You can love meetings, or hate them. But no matter where you’re from you have become an expert at attending meetings in your new country if you want to succeed. From job interviews to staff meetings, volunteer meetings to senior leadership gatherings and more, how you communicate during meetings in your new country will make or break your immigration journey.
Now imagine this scenario. You are a new immigrant who wants to work in Canada. In order to get a job and keep it you’ll probably have to:
- Learn english
- Upgrade your education
- Deal with the reality that the first job you get will not be the job that you ultimately want and more
On top of all of this you’ll also have to learn how to be effective during every meeting that you attend. For example, if you don’t understand the way that most Canadians conduct a job interview meeting then it is likely that you won’t know how to act. So while you may have spent a lot of time on your resume, all of your effort could be wasted because you do something negative during the interview. The same concept applies to all of the meetings you attend once you get hired, as well as any volunteer meetings that you participate in.
Another problem (that you may not even be aware of) is that you are used to the way people conduct meetings in your home country. For example:
- India – Many people don’t mind interrupting others during a meeting
- Columbia – Many people will not question what the meeting leader says, because they have been brought up to not question the authority of their Catholic Priest
- Barbados – Quite often meetings don’t start when they are supposed to because they are on ‘bajan time’
So how can you quickly adapt to make sure that your next meeting is as effective as possible?
8 Ways New Immigrants Can Create Effective Business Meetings
When I did a Keynote Speech called “How To Be Effective In Any Meeting” for 150 highly educated new Canadian immigrants at the Smart Connections event for ERIEC (Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council) I learned just how tough it is for new immigrants to conduct effective business meetings. The feedback from the audience included:
- My ability to speak English is not strong enough, so I often don’t understand what the other person is saying
- Where I’m from you’re supposed to wait to be told what to do, and sometimes meeting leaders in Canada want you to speak up first
- A woman would never be leading a meeting where I’m from, so how do I respond to a female meeting leader here?
So, because my mission is to help everyone learn how to have more productive and inspired meetings, I have put together this practical guide to help new immigrants quickly adapt to any type of meeting in Canada, no matter where you’re from.
1. Be Self-Aware
Great business meetings start with you
If you understand the good and the bad about yourself, then you can avoid behaving negatively during a meeting, and you can also bring out the best you have to offer so you can make the meeting fantastic. For example, let’s say you’re a highly qualified Accountant from India, and here’s what you know about yourself:
- I’m really smart
- I work hard
- I don’t like it when people waste my time so I cut them off
To prepare for a job interview you will have to:
- Practice being patient
- Learn how to let the other person finish talking, no matter what they are saying
- Learn how to appropriately brag about your excellent work ethic and ability to deliver outstanding results
2. Learn The Meeting Basics
You should be aware of how people behave during meetings in Canada compared to the way that you conduct meetings in your home country. For example, people in Japan hand a business card over with two hands and bow their heads as they do this. Whereas in Canada people often toss their business cards on the middle of the table.
To help you think about how differently we act in business meetings around the world, here is a simple guideline that you can refer to and adapt based on where you are from:
3. Know The Meeting Expectations
Do you know what is expected of you when you walk into a meeting? Every meeting has both spoken and unspoken expectations. As a new immigrant it’s your job to quickly figure out what they are. To do this you might ask questions like:
- Should I turn off my cell phone?
- Where would you like me to sit?
- How long will this meeting be? Because I would like to be respectful of your time
- Would you like to go over the agenda for this meeting before we get started?
4. Learn How To Treat The Meeting Leader
Depending on where you’re from, you may like dealing with authorities or you may be intimidated. Here’s a few suggestions to help you deal with Canadian meeting leaders:
- Regardless of whether they are a man or a woman they are in charge so treat them with respect
- Some Canadian meeting leaders want to be challenged so you will have to learn how to speak up at the right time when you have something valuable to say
- Many Canadian meeting leaders like to talk about the weather or sports at the beginning of a meeting so don’t get frustrated if they don’t get to the point right away
5. Connect The Meeting To Your Strategy
I believe that you should be able to stop any meeting, at any moment, and connect that moment directly to your strategy
For example, if your personal strategy is to get a job so you can support your family, then when you are in the middle of a job interview meeting you need to know that everything that you’re doing will make you the best candidate for that job.
Another example will be when you already have a job and you’re in a staff meeting. Because if you realize that people are wasting too much time talking about issues that aren’t related to the company strategy, then you can do your best to get the meeting back on track. Ultimately that will make you look good and it will also help the company reach its strategic goals faster.
6. Make A Great First Impression
If you want to succeed in a meeting then you better make a great first impression. So, if 80% of what we assume about you happens the moment you walk into a room, then what do you want us to know when we first see you?
When you walk into a meeting:
- Do you slouch?
- Are you worried?
- Is your chest out and are you confident?
One of the best ways to practice making a great first impression is to do the ‘doorway drill’, an outstanding practice by Jordan Harbinger, host of the Art of Charm Podcast (https://gooddadproject.com/professional-relationships/). He suggests that every time you walk through a doorway that you practice being confident and proud. This means that every time you walk through any doorway you can practice being at your best when you walk into any room. How will your next meeting go after you make a fantastic first impression?
7. Ask About Follow-Up
How do you follow up after a meeting in your country? In Canada, follow-up is often unclear after a meeting. For example, some people wait for weeks to hear about what happened in a job interview, and then they are disappointed when nobody calls. Or maybe you’re in a staff meeting and nobody made any notes, so everything that was said during the meeting is forgotten. To avoid this uncertainty here are a few suggestions to help you follow up effectively after a Canadian meeting:
- During the last 5 minutes of the meeting, ask the meeting leader what is expected after the meeting ends
- You can also ask the meeting leader about their preferred method of follow up. Should you call? Send an email? Text?
8. Be Proud Of Your Home Country Meeting Style
Canada is built on immigration innovation. So if you have some terrific best-practices to share from your country’s meetings, then you should find the right moment to introduce them into a Canadian meeting. For example:
- At the end of a meeting in Belgium, instead of shaking hands you are often expected to give each other an ‘air-kiss’ (so if you really get to know your Canadian colleagues well, maybe you could try this?)
- In Finland they often like to get to know each other in the sauna. And who wouldn’t want to get sweaty during a business meeting? (maybe you could wait a while to try this one…)
- In China, people appreciate presents. Do you think that might catch on in Canada? Who wouldn’t love a present?
- Be Self-Aware
- Learn The Meeting Basics
- Know The Meeting Expectations
- Learn How To Treat The Meeting Leader
- Connect The Meeting To Your Strategy
- Make A Great First Impression
- Ask About Follow-Up
- Be Proud Of Your Home Country Meeting Style
The most important thing that you can do in any meeting is to show off the best in yourself and adapt as needed. So why not start now by applying these 8 practical tips to make your next Canadian meeting a success!
- “Understanding the Cultural Differences in Global Business Meetings and Communication” – Deborah Anderson – packwired
- “How To Run A Meeting Of People From Different Cultures” – Rebecca Knight – Harvard Business Review
- “Effective Multi-Cultural International Business Meetings” – Neil Payne – Kwintessential
- “How To Master Business Etiquette in Barbados” – by Andrew Moran – CareerAddict.com
- “Welcome to Alberta: Information for Newcomers” – Alis.Alberta.ca
- “Working in Alberta: A Guide for Internationally Trained and Educated Immigrants” – Alis.Alberta.ca