The Intersection

Getting Started With Global Meetings

When you plan a meeting overseas, it’s not unusual to encounter unfamiliar laws, taxes, customs, and even contracts.

That’s partly what drove Eric Rozenberg, CMP, CMM, to found Swantegy 18 years ago. At first, Swantegy specialized in arranging incentive trips — but the Belgian-born Rozenberg has since planned or managed all kinds of meetings in more than 50 countries.

Two years ago, Rozenberg moved the company’s headquarters from Brussels to Florida, giving him a reverse perspective on planning events in Europe. In “Global Meetings and Events,” the latest video for The Intersection, Rozenberg weighs in on the factors that can make international meetings intimidating — but also successful.

So, what exactly does a planner need to know to put on a meeting on the Continent? Because of its compact size, Rozenberg noted, Europe can appear to outsiders as “one culture,” but there are vast differences in language, culture, customs, and even VAT rates within its compact area. “If you go from one country to another,” he says in the video, “you have to start your homework again.”

For instance, the concept of time can be different for North Americans than for those in other countries. “Here [in the United States], everyone is on email all of the time, and if they don’t respond within one or two hours, they apologize,” Rozenberg said. “If you expect people [overseas] to reply immediately, you might be frustrated.” Likewise, being a few minutes late for a business meeting is not as frowned upon abroad as it is in the United States.

Pricing can be structured differently and contracts can be more succinct in Europe, too, with an absence of the disclaimers that U.S. planners consider to be standard. Also, exchange rates are always shifting — something planners need to keep in mind. “You want to be sure that the price you contract [for] is the price you’ll pay, even if the event is in two years,” Rozenberg said.

As with anything else, though, proper preparation can pave the way toward a successful international event. “It can be very scary when you’re coming from the U.S. and don’t understand how people do business differently,” Rozenberg said. “But you’ll always learn, and at the end of the day, the meeting and experience will probably be wonderful.”

It helps to keep in mind that every meeting is global. Even planners who work domestically need to stay abreast of global customs, because they likely will have attendees from all over the world. Rozenberg said: “Doing business with different cultures — this is something that everyone in our industry should be learning about.”

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch is associate editor of Convene.