Meetings for Cross-Cultural Audiences

One of the advantages to being in a university setting is that we are surrounded by different cultures. In fact, building positive relationships with people from different cultures is how we grow, personally and professionally. Sometimes, however, planning a meeting or event with attendees representing multiple cultures is a challenge.

It is important to remember in a highly diverse international environment that meeting participants have their own cultural etiquettes, mannerisms, and gestures. Some may begin the meeting sharply at 8 a.m., others may chit-chat, and some may have difficulty getting going at all. Prior to the meeting, it is important to communicate the goal of the meeting. What is the meeting’s purpose? Why are you participating? If possible, send an agenda prior to the meeting. Once a framework is in place, attendees can better understand where they fit in.

With planning a multicultural event, attendees will have various communications styles as well. Some cultures resonate with reactive listening before speaking while others are impulsive and emotional. Rather than grouping like cultures together, trying mixing up the meeting. This allows cross-cultural relationships and interpersonal communication skills to build.

At the conclusion of the meeting, ensure that all of the participants are on the same page by summarizing the main topics during the meeting. Simplify meanings to ensure that nothing is lost in translation. Use follow-up documents to minimize any confusion for participants.

A key role of meeting and event planners is to make everyone feel comfortable and to create a safe environment. Needless to say, when meeting participants represent a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities, this may be a challenge. Should you need an additional resource, Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands is a valuable book to keep in the office when planning multicultural events, or please contact our Special Events & Protocol Office for more information.