Best Practices for Video Conferencing with International Stakeholders
A common barrier to scaling your business globally is the international travel required to meet suppliers, distributors, customers and other stakeholders. It is costly, time consuming and simply not a viable option right now. While I believe in the power of building strong, in-person relationships with international stakeholders, video conferences can be a great solution if done correctly.
Now, more than ever, society is looking to connect. I’m surprised by the recent, increased response rate to my personalized emails, LinkedIn requests and social media messages. It makes sense that many want personal connections and updates from “real people” though rather than the overwhelming news outlets.
That being said, building a strong connection and partnership with an international stakeholder via video conference is an art. I’ve included the best practices for a successful video conference below.
1. Choose a Technology – Not all platforms work in all countries. Zoom, a popular video conferencing technology, does not work well in Mainland China. Skype is not a viable option in the United Arab Emirates. Do your research and ask for guidance to ensure you’re utilizing the right tools for all parties. 2. Have an Agenda – Just like in-person visits, video conferences take preparation and coordination. All parties want to feel like their time is valued and respected. The agenda should be set in advance, and I recommend it be set by the party requesting the meeting. If this party has not offered an agenda, however, feel free to do so and ask if they would like to add anything. Include an outline of the agenda in the meeting request to keep everyone on task. 3. Focus on Relationships – While a video conference is a serious matter, your demeanor should be warm and personable. This can be more difficult to exude via video conference, so really focus on making social cues obvious. For example, be sure to nod your head and smile while the other party is speaking. Share some positive personal details within your comfort zone. It could be as simple as the current weather or your weekend plans, or it could be as personal as your excitement for the birth of your first child. 4. Understand the Culture – It is important to understand the culture of your audience. Americans are generally very prompt to meetings, so continue to be prompt. Other culture may have more flexibility when it comes to a start time. Neither method is right or wrong, but it requires being open-minded and understanding of the cultural nuances we experience while doing international business. Another area I like to note is agreeableness. Americans are generally active about voicing their opinions, but other cultures may be more agreeable and should be asked directly for feedback. Of course these are generalizations, but having a deep and growing understanding of cultures is key. 5. Recap – Be sure to reiterate which party is responsible for which task at the end of the meeting. Send a follow-up email thanking the other party for their participation, but also list the next steps and corresponding expectations. Try to set a follow-up meeting focused on deliverables but also on continuing to build a long-term relationship. I also recommend checking out some articles on video conference etiquette to round out the list. These cover items such as speaking clearly, looking into the camera, proper muting, etc. This is one of my favorites: https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/19/21185472/video-confere-call-tips-zoom-skype-hangouts-facetime-remote-work
Finding the right international partner can make or break your success in an overseas market. By following these best practices, asking the right questions and focusing on building solid, long-term relationships with international stakeholders, you can ensure you’re in a great position for success. If you need assistance preparing for an upcoming video conference or need help finding suitable international partners to meet, feel free to contact me to discuss by clicking "contact" in the menu header.
Casey Kooiman, founder of TradeCase Global, is an international business professional with 10+ years of practical experience. Casey is passionate about providing advice & resources to help small businesses and entrepreneurs take their brands around the world!