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Top Tips for Planning an International Event

Planning your next conference, event or convention abroad?

GettyImages 836112606In celebration of Global Meetings Industry Day (#GMID18), we polled a panel of our tenured meeting planners to offer advice and best practices when planning an international meeting. From their years of experience planning conferences in countries like Australia, Mexico, Italy, Singapore and Germany, here is their guidance of what to keep in mind when taking your event global.

What are the top things a planner should keep in mind when taking their event global? What did you learn in planning an international event?

Senior Vice President, Lisa Burton, CMP 

  • Planners should shift their mindset to working in the international region they are planning their meeting and learn more about customs and regulations of the country.
  • Europe uses shell schemes in exhibit halls versus the pipe and drape we use in the states. Planners should keep this in mind when designing their floor plan.
  • Having key partners on the ground is imperative to the show’s success – and don’t forget to hire local staff that can speak multiple languages. They will be a huge help during the program!
  • Ask a lot of questions and don’t make any assumptions. Make sure you have what you’ve negotiated in writing and use pictures to confirm things if you don’t speak the language.
  • Make sure you understand conversions for currency and measurements.

Senior Director, Site Selection, Alex Murphy

  • When sourcing a venue, hotel or destination for your meeting, make sure you get to know the different parties you are doing business with, either via phone or in person.
  • Enjoy the negotiation process, don’t rush it!
  • Work with a DMC when appropriate to strengthen your buying power.

Senior Vice President, Christine Hilgert, CMP

  • For a technology users group conference that we took abroad to Europe, we opened an international bank account to accept euros and provide better payment options to the community, who is U.S.-based.
  • We worked with a few local technology companies to produce the mobile app for the conference mentioned above.
  • Understand and research the cultural differences of the region you are working in and make sure you include a flavor or flair of the region within the event. Most likely, you are hosting attendees from several countries and part of the draw is the local experience.
  • Find a good PCO or DMC if you are not familiar with the city or country. They know the best ways to get suppliers to respond and provide the level of service you need to accomplish your conference goals.

Senior Conference Manager, Caitlyn Dardich

  • I learned how drastically different the time zones are! Take the time to truly understand the time zone you are working in. It can be difficult to schedule committee meetings or call hotels in Singapore or Sydney, for example.
  • Inquire about the VAT/Tax law, it can be confusing.
  • Hotel packages can include many more items than we are used to in the states. One example is the “daily delegate rate”, which included certain food and beverage options, room rental and some basic A/V. Ask as many questions as possible to gain more clarity as to what is actually included.

Senior Conference Manager, Darnette Holbert

  • The primary thing I would recommend is to pad your budget much more than for a program held in the U.S. Not only because of the ever-changing dollar value, but also because every step of the event is done differently depending on the region. Make sure to budget for sodas and beers to be added to meals and keep in mind that shipping boxes internationally can be costly (and you pray that they make it there in one piece)!
  • Get to know the cultural work differences. Negotiations and business are sometimes done at a different pace than in the states. Adjust the way you do business but don’t be afraid to stay persistent.
  • Pay close attention to your budget and find out if your group can take advantage of the VAT – it differs by country.
  • Finally, stay a few extra days in your host country and see as much of it as you can!

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Event Planning and Association Management Services

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Founded in 1992, Meeting Expectations is a full-service meeting planning and association management company headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with offices in metropolitan Chicago, Denver and Washington, D.C. Our team is comprised of more than 100 talented and knowledgeable employees with meeting planning, association management, marketing, finance and technology experience and diverse backgrounds that allow for creative solutions to complex situations. We set the stage for our clients’ success through effective and engaging event and membership experiences. Our core values of respect, trust and transparency guide our work every day.

It has been my personal privilege to work with Alex Murphy and the Site Selection team at Meeting Expectations for the last several years. Alex is the consummate professional both in negotiating and advocating for her clients and working with us as a hotel to streamline the process of moving business to the next level. The Meeting Expectations team is one that can truly tout themselves as experts in understanding what their customers want and need.

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