International event planning outside your home country is highly likely to take you outside of your comfort zone. Especially when it’s your first time. While the challenge can be exciting it can also be daunting if not downright scary. Let’s face it, even the most accomplished and experienced planner can find it difficult to deal with the social, cultural and legal barriers that would simply not occur at home.
So, let’s say you are tasked with planning a small conference in a foreign country perhaps on another continent. Where do you start? Here are a few tips that you might find useful.
Here’s How to Plan International Events
1. Research the culture to set your international event up for success.
If the destination is already chosen, then a good place to start might in the library or online with some cultural research. One of my favorite resource is Kiss, Bow, and Shake Hands, the book and online resource by Terri Morrison on how to do business around the world. This renown publication details cultural etiquette and business practices from all the major business destinations and includes tips on how to win people over.
2. Collect references overseas when event planning internationally.
While gaining an understanding of a foreign culture can be fascinating and very useful for negotiations, it may not be enough when it comes to more technical aspects of event planning. When it comes to industry terms the Convention Industry Council’s APEX Industry glossary is worth referring to. This resource is currently focused on the north American industry but it is undergoing a full review and will include notes on global usage of the terms included.
APEX may also be a good reference point when it comes to contracts, however, the quality and availability of equivalent resources for other regions is inconsistent. Most regions have associations and professional bodies dedicated to planning it is always worth contacting these bodies to get recommendations on regional best practice and potential partners.
3. Find a professional local partner for event planning internationally.
This leads us nicely to what is possibly the most important recommendation, finding a professional local partner. This may be the most crucial step of all.
Local knowledge from a professional organization will easily make or break an event. The best place to start is the destination’s Convention Visitor Bureau (CVB) or Destination Marketing Organization (DMO). As non-profit organization, CVBs are normally able to offer a range of complimentary services for planners and showcase a good range of local properties and service providers. They will also be able to aid in the selection of a local Destination Management Company (DMC). A DMC is likely to offer support beyond what is customary for national events. This may also increase the costs, however, the importance of their local expertise, service level, and resourcefulness should not be underestimated.
A different way to find a professional DMC is to search on the Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI) website. If you not 100% clear on what these different organizations to, then we strongly suggest you read this excellent blog post on the topic: CVB, DMO, DMC: What’s the Difference?
4. Meet face to face when planning meetings internationally.
With many CVBs offering familiarization trips (Fam trips), these can be the ideal opportunity for planners to experience a destination for themselves, visit a selection of venues and meet potential local partners. Please note that funding and budgeting for such trips can differ in different parts of the world, so make sure this is clear before accepting.
Industry trade shows such as IMEX or IMEX America are a great opportunity to explore what destinations have to offer or even to explore destination options when not already determined. A wide range of CVBs, DMOs and DMCs from around the globe exhibit giving attendees the opportunity to meet face to face and make important business decisions. A simple search for DMCs in the exhibitor listing of the recent IMEX America 2016 returns 732 results from all over the world.
5. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help when planning international events.
A last word of advice. Ask for help, even if you don’t think you need it. Planners are almost always happy to share their experience and make recommendations in destinations they are familiar with. We would strongly advise all planners to use their professional network to get advice. This can be via email or even better using forums and social media to tap into the wisdom of many with one post. Most industry associations have their own custom forums where members can openly ask question and request recommendations, such as the MyMPI forum.
Additionally, there are groups across social media that can be used in the same way. Some of my favorites are Event Planning & Event Management – the 1st Group for Event Professionals on LinkedIn and Industry Friends and Connect Meeting Professionals both on Facebook. Do keep in mind that each group has rules which you should take time to read before posting.
Now You’re Ready to Plan International Meetings & Events!
And there it is, the simple steps and some resources to help you ace your international business events.
Up next, discover helpful floor plan apps that can ensure your event fits in any space even if it’s around the world, and see how to create a custom event planning checklist to set your event up for success.