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by Faith Moore | June 01, 2012
Takeaways

Be sure to check with the embassy or consulate of the countries you're working with to get the most up-to-date information relevant to your constituents.

Be patient with and considerate of language and syntax differences.

Schedule events around attendee customs and/or possible religious requirements.

For more advice, view M&C's free webcast, "Best Practices for International Meeting Planners."

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The following checklist, created by Faith Moore, president of FM&A Events in Boston, addresses key considerations for planners bringing international groups to the United States.

LanguageAlthough English is considered to be the international business language, arrange for translators and/or bilingual staff. They are always appreciated and often required -- even when foreign contacts claim that translators won't be needed.

When planning off-site events, keep in mind that accompanying spouses or guests of participants often are less comfortable speaking English than the meeting attendees.

As a rule of thumb, speak more slowly than you ordinarily do. Choose simple vocabulary and avoid colloquial expressions.

Remember that even English words can have very different meanings to British or Australian attendees. For example, "fanny pack" is a rude concept in those countries. Also, the first floor in Europe is the second floor in the U.S.  

Different meanings take on particular importance with respect to scheduling. Note that a "call" in U.K. vernacular is an appointment in person; to telephone someone, you "ring" them. A cell phone is a "mobile" or a "handy."

When checking registration and room lists, remember that German or Dutch last names starting with "Von" are not typically listed under V but under the last part of the name. E.g., Mr. Von Henneberg is listed under H.

CultureAccount for the fact that different cultures have very different notions of time. In recent years, some of the countries that are traditionally more relaxed about punctuality have become less so. Be sure to clarify your expectations in advance.

Remember that, in general, most international attendees are accustomed to dining later.  

Keep in mind that attitudes toward women vary; some politically incorrect behavior in the U.S. is more acceptable overseas.

Staff should dress appropriately for the audience. In Muslim cultures, extremely modest attire is expected from women, with no open-toe shoes even on the hottest days.

Schedule meeting dates and agenda items around religious holidays and prayer times. Several websites publish the daily required Muslim prayer times with respect to every U.S. time zone.

The agenda should allow for regular smoking breaks, as smoking restrictions generally are less stringent overseas. Provide ashtrays in designated smoking areas.  

Food and drink Do not serve pork or alcohol to Muslim guests. No wine may be used in cooking.

Serve coffee after the meal, and note that many international attendees are accustomed to stronger coffee or espresso.  

Adjust your alcohol consumption expectations. Consumption is generally higher among Europeans than Americans. Spaniards often drink beer in the late morning; U.K. and Scandinavian groups often consume a lot of alcohol. Avoid an open bar if possible.

MoneyEducate visitors on tipping guidelines; service might be included in their home countries.