Business meeting etiquette

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A meeting is the key element for any business venture as they keep people up to date in the best way. Business meetings differ in their motive and content, but it is an essential feature of Indian business meeting etiquette.  Time management is correlated with the meeting. It is important to plan a long time ahead when arranging meetings with senior managers and executives. To manage time effectively, senior executives often have a personal assistant who will plan and schedule meetings at a convenient time.

Indian business meeting etiquette - exchanging a drinkIt is advisable to circulate meeting agendas before the meeting, so that everyone can be fully prepared. Important things such as list of attendance, meeting location and required equipment should be available in advance. Meeting agendas and presentations should be organized wisely so that every point should be covered efficiently in the meeting. In India, organizations follow a hierarchical structure so all the major decisions are taken by top management.

In the first business meeting, Indians will try to be polite and courteous, and they will listen to every single thing. They may even ask some questions to be sure that they understand what you are saying. If you are unsure about any of the things related to meeting, it is advisable to contact your Indian counterpart via call or email. You will get proper response related to your queries.

Importance of Indian business meeting etiquette

For business meetings in India, it is wise to make meeting arrangements with your counterpart at least few days in advance depending on how busy they are. Make sure to check the particulars of any meetings and if unclear, get the detail by call or email from your Indian counterpart. Indian culture provides a great degree of flexibility and tolerance when dealing with the guests. So if things do not go as per the plan, you do not need to worry. You can explain the situation to your Indian counterpart and they will understand your situation. Moreover, they will provide some extra support too. This is a matter of keeping all the affected parties informed and you can cancel or reschedule your appointments.

The best suitable time for meeting in India is about 11 am. Majority of business meetings takes place in a conference room. However this depends on the parties involved. It is less likely that a first meeting would take place over a meal because of unfamiliarity between the counterparts. Indian associates may take some more time and visits to understand the situation, so a first meeting is usually for introduction and agenda analysis in a normal meeting setting. Typically, Indians choose not to rush when it comes to making important decisions. Business meetings hold high importance and are taken very seriously. Indian managers prepare precise agendas, which are usually monitored strictly. Meetings always aim for influential conclusions and results instead of providing an opportunity for digression or general discussion.

Business meeting Planning

One of the best ways to set up a meeting is to contact the personal assistant of senior executive and ask them for convenient meeting time. After arranging the meeting, it is advisable to check all the required meeting documents and items are available. You will need to think about the following details when planning your business trips to India.

  • If you will be travelling to India from abroad it is advisable to make appointments by email or by letter, at least one month and preferably two months in advance.
  • The best time to schedule meetings is late morning around 11 am or early afternoon.
  • Reconfirm your meeting the week before and call again that morning since it is common in India for meetings to be cancelled at the last minute.
  • Keep your schedule flexible so that it can be adjusted for the last minute rescheduling of meetings.
  • You should arrive at meetings on time since Indians are impressed with punctuality.
  • To plan effective meeting in India, you must first plan what will be discussed. What is the objective of the meeting? What are you seeking to accomplish?
  • Don’t waste people’s time by inviting them to a meeting that they do not need to attend. If a colleague or supervisor needs to be informed of what was discussed at a meeting, you don’t need to invite them to the actual meeting.
  • Prepare a meeting agenda that includes the list of items that participants hope to accomplish at a meeting. The agenda should be distributed to participants several days in advance of a meeting, minimally 24 hours in advance so that participants have the opportunity to prepare for the meeting.
  • When you first send out notification of the meeting, be clear about its purpose and your expectations.
  • An agenda alone will not run your meeting effectively. Stick to the agenda and keep discussions from wandering off on tangents.
  • Plan to use technology to keep attendees engaged. In today’s digital world, most people are used to seeing graphics or videos to support the words they hear.
  • Finally summarize all covered issues and ask for comments and suggestions about possible topics for the next meeting.
  • Within a day after the meeting, send out a brief summary of what was discussed.

Implementing the aforementioned steps for Indian business meetings can drive your organization towards more positive, collaborative and productive meetings.

Negotiation process

In India the primary approach for negotiating is that every employ should attend the meeting. While the buyer plays an important role, both sides in the business deal makes sure that the deal reaches an appropriate agreement. Indians usually expect long term commitments and they often focus on the long term.

They may occasionally follow a win loss approach in which case it helps them to focus on mutual benefits. At any stage of negotiation you may determine through showing friendliness, respect and attitude to compromise. Indian people would rather spend some more time in collecting information and discussing various details before the bargaining stage of the negotiation process starts.

To gain trust, people communicate quite openly and transparently. Try to build trust with proper introductions, demonstrating respect and modesty, and conveying appreciation to your host. It may take some time to cultivate personal relationships but it is important to establish a reputation for integrity.

Indian people have a tendency to follow multiple actions and goals at the same time. While negotiating, Indian people work with a balanced mind and choose random orders rather than sequential orders, for instance they may require a lot of information even at the first meeting. Make sure you do not show irritations or anger in any case when unexpectedly faced with a meeting. Most of the Indian people love bargaining, so the bargaining stage of a negotiation can be huge. The price difference between initial offers and final agreement can typically be 40 percent.

In India most of the companies follow a system in which people are arranged according to their importance and expect to work with established lines of authority. An effective way to verify understanding and commitments is to capture and share meeting summaries.

Meeting protocol

To get a better idea of how to maintain a positive and professional image while in a meeting, make sure you come on time. Do not forget to give your introduction in a meeting room if members do not know about you. You should have a strong agenda as a part of being prepared, so that you can stay on track throughout the meeting. People speak loudly enough in a meeting so that everyone could hear what they are saying, do not take it as an offence or embarrassment. This is also important for Indian business meeting etiquette.

In the meeting, people tend to be polite and discuss every aspects of business. Sometimes meetings go beyond the dedicated time span, so be prepared for extra time. In the initial stages, people keep emotional and physical expressions at minimum level. In addition, you can drink a coffee or water in the meeting but you need permission for anything else.

How to run a business meeting

While organizations use business meetings to make decisions and solve complicated problems, sometimes it can be an ineffective use of time if business meetings do not run properly. The major disadvantage of business meeting is when people come to meeting without any preparations, they don’t pay attention. Moreover, they don’t even follow up on actions. If a business meeting does not give appropriate and desired results, it can be a waste of time.

To make sure that the meeting time is used effectively, both the organizer and participants of business meetings need to be actively participated. If you want to run an effective business meeting, prepare a meeting agenda, encapsulating exactly what will be covered. It is advantageous to have a backup of all the necessary data, facts and reports on an extra pen drive. Indians abhor exaggeration in the meeting room so make sure you have a valid detail for every arguments and debates. If you are not well prepared about the meeting agendas, remain silent or tell the truth that you are not well prepared for the meeting. At the end of the meeting, some Indians shake their hands to give their approval.

Follow up the letter after meeting with client

The power of a follow up email or letter reminds your client of their recent business meeting with you. It sets the tone of your communication with the client in the future. By sending the letter to the client, it ensures that you and your client are on the same page after the meeting. In addition, the follow up letter provides a recap of planned activities.

Indians starts post-meeting actions after the meeting to remind their counterparts about the views and progress of the deal. It is very common to get large written communications to confirm discussions.

Quick and rapid follow up action will strengthen the ties and diminishes the memory errors. Be sure that all the meeting members recognize their role and carry out their actions to the best of their ability. Ongoing and uncompleted business agenda can be set for the next meeting. A follow up phone call or letter therefore will be cherished by your Indian counterpart.

Business meals and Indian business meeting etiquette

A business meal is an important part of the professional world in India. Dinner with a client is more convenient especially in the tense atmosphere of the corporate office. Always accept the invitation for the lunch or dinner with your Indian counterpart. It will present a wonderful opportunity to connect and to know more about your colleagues.

India is very popular for its variety of delicious and mouthwatering food. Make sure you try as much as you can, as Indian food has lots of variety and options and it demands lots of time to try all the dishes. Outdoor eating is quite popular in India, and service charge is generally included with the bill. Give at least 5% of total bill tip to the server for the meal rather than leaving it on the table.

Alcohol is not at all common for the business meal and your Indian counterpart may have your negative impression if you order alcohol during business meal. Tea is very common for the business meeting.

Business meeting tips

The following are some useful tips to remember when travelling to or working in India:

  • Be pertinacious: though India is a crowded and competitive country, you have to be insistent. As Nelson said, “Indians know that if you want something, you have to work hard”.
  • Make small talk: show an interest in other things that aren’t related to business so make an annotation about things you saw on the way to the meetings or about the interior of the meeting room.
  • Wait to warm up: Indians takes some time to get to know each other before physical contact.
  • Yes doesn’t necessarily mean ‘yes’: If an Indian person agrees to meet, but says they are very busy, it may mean it will cancel at the last moment. Indians will cancel a meeting on later date rather than say no from the start.


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