Business meetings—people either love them or not like them at all. There are those who eagerly attend meetings while others are less enthusiastic, as they’re under the impression that meetings are just a waste of time.
Needless to say, the way you conduct yourself can affect the outcome of your meetings. Aside from following basic etiquette, you must learn the business culture in a particular city, region, or locale. Knowing the customs and culture of the community can help you organize successful and productive business meetings.
If you’re looking for a guide on how to initiate and conduct meetings in the Philippines, here are some valuable tips and techniques.
1. Use third-party connections to set a high-level meeting
It’s easier to reach high-ranking officers of a company when you have family members, friends, associates, colleagues, or mentors who can introduce you to them first. Since high-level contacts don’t usually entertain random requests for meetings, you need someone who has access to them instead.
Your connections should not only know you personally or professionally, but they should also be ready to vouch for your good track record. By meeting these two requirements, it will be easier for you to be granted an audience with the senior executives of the company. As social networking site for professionals LinkedIn says, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
2. Provide meeting details and follow the schedule
You show respect to the time and attention of your business partners by detailing the agenda and purpose of the meeting. This will give them a clearer perspective of what the meeting is about. Also, it will allow you to schedule the meeting properly with defined agenda. You can prioritize the most important discussions at the very start to address them right away.
In line with this, your business partners can prepare their ideas if they know that a certain portion of the meeting will be allotted for brainstorming or pitching in some proposals. Lastly, setting up a schedule will reflect your preparedness and work ethics as a professional.
3. Be on time even though your partners may be late
Filipinos tend to regard time as something they can be flexible with, so meetings don’t usually start on time. This is especially true if you’re meeting with the more senior business partners of the company who are busy with other engagements. If a meeting is scheduled for 9 o’clock in the morning, the meeting may start anytime within that hour.
However, there’s not as much flexibility on your end. You’re still expected to show up on time to make a good impression to other meeting attendees. Since traffic in major cities and areas can delay your travel, you’ll need to give yourself enough time to reach your destination. As such, it’s also unwise to schedule several meetings in a day, say with your business partner first and then your recruitment agency in the Philippines next, unless the locations are close to one another.
4. Learn when to offer a gift to your partner
There are at least two times when a business gift or token is welcome among Filipino business partners: the initial meeting and the closing of a business deal. The gift doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive, but it should at least be of good quality. An ideal gift may be something that bears your company logo as it conveys a business intention and a friendly gesture at the same time.
Presentation is also important in gift giving, so take time to wrap your present in a nice packaging. However, don’t expect that the receiver will open the gift in your presence but will instead set it aside.
5. Get to know the local culture and etiquette
Here are some dos and don’ts that you need to know when dealing with Filipino business associates:
- Be ready to engage in small talks before the start of the meeting. Don’t be offended if your Filipino counterpart chooses to talk or ask about personal matters such as marriage, human relationships, and values you believe in since it’s only meant to establish close ties.
- Try to remain diplomatic and non-confrontational even if you disagree on something as aggressive behavior is frowned upon. However, you can still be properly assertive during meetings by being mindful of your body language, listening to the conversation intently, and expressing your thoughts through verbal and non-verbal communication.
- Avoid directly criticizing or complaining about the Philippines or its people. This may not be well received and may instead be interpreted as an insult.
- Instead of putting your Filipino business partners on the spot, give them enough time to review your offer. Filipinos are gracious people who will try not to openly reject any requests or proposals during meetings.
6. Communicate with clarity
During the meeting proper, it’s important that you express your purpose, plans, or what you intend to achieve in very specific terms. Although English is a preferred medium of communication in business, you need to remember that it’s not the native language of Filipinos and that some subtleties of the language may be lost in translation.
7. Show up in proper business attire
The Philippines is a tropical country, so the weather can get really hot on certain days but most especially during summer. However, this is no excuse for you to attend a business meeting in casual wear. Both men and women are expected to dress modestly, in professional-looking attire.
Power Yourself Through Business Meetings
Meetings are an important part of the business culture in the Philippines. By familiarizing yourself with the different aspects in conducting business meetings, such as how to get off on the right foot, observing certain rules and formalities, or negotiating contracts, you have the best possible chance of impressing and pleasing your Filipino business partners.