Over my many years as the Founder of BNI®, I have traveled to many countries. In all these places, no matter where they are from, the people are amazing and want to learn about business referrals and Networking Overseas.
“Different faces, different races, different languages but we all speak the language of referrals”
However, you cannot use your cultural norms you are used to in your country when networking with others. My advice if you are going to conduct business overseas is to learn about the culture you are about to visit. I recommend that you check out this website. This site gives you the do’s and don’ts in many countries.
Furthermore, I would recommend that you talk to someone in that country when you get there as well. You probably already have a good contact with someone who invited you to travel to their country. Take time to chat with them before you leave to review what to expect. For example, some basic hand gestures (like pounding your fist in your palm) is EXTREMELY RUDE in Malaysia and Singapore. Also, tell some of your stories to someone there to see if there is anything culturally problematic.
Do I need a translator?
If you have a translator, they will most likely translate anything offensive into something that is not offensive. It’s hand gestures and photos on the slide that could get you in trouble with a translator. The translator may need help with acronyms or with slang. Remember to speak slowly to allow the translator time. Your timing will be off for humor. With a good translator, give a one or two count for the humor to be translated. You’ll hear laughs in waves (those who know English and again a couple seconds later for the translation). If the translator is not so good – it could take four or five seconds for the second wave (if you decide to wait).
If you are keynoting at a networking event – you will feel like a ROCK STAR! Many times, I found while traveling to other countries, they are very, very respectful people AND are very animated in their appreciation of having you attend their event.
If you are planning to use a PowerPoint in your presentation, it helps to give it to the translator a day in advance. Include the notes if you have any. This is particularly good with phrases they have never seen before (slang, acronyms, and phrases like Givers Gain®). Sometimes, they also like to see a short video of you to watch you before they translate you. Feel free to give them a link to a video if you have one.
As for avoiding the dreaded “Jet Lag” while traveling, here’s what I do.
- If I arrive at a destination in the morning – I force myself to sleep on the plane even if I’m not tired. Take an over the counter sleep aid. You must sleep as much as possible or you will get there and be wiped out.
- If you arrive at night – force yourself to stay awake on the plane. Drink coffee or take caffeine pills. Do whatever you need to do to stay awake as much as possible. A short sleep 1-2 hours is inevitable but try to limit it. That way when you arrive you are so tired you will just fall into bed.
- If you do one of these approaches, you’ll flip your clock quickly (at least it has worked for me for decades). Try to have your spouse do the same if possible so you are in sync while on your trip together.
I hope this helps. You will have a blast networking overseas. My final tip is to have fun. However, this is a business trip, not a vacation. You are an invited guest in their country. Always act professionally. This is an amazing opportunity and it will be a memorable trip.
Photo by Sergey Kustov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons