Worst Mistakes You Can Make During an Overseas Business Meeting

If you are traveling to a country for the first time and if the meeting that will take place there is essential for the plans on expanding your business, you better prepare for it thoroughly. With the advancement of technology, a lot of the meetings can be done via video conferences but for the collaboration to be kickstarted without misunderstandings, it is best to have the first meeting face-to-face.

Once the terms are agreed upon and you had a chance to learn more about the company and the people you are meeting with then you can organize brainstorming, feedback, and other sessions remotely. To help you nail that first meeting and impress your future partners, here are some things you should avoid like the plague.

Arriving late

You may be visiting that country and city for the first time but that doesn’t give you the reason for being late for a meeting. If you want to show that you are a professional and to create the conditions for a successful collaboration, you need to research in advance how to get to the meeting’s location.

Naturally, you would first need to inquire about the location of your hotel and the company’s headquarters, after which you can assess whether to take a taxi or rent a car. The hosts can often provide you with transportation but if they don’t, you need to know your own way to the destination. Although in some parts of the world, such as Latin America, punctuality isn’t that important, unless your hosts emphasize differently, it is always better to come on time than to arrive late and risk offending everyone.

Coming unprepared

Regardless of your overseas partners’ nationality, coming to a meeting unprepared will make everyone universally upset. Your interlocutors have probably prepared extensively because they wish for the collaboration to work and because they respect you so it is only natural for them to expect the same in return.

Some of the things you can do to ensure the meeting is a success is to check which equipment you will have at your disposal to make the most of it. If you need to prepare handouts, you can either print them at home or come to the meeting early and have them printed in the offices, and, of course, always have extra copies, just in case. Also, it is best to rehearse the presentation at home, just to hear your associates’ opinion on whether something could be improved.

Ignoring local business etiquette

Some mistakes, such as a smile in a meeting with prospective Russian partners which is considered a sign of insecurity, can be written off as less important. However, standing too close to your Indian partner or initiating a handshake to a woman in Saudi Arabia can stir up some feelings of uneasiness and it can even be considered as rude.

Also, for instance, if you are visiting China or any other country, you need to be aware of any political or social happenings that are currently underway in China or Asia. Many non-Asian entrepreneurs choose to get informed via Week in China, a reliable news platform, to know exactly which topics to mention and which to avoid. National news platforms can offer significant insights into the state of the country with whose companies you are collaborating so you can both avoid offending them and boost your chances of reaching a favorable agreement.

Being inadequately dressed

While for you, ‘inadequately dressed’ would mean coming to a meeting in flip-flops and a hoodie, in Malaysia, wearing yellow, the color reserved for the royal country, would be considered more inappropriate. The laid-back, flip-flops style may still be welcome in a relaxed atmosphere of a Californian IT company. It all boils down to researching not only the country but the dress code of the company you are meeting with.

In general, you cannot make a big mistake if you show up in a suit, wearing elegant yet practical shoes, with groomed hair, and tidy hands. As for other details, you will need to consult the internet, books or people who visited that country to learn, for instance, whether wearing a lot of make-up is considered a plus (Mexico) or not (Chile).

Not being attentive

This piece of advice goes beyond any culture, religion, and nationality: you need to listen to your interlocutor. You may be nervous and rehearsing the presentation in your head but you need to at least appear as if you were listening or otherwise you will seem disinterested and disrespectful.

If the meeting is important to you, stop fiddling around, and assign each member of your team to do something – one person should take notes, the other consider how the said fits into your plans so that you can practice internally while appearing to listen to the speaker. Or better yet, actually listen to them and worry about other things later.

Final thoughts

If you are on the onset of a collaboration that could be successful and lucrative for both parties, don’t let unintentionally offensive words and deeds ruin that opportunity. Always prepare for the meetings and learn more about the culture you will be interacting with. If you show respect, you can expect the same in return and respect is the key to a flourishing business relationship.

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