Videoconferencing Without Borders: Tips for International Business Meetings

Access to videoconferencing means the freedom to work together creatively without needing to meet at the office. For many businesses, this has been a game-changing shift that has increased productivity, saved time, reduced costs, and furthered their ability to work in a collaborative environment.

These positive influences of videoconferencing are even more evident in the international business sphere. Suddenly, costs and time factors drop dramatically, and the possibilities for working with partners across the globe increase greatly. A recent survey lead by Redshift Research showed that by 2016, video conferencing is projected to be the preferred method of collaboration worldwide – putting it ahead of e-mail and voice calls. With international business, this may already be happening, as many cultures prefer face-to-face contact.

Face time with key players in business collaboration is important, and for many international partnerships, video conferencing is the best way for this to happen. Business professionals must dedicate time and effort to learning cultural rules and customs when they fly out to meet an international client or partner. Even though you don’t have to leave the country for an international videoconference, the same rules apply. Come prepared by following these tips for a successful international business videoconference.


Understand Cultural Etiquette

Investing the time to learn the ways that your business associates abroad act, speak, dress, and conduct business is the best thing you can do for a successful meeting. While you’re not on their turf, you still want to come across as respectful of their culture and way of life. In a virtual meeting with international partners, the rules are a little looser for how you should conduct yourself. But to really win their favor, you’ll adopt some of their rules for the duration of the meeting. Simply being aware of what they do and why they do it, and following suit as appropriate, may be enough. Also, be self-aware of how you act to make sure you’re not accidentally coming across as offensive in any way.


Be Aware of Your Body Language

You can say a lot without speaking by what you do with your eyes, hands, feet, and posture. Though your business partners and clients will pick up on these subconsciously, it will have a big impact on how they view you. To be on the safe side, you may choose to keep your body movements to a minimum. The benefit of being on a virtual video call is that most of the time, only the top half of your body will be visible, so focus on that unless you’ll be standing giving a presentation. Cultures have diverse ways of communicating nonverbally, and these are worth practicing and perfecting.


Have an Interpreter on Hand

While you, your partner or client, or both might speak each other’s language, if one or both of you are not fluent, there is the possibility of miscommunication. It’s best to have an interpreter present at such a meeting, just in case you or the other party don’t understand a part of the conversation. To get the best outcome from the meeting, everyone should have the fair advantage of comprehending what is discussed.


Don’t Try To Multitask

When meeting with an international business associate or client, you’ll want to keep your attention focused on the topic at hand. There’s a lot to think about – from regarding their cultural norms and possibly speaking their language to making the business deal. Attempting to do more than one thing at a time will make you flustered and distract from your main objectives. It’s also rude to be doing something else when you should be focused on the meeting. Stick to doing one thing at a time – namely, speaking with the other party and sharing any documents needed for the meeting.


Maintain Your Sense of Humor

You may have a lot of pressure on you to make the meeting go well. If you follow the above suggestions, use good judgment, and come to the meeting prepared, that’s more likely to happen. When you’ve put all your ducks in a row, all you can do is your best. In a meeting with people from other countries, miscommunications and errors can occur. When they do, apologize and laugh it off. If culturally appropriate, you can make a joke about it. Though you should take your goals seriously, the meeting itself doesn’t have to be 100% serious. Consider even including some international icebreakers to lighten the mood. No matter where people come from, every culture has a sense of humor. Tapping into that will strengthen your relationship and make the meeting more enjoyable.

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