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4 Tips for Overcoming Communication and Language Barriers

August 22, 2018
By Meetings Mean Business

International meetings have become a staple of the meetings and events industry, acting as the platform for exchanging a variety of thoughts and perspectives. International meetings also have a positive impact on the meeting location’s economy. Six million international meeting participants generated $38 billion of meetings direct spending (11.5% of the sector total) according to a recent study. The increased diversity of participants and attendees has also presented new challenges for meeting planners. For instance, a recent survey by Successful Meetings revealed that communication and language barriers are one of the most challenging aspects of planning an international meeting.

Here are four tips to help meeting planners overcome these barriers:

1. Understand the culture.

It’s important to research the cultural and societal norms of the location, and thereby gain an understanding of how locals communicate and perceive the world. To start, conduct desk research and enlist the help of local experts and destination marketing organizations. A familiarity with local customs will help establish mutual respect and work around language barriers.

2. Use visual methods of communications.

Visual communication can serve as an extremely powerful tool when overcoming communication and language barriers. Pictures, visual cues and even symbolic colors can be used instead of text to convey ideas, messages, instructions or assignments.

3. Avoid idioms, slang and jargon.

When speaking English to overseas staff and coordinators, it is not only advisable to speak clearly and slowly, but it is also important to avoid idioms, slang and jargon. Using such language can contribute to miscommunication and misunderstandings.

4. Conduct as much face-to-face as possible.

Face-to-face meetings should be part of the planning process as much as possible, for they allow participants to go over issues more fully and productively. By meeting face-to-face, collaborators will not only be able to avoid miscommunication via email, but also can facilitate a stronger sense of teamwork grounded on trust.

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