Business meeting etiquette

FYROM flag

Business meetings

Communication has always been the lifeblood of every company. People meet in order to discuss ideas, share experiences, define strategies and develop new directions. According to the results of a survey conducted by the Annenberg School of Communications at UCLA and the University of Minnesota’s Training & Development Research Centre, 40%-50% of executives spend their working hours in business meetings. This suggests that in the modern workplace, where doing one’s job well is only possible through effective team coordination, business meetings are becoming more important than ever.

EPP Summit 29 October 2009

Importance of business meetings

Meetings in the FYROM are formal. Punctuality is appreciated, but not expected. FYROM professionals are not extremely rigid about it. Arriving around the time when the appointment is arranged is appropriate. Greetings go according to status – from higher to lower. If there are women, they are always the first to be greeted. After a few minutes of small talk before beginning, the person with the highest professional rank opens the meeting and usually ends the conversation as well. During the meeting it is acceptable to ask questions, but also expect to be asked many questions, as meetings are primarily held for the purpose of information exchange.

Although decisions are made at the top of the company i.e. top down, a consensus with the stakeholders will be reached before making a final decision.

It is expected that presentations are done competently and are factual and backed by statistics. Successful ventures never happen fast, as Macedonians like to make sure that all topics have been covered comprehensively first.

For further information please see:

Business meeting planning

An email suggesting an appointment and a short description of what the meeting is going to be about is the usual way of arranging a meeting. If you need to meet an executive you should adjust your plan to the executive’s. A phone call to his or her secretary or directly to the person themselves, if s/he doesn’t have executive status, is also a very common way of setting up a meeting.

Negotiation process

FYROM’s people can be tough negotiators. If you need an interpreter then hire your own for meetings and negotiations. Avoid confrontational behaviour or high-pressure sales tactics. An indirect negotiating style is preferred as being too direct is viewed as poor manners. Do not change members of a negotiating team before a decision is reached or the relationship-building process will have to begin anew. [en]

Meeting protocol

When greeting people you don’t know very well or with whom you are not familiar, it is normal to shake hands and greet them neutrally. If you enter a room where others are seated, you should shake hands with each person. If you are greeting people you already know, it is expected to show a certain amount of informality towards them. When you are leaving you should also shake hands with everyone present.

For less formal situations, a light hug between men and one or two kisses, one on each cheek between women is common. Traditionally and in some formal situations three kisses on alternate cheeks and a handshake is appropriate.

In Muslim areas, touching between men and women should be kept to a minimum or may not be allowed at all. Follow the local’s lead if you are in doubt how to act.

How to run a business meeting

For meetings to be effective it is important to have a clear agenda. The agenda is usually sent out in advance of the meeting to enable the attendees to read it and if required to prepare themselves. The person responsible for running the meeting makes sure that the procedure and housekeeping details are followed. The meeting starts after a couple of minutes of conversation to get to know the other attendees. It is useful to bring printed material/handouts besides a well-prepared presentation with facts, information, simple and understandable visual aids. FYROM people are good listeners and won’t interrupt while someone else is talking, but you should expect many questions afterwards.

Follow up letter after meeting with client

After the meeting, agreements or decisions are not made immediately, it may take a couple of days until the agreements are finalised.

Business meals

Fundamental for a successful business lunch or dinner is to make sure you are familiar with the proper eating etiquette. When having a meal with a business partner, remain professional and polite. Business meals, restaurant etiquette and traditional food and drink will be addressed in this section.

Business dinners in the FYROM are considered more of a social occasion and a good way to develop relationships. Meals are generally very rich and there will quite often be more food on the table than can be eaten. Macedonians are extremely generous hosts. It is proper etiquette to offer to pay. The host will most probably  refuse the offer, but it is important to make the gesture to give a good impression. The bill may be shared with the host, but a foreigner would not be allowed to pay.

When in a restaurant shake hands with everyone present. Most restaurant rules are similar to those in other European countries. You should wait to be shown to a seat and wait till your elders begin to eat. However, people aren’t going to judge you and tend to be fairly informal. If you are invited for dinner or lunch, be sure to plan to be there for at least two hours, since meals last a very long time due to socializing.

Every meal starts with meze, a combination of fresh salad, white cheese, different combination of zucchinis, eggs, eggplant (aubergine), paprika, olives etc. It is usually served with rakija, strong aperitif made from grapes, plums or pears. The main dish includes a mixture of meat, potatoes, vegetable and spices.

FYROM’s traditional cuisine offers a variety of culinary delights. It has inherited many tastes from Turkish cuisine, which prevailed during the Ottoman rule, and also from Greece and Italy. Therefore, the FYROM’s cuisine is a combination of Balkan and Mediterranean. The principal food on the menu is a mixture of meat and vegetables, tavcegravce (baked beans), peppers stuffed with minced meat, mousaka (a mixture of meat, potatoes and/or aubergines), barbecues, sarma (made of brine cabbage, fresh cabbage, vine leaves, sorrel), turlitava, pita pastrmajlia etc. Some of the traditional Macedonian meals are not served in the restaurants, for example gomleze, mekici, pogaca, pindzur, ajvar, tursija, but if your host invites you to his house then some of these meals would definitely be served.

The FYROM is famous for its wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and mellow Merlot. If you are visiting the FYROM make sure you try them. The minimum legal drinking and smoking age is 18 and is strictly enforced. Smoking in restaurants and coffee bars is not allowed.

Do you want to learn more about Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)?: