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Steps to Ensure That Everyone is Comfortable in a Multinational Business Meeting

How to ensure comfort in a multinational meeting? In meetings where individuals from different cultural backgrounds are present, the answer is never to pretend that such diversity does not exist. There must be an acknowledgment and respect for the cultural differences and the effect it has.

There will always be diversities in meetings and cultural diversity is simply one of them. It will be present in multinational businesses and an understanding of the varying perspectives will give rise to better strategies to tackle it leading to fruitful outcomes.

When you hold such meetings, you want to make sure that everyone knows they are important and that their needs and preferences are respectable.

Some of the ways to achieve this include:

1. Study the representative cultures:

Many cultures exist in different regions and even within those geographical regions, there are clear differences you can see. To hold meetings where everyone’s needs are put into consideration, the first thing to do is know what those needs are. There are many books and online resources available to educate you on those cultural differences and how they shape the people from those backgrounds.

2. Pay attention to communication:

The constant difference amongst different cultures is communication. It includes language differences, body language, and even listening styles. In a situation where there are individuals in the meeting who are not fluent in the predominant language used at work, it can help to have the documents available in their first language (02). This aids easier understanding which helps the meeting flow smoothly and ensures nobody feels left out.

One generally acceptable mode of greeting is a handshake. Any other might be found offensive by people of other cultural backgrounds. Another thing to note is that while humor is often used as an icebreaker by some people, it can be viewed as time-wasting by others. It is also easy for jokes to be misconstrued because of those differences. It is advisable to tone down on the humor (03). While speaking, avoid the use of phrases that exclude certain people. An example would be saying something along the line of “where we come from”.

3. Set standard protocols:

This is one way to override cultural differences to an extent without anyone feeling slighted. Once everyone realizes that they are subjected to the same rules, it becomes a general company culture and it is easier for people to suspend their cultural preferences. An example is making it a rule that people are called by their first name instead of titles. People from backgrounds that expect honorifics would understand that it is company policy to do otherwise (01).

4. Encourage personal relationships:

This is important in any type of workplace but more importantly in one with cultural diversity. There are bound to be unintentional slip-ups every once in a while but personal relationships formed between colleagues will allow some situations to be overlooked. It also helps to build understanding and familiarity between people, helping them understand specific cultural nuances and perspectives they were previously oblivious to (01).

Handling meetings with people from different cultural backgrounds can be hard. There is an overwhelming lot to consider but it is possible to make sure everyone is comfortable. It will take a lot of effort and time, not just from the person in charge but the team as a whole. There is a whole lot to be gained when this is achieved.

Check the following reference articles to learn more about the Steps to Comfort in a Multinational Meeting
  1. hbr.org. 2020. How to Run a Meeting of People from Different Cultures. Retrieved 29 April 2021 from (URL)

2. cyborlink.com. 2020. International Business Etiquette and Manners for Global Travelers – Understanding cultural diversity, cross-cultural communication, and intercultural business relationships for success. Retrieved 29 April 2021 from (URL)

3. Lewis, R. (1996). When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures (3rd ed.). Nicholas Brealey International. (URL)