a small one just an hour or so away. It is absolutely
essential that you do a site visit when planning event in another country’s city that you’ve
never been to so you can craft your plan to work seamlessly with what’s available, not
what you’re accustomed to. Following are the fundamental differences
between domestic and international event planning: Languages: For the sake of this discussion,
we’re assuming you are from one of the 50-plus countries in the world where English is the
official language, only because this presentation is written in English. There are about 508
million people in the world who speak English as a native language or fluently as a second
language as of 2010. About 900 million total people have the ability to communicate in
English; that means about 6.8 billion people don’t speak English at all. You will be
facing language barriers when you plan international events. Period. For example, Although English
is one of the languages spoken in these countries New Guinea residents speak 820 different languages,
there are 516 languages spoken in Nigeria and 427 in India—311 in the United States,
by the way—297 in Mexico, 275 in Australia, and somewhat surprisingly only 241 spoken
in China and 129 in Russia. We highly recommend that you have all of your agreements and contracts
professionally translated into your native language and that you and your service providers
sign both language copies. It is also wise to contract with a translator to support you
through the planning, contract negotiation and implementation of your event if English
is not the official language of the country you’re working in.
Shipping and Receiving: When you first choose an international destination, ask your destination
management company about customs brokers they have good references for or contact that country’s
customs bureau directly. With heightened security prevalent in most countries it is increasingly
difficult to pass items through customs in many, and the process is frequently very slow.
Anticipate everything you and your presenters or entertainers will need to ship to the host
country very early on and work with a customs broker to make sure you ship well enough in
advance to obtain timely release of your items. Most customs brokers will warehouse your freight
until it needs to be forwarded on to its destination. Whenever possible purchase or rent everything
you need in the host country to avoid the cost and hassles of international shipping.
Holidays: We are all used to working around the holidays our countrymen and women traditionally
celebrate; as of 2011, the U.S. government holidays—the ones most businesses close
for—number 11. China, Hong Kong and Egypt all close for 16 as a nation; India, Indonesia,
Thailand and Morocco have 15 official non-business holidays; Malaysia celebrates 14 holidays;
and Chile and Turkey round off the top 10 with 13 holidays. These are just official
government holidays. Many countries also have provincial and even local holidays that close
down business as usual, sometimes rather spontaneously. It’s critical that you, as an event planner,
make sure you have blocked out every possible holiday on you master calendar. Furthermore,
some countries have official vacation seasons you need to consider; for example, Western
Europe practically shuts down in August because it’s arguably the best weather month on
average and the one that’s preferred by the masses for holiday breaks.
Paperwork and Safety Considerations: Not only do you need to make sure you’ve obtained
all the necessary shots and certifications thereof, passport, tickets, insurance and
filed you itinerary with friends and the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, you need
to make sure your attendees know about and prepare fully as well. Regardless of what
country is your native one, some countries are notoriously difficult to travel into (as
of 2011), these include: Russia, China, India, North Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo,
Saudi Arabia, Angola, Cuba, Brazil and Iran. For these and most other countries, we recommend
you work closely with a destination management company to navigate the red tape; also contact
the U.S. Department of State, or State Department, if you have any concerns about access to or
safety of travelling in certain destination countries.
Money Exchange Rates: There are about 182 official currencies worldwide; these are currencies
that can be exchanged with each other based on economy driven exchange rates. It is vital
to your event budget that you first confirm that everyone in your destination city trades
with an exchangeable currency. Once confirmed, research the economy of that country to determine
how the exchange rate will affect your bottom line, and what impact pending events in the
both nations might have on your budget. Use one of the online exchange rate calculators
weekly to track variations prior to your event.; if there are extreme variances you may want
to reconsider your destination. Business Day Schedule Differences: Many countries
in the world do not have regular 9-5 business work days. For example, although the Spanish
government has tried somewhat successfully to standardize Spain’s work schedule to
the rest of Europe, most Spaniards still work from about 9am to 2pm, take a few hours off
and go back to work until 6, 7, 8 or even 9 at night. Some Scandinavian countries have
6-hour workday options. Know before you go, so you can fit your productivity schedule
into the host country’s. Cultural Customs: The world over, there are
cultural variations that visitors need to be aware and respectful of. In some countries,
it is critical that visitors practice these customs; make sure you’ve done due diligence
in determining what customs you and your attendees need to incorporate. Business International
recommend following these ten practices whenever conduction business in other countries:
1. Learn something about the country, local customs, and cultural sensitivities to avoid
making faux pas while abroad. 2. Err on the side of formality. Be low-key
in dress, manners, and behavior. 3. Don’t rush greetings and introductions
in an effort to get down to business quickly. 4. Expect your meetings and negotiations to
be longer than anticipated. Build more time into schedules.
5. Don’t show impatience or irritation. Politeness and respect matter.
6. Express yourself carefully. Accents, idioms, and business jargon may be unfamiliar.
7. Listen attentively to show that you care about what is being said.
8. Indicate a sincere interest in your colleagues, their concerns and issues, to build win-win
solutions. 9. Don’t put global colleagues on the spot
or cause loss of face by being too direct or expecting a “yes” or “no” answer.
10. Avoid public criticism or comparison with your own country.
11. Familiarize yourself with customs surrounding gift-giving and business entertaining.
12. Build relationships and trust, which is the key to successful global partnerships. Religious Considerations: It is estimated
by theologians that there are about 4,200 religions in the world that are being practiced
at any given time. When holding events in other countries, you need to know what religions
are prevalent at your destination and how religious customs and observances might influence
the actions of your attendees and the activities at your event. If you do not have a destination
management consultant to advise you about local religion, you should research the country’s
religions and be mindful of their customs. Food Preferences: Often an extension of religious
beliefs, some cultures have forbidden foods lists or, conversely commonly serve foods
that other cultures are unaccustomed to, even repulsed by. In some cultures, all foods may
be permitted, but how they are dispatched and prepared require special practices. Know
your attendees and the food customs of your host nation when planning your menus and contract
only to those choices that will satisfy your guests as well as the region’s practices.
Time Zone Changes: You’ll become accustomed to working from zone to zone quite early in
the planning stages of your international event; you may even have to change you work
schedule entirely for days at a time while organizing an overseas function. The internet
and fax technologies have made international communication much easier than it used to
be, and if you have plenty of time you can just work knowing that all communication will
have a one or two-day lag time. It’s very important that you give yourself and your
attendees ample time to adjust to the time zone before your event pre-work and their
event attendance starts. There are a number of online calculators that can help you determine
how many hours of light, dark and rest each attendee needs base on the number of times
zones they cross and how many hours it takes them; everyone who will participate should
use them and follow their recommendations. Using Destination Management Companies: The
International Society of meeting Planners defines Destination Management Companies as:
“locally based, for-profit tourism business whose function is to provide groups – and
individuals – with services to meet their travel, meeting, and entertainment interests
and needs at a specific time and place. The DMC can offer as little as group transportation
– and as much as complete responsibility for all activities of a 100,000 person convention
in a specific city.” DMCs are a vital and highly recommended resource for international
meeting planners, even if you are familiar with the host nation; they are your staff
on the ground when you can’t be. Room Configurations: From function rooms to
accommodations, different country’s have different styles. In many countries hotel
rooms only come with one or two twin beds, for example. Make sure your venue and all
of the related facilities on and off-site have all of the accoutrements and features
you need; kitchens for example are very different the world over–don’t assume that just because
your conference space has a kitchen that it can accommodate the capacity your caterer
requires; have them verify that it can. Your attendees won’t mind unfamiliar room configurations
if they are prepared, so communicate anything you think might be a surprise to them before
they arrive. Amenities: When you publicize accommodation
amenities like pool, spa and health club. Make sure these terms mean the same in both
countries. Asian spas, for example, may actually feature dietary practices and massage styles
that are very unfamiliar to your attendees. Pool might refer to a pond, and a health club
might be communal mineral baths. Again, your attendees will probably welcome these differences
if they expect them. So, these are the basics. You’ll uncover
dozens of other considerations as you work with your destination and venue point people.
The key to your success in planning international events is the word “international.” If
you want your event to seem like a meeting at a Ohio turnpike Holiday Inn, then hold
it at the Ohio Turnpike Holiday Inn. When in Rome…plan and host events that make your
attendees feel like they’re in Rome, because they are; they’ll enjoy it That’s the

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