Planning an international conference abroad is a big task and calls for lots of advanced planning. Conferences aboard are exciting to plan because it presents opportunities to connect with new international business contacts. However, crossing borders involves a whole range of new obstacles that typically wouldn’t occur when planning a conference in your home country.
If you decide to host a conference abroad, you need to consider differences in cultures, language, location, logistics, and customs. In this blog post, we will guide you through the necessary steps to plan your next conference abroad.
Select the right destination
Choosing the right location is the first critical step in the planning process. Start by creating a list of four to five potential conference locations at least 18 months in advance.
- Does the city have an international airport?
- Are there several hotels in the city?
- Is there ground transportation in the destinated city?
These are all questions to ask when narrowing down potential conference cities. Selecting the right city and country where the event will take place is just as important as choosing the venue.
Reach out to the local convention and visitors bureau to hire a local expert who can guide your company through the process of selecting the right venue. A local expert can help you take in consideration bank holidays, local events, and any unforeseen obstacles you may encounter.
Work with a customs broker
If you are planning to ship items across the border, hiring a customs broker six to eight months in advance will save you from any unnecessary headaches.
An official broker can help you navigate your way through the complexities of importing and exporting goods internationally through customs. You should communicate with the customs agent as soon as you’ve finalized the details of your venue and destination.
Your customs broker will guide you, your exhibitors, and attendees along the way about any import and export requirements. A certified customs broker will also help you navigate the sea of changing regulations, understand the various taxes, fees, documents, and procedures that need to be filed.
Understand the security and health landscape
Taking your conference abroad raises some unique security issues. No matter where you are in the world, you should always be prepared in case a crisis happens.
In advance of the conference, visit the local embassy website to review the latest list of high-risk travel areas.
With so many threats affecting global travel in the world today attendees must feel safe traveling to your event. The first thing you need to do in the early stages of conference planning is to research the country you are doing business in. Also, make sure your host property communicates their emergency plan before entering the initial RFP process.
The venue must have multiple security check-points and medical assistance areas on-site. In addition to security threats, it’s also important that you research the current health risks for the destination. Look into any vaccinations needed before entering the country and make sure attendees are informed as well.
Determine what travel documents are needed
Getting visas and/or passports for your entire staff can take weeks if not months depending on the country you are traveling to. Many countries require a letter of invitation when conducting business abroad.
Start by reaching out to the State Department to see how long the process will take. A good rule of thumb is to start looking into what travel documents are needed at least six months in advance.
Your staff will need a valid passport before submitting the letter of invitation or starting the visa process.
Examine potential language barriers
Communicating across the globe comes with potential language and cultural barriers that could make it challenging to communicate effectively. To avoid any language barriers, work with a bi-lingual partner who is well versed in the local language and cultural landscape.
This will help eliminate any misunderstandings with vendors and attendees. Research the culture, incorporate cultural differences, and be accommodating to a diverse audience.
Consider local currency
Before you start promoting your event, you must establish your budget. The exchange rate changes daily making it difficult to prepare an event budget.
Event organizers must forecast projected revenues and expenses based on the value of the currency abroad and factor in any fluctuations into the global economy when creating a budget.
Planning international events is a huge undertaking but it’s becoming more and more prevalent for companies to take their conferences and trade shows abroad. Once you master these steps, you will be amazed at how efficient you’ll become at planning successful events abroad.