5 Steps to Handling Multicultural Meetings
Communication, planning and cultural sensitivity are key to a successful multicultural event.
Depending on the location or the topic of your meeting, multiple cultures may be represented by attendees. To best handle expectations, language barriers and travel schedules, consider the following tips:
- Distribute information in advance. Because of language barriers, agendas, handouts and presentations should be distributed well in advance of the event so attendees can review and understand these items and reach out if questions or concerns arise.
- Don’t pack too much into a day, especially for multiday events. Some travelers may journey from far-off places and experience jet lag. Keep the event simple, and keep things low-key, at least for the first day, to give participants time to adjust and recharge before tackling major initiatives.
- Set clear expectations. This applies not only to the purpose and the goals of the event but also to the schedule. Promptness is more important to some cultures than it is to others, so adding language such as “8 a.m. sharp” or noting that tardy participants will be seated later can set the proper tone for the agenda.
- Provide a varied menu. Make sure your food and beverage items take cultural preferences and taboos into consideration. This applies to alcohol as well, as certain cultures do not readily imbibe. Offer a selection of both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages at appropriate times, and avoid references to “cocktail hour” or anything that may imply drinking is expected.
- Highlight the local culture. Whether it’s through menu items, off-site excursions or event themes, make sure to showcase your meeting destination and allow attendees a chance to explore the area.