Top Tips for Planning International Meetings

It is no secret that planning an international meeting creates unique challenges – between language barriers and time zone changes, it can be difficult to communicate with a vendor, and don’t even get us started on dealing with that pesky VAT!

We’ve compiled a list of our best advice to help your next international meeting a breeze:

1. Finding Vendors can be difficult if you are heading abroad, but you can keep things simple by following many of the same practices as a state-based meeting.

a.    Start with who you know, and do ask for recommendations from colleagues and other suppliers.

b.    Work with the destination’s National Tourism Organization – specifically their satellite office or Representation Firm within the U.S.  This will eliminate language barriers and time zone differences, which can often restrict phone conversations.

c.    Consult with Destination Management Companies who can be your “eyes, ears and boots on the ground” in unfamiliar territory. Services provided (but not limited to) are fulltime support for all aspects of meeting and conference planning – including personal assistance with your destination selection, accommodations, inquiries, sourcing of support information and itinerary planning.

d.    Get references (and check them) for vendors you are unfamiliar with.  A reputable company will be eager to share these reviews with you.

e.    Begin your destination research with’s wide selection of international destinations (and check out the feature on two of them in today’s newsletter).

2.    Understand the Value Added Tax policy (VAT) for the country you are visiting, which varies.  VAT is the international version of sales tax in the U.S. and may also be referred to as the IVA or GST, depending on the country.

a.    Reference this VAT chart to determine the percentage owed and if it can be reclaimed.

b.    Confirm the VAT with the DMC or bureau you are working with – some countries exempt or reduce the cost for meetings.

c.    Work with a VAT Reclaim Company to handle reimbursements on expenses such as hotel rooms, food and beverage, venue rental, car hire, A/V services, and certain entertainment, all of which may qualify, depending upon the destination.  Reclaim companies are experts at handling this confusing and complicated process.

3.    Mastering Conversions no longer requires complicated mathematical equations, thanks to a little help from technology.  Take advantage of these various websites and Smart Phone applications for some of the most common conversions:

a. Language Translation

i.    Ideally, you or someone on your event staff will be fluent in the language you are visiting.

ii.    Establish a language for written and verbal communication early on with the NTO or DMC. You will find that English is the language most commonly used for Contracts.

iii.    If needed, Google offers this easy translation program.

b. Currency Exchange

i.    Our personal favorite website for currency exchange is  It is incredibly easy to plug information into, and the website even provides current exchange trends.

ii.    Smart phone apps for currency exchange are helpful for on-the-go, like XE Currency.  Make sure the app can function offline, as you may accrue roaming fees for connecting in another country.

c. Time Zones

i.    The World Clock Meeting Planner tool from allows users to enter multiple cities to arrange a convenient meeting time.  The website also offers a time zone converter (what time is it in Paris if it is 2:30 PM in New York) and an application for your Smart Phone, which can be downloaded here.

ii.     World Time Zone Map shows a color-coded map of the world with the current time of day conveniently listed.

d. Metric Conversions

i.    Use a website like to ensure the venue can accommodate the amount of space (in square feet!) you require for your meeting.

ii.    Google allows users to convert metrics straight from their homepage by entering ‘convert x square feet into meters’.

4.    Crisis Prevention is important for any meeting, and the same checklists still apply – with a few additions.

a.    Stay abreast of current travel warnings issued by the U.S. Department of State when selecting a destination and again before departing for your meeting.

b.    Register with the U.S. State Department. It allows you to record your trip information so the government can help you and your family in case of an emergency.

c.    Ensure all attendees are aware of passport, visa and medical requirements for the destination.

d.    Consult our detailed list of international travel safety tips for more ways to keep you and your attendees’ safe while in a foreign country.

5.    For more in depth information on all things international, head to the Global Meetings section of!