What Makes a Successful Meeting? It Depends.

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Think you know a successful meeting when you host one?

You may be surprised by how widely the perceived essentials of an effective meeting vary from country to country.

Rest easy: A new global survey by Hilton Worldwide on the DNA of successful meetings finds that two-thirds of business professionals polled across the United States, China, and Great Britain overwhelmingly prefer meeting in person to all other forms of collaboration, regardless of age. They also tend to agree that the most productive meetings are held in the morning, in a comfortable setting, with a set business agenda and plenty of coffee and/or tea.

But that’s where some interesting cultural differences begin to intrude on our otherwise orderly concept of the perfect conference.

For instance, did you know that comfort is far more important than time to a successful meeting in China? It’s true: 67 percent of Chinese professionals would rather endure a two-hour meeting in a comfortable meeting room than a 15-minute quickie in cramped or unappealing quarters? Two hours! Amazing!

Or that meeting room windows (as opposed to the Microsoft variety) hold a special place in the hearts of British professionals? True again: 70 percent consider them important to a productive get-together.

goodmeetingcoffeeOr that coffee is considered more essential to successful meetings overseas than in the home of Starbucks? That’s also true: 68 percent of UK professionals and 58 percent of Chinese respondents maintain that successful meetings run on java, compared to just 44 percent among their American counterparts.

The three business cultures also differ markedly with respect to the scheduling and format of a successful meeting.

The Chinese hold scheduled meetings in the highest regard at 74 percent, versus the U.S. (58 percent) and the UK (57 percent). However, when it comes to the actual sit-down, the Chinese show a much stronger preference for unstructured meetings at 50 percent than either the Americans (16 percent) or the British (11 percent).

Then there’s the whole coffee/tea kerfuffle. While all three cultures consider caffeine the meeting planner’s friend, they use it in different ways. The Chinese and British drink coffee and tea socially throughout the day, whereas U.S. professionals view it as more functional, with 80 percent drinking a cup before 10 a.m. but only 46 percent indulging the rest of the day.

Little wonder that the majority of Chinese respondents place a premium on the quality of their brew, while their American and British counterparts seem content with whatever comes out of the teapot or coffee dispenser.

While their protocols and priorities may differ, 97 percent of the business professionals surveyed in all three countries agreed that the key to a successful meeting is eye contact. For them, there is still no substitute for the face-to-face meeting, wherever the meeting.

Photos: Shutterstock

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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