International Meetings

By Lain Ehmann

With the increasing globalization of companies and the offshoring of activities, it’s only a matter of time before you’re asked to plan a meeting overseas. But going international isn’t just the same process in a different country. When planning an overseas meeting there are all sorts of new variables to consider, says Joanne H. Joham, CMP, of J. Joham Associates, LLC in Summit, NJ. Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your first international get-together.

1. Find a local representative. “Find trusted sources to work with in every country you’re going to,” says Joham. Rely on a destination management company (DMC) or professional congress organizer (PCO) to help you out.

2. Know the customs process. If you plan to ship gifts, written materials or other items into the country, customs can end up being your worst enemy. “You need someone who knows all the rules and regulations of the country,” says Joham. It may actually be cheaper and easier to purchase or print what you need locally, she adds. “And you can’t know that unless you know the inner workings of the system.”

3. Learn about taxes. As visitors you might be eligible for certain tax rebates from the host country. Whatever the requirements are, you need to know in advance so you know how to document your expenses in the appropriate fashion.

4. Leverage your buying power. Local partners also can be helpful in getting you the most for your money, says Joham. You might be able to take advantage of their relationships and volume agreements, thereby getting better prices than you could negotiate on your own.

5. Don’t forget the paperwork. Give attendees as much notice as possible so they can obtain the proper passports and visas. As the planner you are responsible for giving them accurate, timely information on what they need and how to get it.

6. Drum up excitement. “Pregifts can support the program in many ways,” says Joham. Not only can items such as guidebooks or local delicacies help build excitement and momentum, they’re also a way of introducing attendees to the local culture.

7. Think safety. Going to any new city can make people nervous, but not speaking the language can increase the fear factor tenfold. Help allay anxiety by preparing visitors for what to expect. “Being knowledgeable about the city is the most important thing,” Joham stresses. Visit the U.S. State Department’s Website (www.state.gov) for the latest on advisories and safety issues. Also, prepare and distribute a short list of contacts within the host country for attendees so they know where to turn if help is needed.

For more information, please click on www.meetingnews.com or contact Joanne Joham at jjoham@comcast.net.