07 Sep The ABC’s of International Meeting Planning
All conference and meeting planners know that when it comes to planning an event overseas and internationally there are certain unique and tricky challenges to overcome. For starters, unless you are multi-lingual the chances are you are going to find it difficult to communicate with all of your international vendors (aka the hotels, venues and the activities team). Being able to communicate with them is absolutely crucial if you want to create an unforgettable event for your clients and their guests. As an international planner, not only will you have to bear in mind these language barriers but you should also always be aware of any time differences between yourself and the chosen location when you begin the planning process. Being aware of the time differences of perspective locations means you can plan your day efficiently to get responses/answers quickly from contacts across the globe.
In this blog I have put together a list of top tips for planning international meetings and conferences:
- Finding the right international contacts, building/developing a relationship and understanding with them can be difficult, however, there are very simple ways to resolve this.
Always begin with who you know. Speak with your colleague and ask whether they have ever worked in the same location and who their contacts where.
Destination Management Companies otherwise known as DMC are exceptionally helpful if you are planning an event overseas. If your client specifically asks you to assist in the planning of an event in a location and/or destination where your knowledge is sparse, it makes sense to speak with a DMC who is an expert in that location and will know of all the top venues and activities available to your client. Your DMC will pull together viable options for your event and should you wish, they will also arrange and attend site visits to those options with you and your client. Many DMC won’t charge agencies for this service as they will earn commission through their vendors and contacts.
Contact the destination’s National Tourism Board – they will also be able to point you in the right direction of the hotels and venues for your event.
Use TripAdvisor! If you aren’t sure about a restaurant or an activity, use sources that are at your disposal such as TripAdvisor. The website is a brilliant forum and platform built on the knowledge and reviews of the general public. I have personally found that the reviews left on TripAdvisor are often extremely reliable and honest reflections on the said venues, locations, and destinations.
Before you begin pulling together your budget sheets and quoting prices to your client, it is crucial that you understand the Tax policy for the country you will be working in. VAT (Value Added Tax) differs all over the world and in some cases, can be reclaimed.
Be aware that depending on the nature of the event you are planning VAT policies may fluctuate. For example, if you were planning a conference in a hotel which required catering, you may end up paying 20% VAT on the rental of the conference space and only 12% VAT on the food and beverage elements.
When it comes to reclaiming VAT – if you are unsure of what you are doing, and truth be told it can be a very complicated and lengthy process, there are services available to you such as VAT Reclaim Companies who will handle all expenses and reimbursement claims on your behalf.
- Make use of the free programs and technology available to you.
If a supplier, DMC or any other contact emails you in a language that is unfamiliar to you and you don’t understand, use an online translation website. Of course, there isn’t always going to be a straight forward translation for every word, sentence, and phrase throughout the world, take China for example. In the Chinese language, there are many single words which translate to the entire sentence in the English language. These websites will give you a better understanding of what has been said in the first place. Google for one offers a very easy translation program.
There are also programmes available which will help you with currency exchange rates. Personally, I just use google currency calculator and it is yet to let me down.
Throughout the planning process always ask yourself ‘is this cost exc VAT or inc VAT?’ – then find out. If ever you need to calculate a cost and minus the VAT or add the VAT, use the VAT Calculator. Simply google it and it is the first option to pop up on the search. This is another free service and it even has a slider button so you can change the value on the VAT in question.
There are also programmes such as TimeandDate.com which are super helpful. This particular site allows users to enter multiple cities to arrange a convenient meeting time. The website also offers a time zone converter.
- Always think ahead…. Avoid the traffic and travel warnings!
Before your guests fly – check the flight. You can never predict these things and delays can cost your client money.
The travel dilemmas don’t stop once your guests have landed especially if they are being picked up via a coach transfer to their hotel. It is always best to stay on top of the traffic reports too. Speak with your DMC regarding matters such as this as they will be able to advise the driver to take a different route.
To avoid any complication at the airport, ensure all attendees are aware of passport, visa and medical requirements for the destination.
If you or the company you work for are looking for further information on international events and would like the help of professional meetings and events services agency to help you come up with a plan, get in touch now with SevenEvents.com – we are excited to hear from you!