If your idea of prepping for multicultural meetings means skimming through internet guides on foreign business customs, think again. That outdated, one-sided approach can reinforce cultural stereotypes — and seriously limit your potential for stellar meeting gains.
Instead, inject your meeting with a dose of global-mindedness and embrace the cultural fluidity of the times. Take a hard look at your own culture’s idiosyncrasies. Think outside your own cultural box. And let these ten tips elevate your multicultural meeting plans to new heights:
1. Select a global-minded meeting site.
Ignite your multicultural mindset and look beyond your backyard for a meeting location. Whether attendees are coming across the globe or across town, seek the best location for all, including virtual attendees tuning in from far away.
Designed for modern travelers and modern meetings, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts are where you need them. “We have more than 425 locations worldwide,” explains Gayle Weiss, Crowne Plaza Director of Americas Brand Performance and Brand Experience. Crowne Plaza was built for the way business people travel; our hotels are located near prime global business destinations and include the level of connectivity and wellness features business travelers need, including our Sleep Advantage Program.
2. Prepare for cultural differences.
Going straight to the source — your meeting attendees — gives you solid intel on multicultural challenges and sets the tone for cultural sensitivity and respect. A simple email request for input, as part of meeting prep, expands your global outlook and gives you a heads up on what to expect.
Invite potential attendees to share how past multicultural meetings fell short or excelled. An opportunity to weigh in via email often encourages more candid responses. It also presents a great opportunity to affirm common goals and seek participation from everyone involved.
3. Leverage meeting expertise.
Why do it all alone when trained pros are ready with global experience and hands-on help? Crowne Plaza Meetings Directors, certified by Meeting Professionals International (MPI), bring dedicated expertise to create memorable, meaningful meeting experiences.
“All our hotels have trained meetings directors on staff,” Weiss shares. “Our meeting planners and staff are also trained in our unique service culture that is focused on making our guests feel comfortable and ensuring they have a successful meeting or event.”
4. Choose a meeting language.
A common language enhances connectivity and creates cohesiveness within multicultural groups. As outlined in the Harvard Business Review, organizational researcher Tsedal Neeley confirms that English is the standard language for global business. Even so, reinforce global-mindedness by explaining your language choice.
Neeley also recommends encouraging all meeting members to stick with the common language. Urge less-fluent speakers to avoid resorting to translators. Ask fluent speakers to talk slowly and avoid slang that could be misunderstood.
5. Mix communication modes.
Using different forms of communication before, during, and after meetings can improve participation. Email can help quiet anxiety about speaking out in person. Video conferencing and chat options, plus phone connections to ensure audio quality, enhance the experience for virtual and physical attendees.
Crowne Plaza meeting facilities, including the Plaza Workspace, and guest rooms, like our WorkLife Room, provide the technical support you need. “All our hotels offer Wi-Fi and 24/7 connectivity, and you always have access to audio-visual technology and technical service, when you need it,” Weiss says.
6. Clarify start and stop expectations.
In some cultures, start and stop times are merely suggestions. Make sure physical and virtual attendees clearly understand your expectations. Acknowledge international time zone differences and jet lag realities, but stand firm on your expectations with both groups.
Crowne Plaza amenities help guests prepare for meetings — and post-meeting fun. “Our WorkLife Rooms are designed for people who want to blend seamlessly between working and relaxing,” Weiss says. “All our rooms have Sleep Advantage kits to help you unwind and decompress.” Staff can also help guests go local and discover the city after their meetings.
7. Create opportunities for sharing.
Short, unstructured sharing sessions before or outside formal meetings can nurture cultural awareness, create multicultural connections, and lay global foundations for meeting success.
With Crowne Plaza’s intimate, fully connected meeting space The Studio, you can create impromptu opportunities to connect. “The Studio is bookable by the hour, and you can do that on site,” Weiss says. “You can rent it for a small collaborative meeting or to watch a football game. Work and dine there all day, if that’s what you want.”
8. Strengthen teams through diversity.
People naturally tend to seek out people from the same or similar cultures. Force attendees to mix it up, in general seating and groups, instead. You’ll reduce perceptions of a dominant culture and create a more relaxed environment.
Organizational behavior research shows diversity promotes team building and encourages flexibility, creativity, and openness, which can translate to greater achievements overall. That effect spills over to team members attending virtually as well as those on-site.
9. Downsize to enhance success.
Smaller groups encourage interaction; people feel more at ease, safer, and more secure. Creative meeting formats that break large groups into various sizes can increase multicultural meeting success significantly. Crowne Plaza’s adaptive Plaza Workspace, complete with access to food and technology, accommodates those formats.
“Our Plaza Workspaces are flexible lobby work areas made up of different components that you can adapt to your needs, whether you want to work on your own or collaborate with a few or many people,” Weiss explains. “And they’re complete with power outlets and video conferencing capabilities.”
10. Affirm, confirm, and follow through.
Take the lead and affirm your multicultural mindset during presentations or discussions. Ask questions. Repeat statements. Confirm you understand. And when everyone seems aligned, confirm you’re really on the same page.
Then follow through on your commitment to global-mindedness, and get feedback on what you can do better next time. And when the time comes for your next multicultural meeting, let Crowne Plaza help you get it right.
“Crowne Plaza is one of the world’s most global hotels,” Weiss says. “We’re very adept at handling the travel flows from country to country for people moving from meeting to meeting. The goal is to ensure that there is a great Crowne Plaza experience, no matter where you are in the world.”