Overheard at Global Open Mic

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Attendees Share Lessons Learned From Planning Abroad


Yesterday began with a global edition of “Open Mic: What You Wish You Knew Sooner.” Jonas Wilstrup, conventions director for the Copenhagen Convention Bureau and board chair of the BestCities Global Alliance, moderated the discussion, which was held in the Global Lab.

Preparing for and hosting meetings in areas outside of your home country can be challenging. During yesterday’s “Open Mic,” planners throughout the industry swapped tips and takeaways from doing business across the globe. The overall rule of thumb was to collaborate with your peers and facilitate transparent communication and predictive education with your organization and your clients.

Top lessons learned included:

  1. When language is a barrier, ask in advance that all venue-related documents — regarding safety procedures, rooms, contact lists, etc. — be provided in English.
  2. In the digital age, prepare for the amount of electricity that will be used, including arranging for equipment such as power strips — especially for a multivenue conference.
  3. Negotiate your attrition clauses with hotels, particularly in Europe. You can lower your financial penalties by reducing the room block on pre-determined dates.
  4. Once you know the countries from which your attendees will be traveling, research and understand the local visa rules. Be forthright in providing detailed information to registrants, and offer them the digital resources and personal contacts they need to complete the process. Also, keep in mind that visa requirements can change frequently, especially with increased global security concerns and parameters.
  5. Be prepared for how to manage VAT (value-added tax). Countries across Europe vary in the rules to claim it, and your best bet might be going through a company for a small fee. Convention bureaus also can be good resources to manage the process.
  6. Set expectations early to address global currency changes between the start and finish of your event. Options include: building a cushion into the front end of your budget; mitigating increased costs by spreading them across registration fees; rolling over costs from year to year to even out your budget; using a global company like Deutsche Bank to administer the process; or paying in advance.

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