Over the past few years there was a big growth in the number of international meetings. Unfortunately, many of the meetings fail to accomplish their objectives.
The purposes of these meetings are varied, ranging from exchanging information to rewarding performance and creating opportunities for professional development. Often the meetings are staged to introduce new products and make a sales pitch to top customers.
International meetings can be costly to stage, especially if they are poorly organized and fail to achieve the desired results. To have any chance of success, the foremost issue to consider is the purpose of the meeting. Only when that has been clearly articulated can organizers begin to plan the meeting and determine whether it has been a success.
At international meetings with participants from many different cultures there are some unique issues. For example, the timing of meals and the selection of the menu, the listing of names and titles, the use and language of business cards, the necessity of interpreters or translators and getting materials through customs are all factors that must be taken into account by the organizers. It’s especially important to allow participants who travel long distances sufficient time to rest, physically and mentally, before the meeting begins.
A mini-checklist for any international meeting should begin with efforts to identify the nationalities of potential participants and make provisions that cater to their specific cultural needs. Warnings to avoid national stereotypes, condescending attitudes and above all jokes, which are easily misunderstood, are a good suggestion.
There has been a great deal of research into the art of negotiation, and, in particular, into what makes a ‘good’ negotiator. One point most researchers seem to agree on is that good negotiators try to create a harmonious atmosphere at the start of a negotiation. They make an effort to establish a good rapport with their opposite number, so that there will be a willingness – on both sides – to make concessions, if this should prove necessary.
Good negotiators generally wish to reach an agreement which meets the interests of both sides. They therefore tend to take a long-term view, ensuring that the agreement will improve, or at least not harm, their relationship with the other party. On the other hand, a poor negotiator tends to look for immediate gains, forgetting that the real benefits of a deal may come much later.
Skilful negotiators are flexible. They do not “lock themselves” into a position so that they will lose face if they have, to compromise. They have a range of objectives, thus allowing themselves to make concessions. Poor negotiators have limited objectives and may not even work out a “fall-back” position.
Successful negotiators do not want a negotiation to break down. If problems arise, they suggest ways of resolving them. The best negotiators are persuasive, articulate people, who select a few key arguments and repeat them. This suggests that tenacity Is an important quality. Finally, it is essential to be a good listener and-to check frequently that everything has been understood by both parties.