Planning international meetings can bring a number of challenges that organisers may not have previously encountered, from cultural differences to language barriers and a scaling budget. But with the wealth of technology now available to meeting professionals, including mobile apps, organising meetings abroad is becoming easier. Here are 6 essential tips to remember.
1. Be bilingual
Cultural sensitivity when planning international meetings is key. Examine the value of connecting with attendees where they’re most comfortable and consider what languages will be spoken at the meeting. Meeting planners in Canada, for instance, will often publish two versions of their guide – one in English and one in French, ensuring everyone is on the same page regardless of “hello” or “bonjour.”
Meeting organisers should ensure that an app can sense what language a device is set to and automatically adjusts the user interface to reflect that language.
2. Mix with the locals
If a meeting organiser wants the inside scoop, it’s always best to collaborate with a native. In addition to helping them avoid potential place-related pitfalls, a local will also be able to make suggestions that will enrich attendees’ overall experience. Keep in mind that for many of the travellers attending a meeting in a city or country will be interested in insider tips, tourist attractions and restaurants in addition to the standard meeting information. Including rich material in a mobile guide can only increase its overall value.
Collaborative tools work best when planning international meetings long-distance. Being able to give administrative access to other members of a team – no matter their location – enables them to view and edit a meeting app, making joining forces a super-simple task!
3. Travel guidance at the touch of a button
Organisers may not be able to control flight delays or grumpy customs agents, but they can use a mobile app to give attendees the tools they need to make a successful (and safe) trip. Think about including a travel checklist, information about local laws and customs, or even where to find a supermarket. Meeting organisers may be a pro at planning international meetings, but many attendees will see such a trip as major travel. They will be thankful for putting their minds at ease and feel welcome in a new place.
An app’s push notification feature can even be used to warn of any unexpected local travel conditions that might arise. With a mobile meeting app, organisers have created a built-in network that makes messaging a snap.
4. Go green and save pounds
When planning international meetings, sustainability is on the minds of many – especially as European waste laws continue to tighten. Mobile apps support an ever-growing green meetings initiative – but they also offset the costs of hosting a meeting in a far-away place.
We all know that meeting apps are saving us thousands of pounds in printing and shipping, so now let’s take that money and focus on uniting professionals that might not otherwise have the chance to connect in person. Just because a meeting is scaling exponentially, it doesn’t necessarily mean the budget has to follow suit.
5. Get attendees on board now
Attendees are already used to the convenience of accessing their mobile meeting guide, so when they’re traveling abroad they’ll want to know – will my guide work across the pond? In short, of course it will! The key is proactivity on the part of the organiser.
Encouraging early app adoption is a best practice for any meeting, but it will become absolutely crucial when going global. Make app adoption into a communication strategy early on so that attendees aren’t stressing over it later.
Take some time to allay attendees’ fears that using the mobile app will cost them in data charges. When overseas, roaming can attract expensive charges from your mobile network but as long as the venue is equipped with WiFi, a device in airplane mode with the wireless turned on will still continue to receive app updates and push notifications as the organiser sends them.
And rest assured that apps will be available regardless of the user’s app store country – just check with your app provider. Whether it’s Iceland or Italy, a meeting app will be discoverable and downloadable with a simple search and tap.
6. Become a master of international meetings
There are bound to be some surprises in the planning stages for an international meeting but meeting professionals are used to dealing with the unexpected. What is important is that they take time after each meeting for some self-evaluation and look at what lessons can be learnt ahead of organising the next one. And they should always aim to get feedback from attendees.
We all know the thought of planning a meeting in a different country can be overwhelming but it continues to be a task that more and more planners are taking on. Utilising mobile technology before, during and post an international meeting however, can help to relieve the pressure and improve the overall process both for the organiser and the attendees.
Wayne Morris, GM EMEA, Guidebook