If you’re travelling to the UK for a business meeting, then be sure to make a good impression by understanding British meeting culture!
A little bit of cultural awareness can go a long way in improving communication and professional relationship building.
If you're new to the UK then here are some of our top tips to set you on your way...
1. The first thing to be aware of is that meetings are a central part of British business culture. This is rooted in the need to constantly create consensus with colleagues. In fact, a joke some foreigners make is that the British have meetings to plan meetings!
2. Don’t turn up for a meeting uninvited. British people are quite protective of their time and if you arrive unannounced, then you’re not likely to be received well.
3. Try to arrive ten minutes before the meeting time. As mentioned above, people in the UK value time, which means they don’t expect to be kept waiting. Not only does arriving ten minutes early demonstrate that you value your counterpart’s time, it also shows that you are invested in the meeting. If your running late, then call in advance and prewarn your meeting host.
4. Be aware that business cards aren’t treated with the same formality as they might be in other cultures. As such, don’t be offended if your British counterpart places your card into their back pocket with out so much as a glance.
5. Although British people value time, they always make time at the beginning of a business meeting to engage in small talk. Small talk invariably centres on subjects such as the weather, journeys to the office and whether you found the office easily if you’re a first-time visitor. People in the UK tend to be quite private when mixing with people they don’t know well. It’s important that you’re aware of this and that you avoid asking personal questions.
6. Business meetings in the UK are generally framed by an agenda. Although the agenda may move off tangent at parts, they typically follow the points in order. If you want to discuss topics which are not included on the core agenda then request that it is included at the end of the meeting in the ‘AOB’ (any other business) section.
7. British communication cultures sits somewhere inbetween direct and indirect. This means that although your counterparts may be fairly direct about something, they are likely to present the topic in a way that softens its impact. Quite often humour and sarcasm are used to achieve this. You may find that your British counterparts make remarks to their colleagues which would be considered rude in other cultures. Be aware, however, that sarcasm and humour are generally not intended to offend.
8. Typically, at the end of the meeting, the meeting chair confirms agreements made during the meeting. He / she is likely to confirm the task, the person with responsibility for completing it and the deadline. If you are chairing a meeting in the UK, then it’s good practice to email these out to everyone so that they have a copy.
- So, to wrap up, people in the UK generally like meetings as they give them the chance to revisit topics and ensure consensus.
- Meetings are framed by agendas, with attendees moving through the agenda point by point. Any agreements made are confirmed at the end of the meeting.
- Don’t be surprised if humour or sarcasm are used during your meeting.
If you’re coming to the UK for business and want to know more about UK business culture, then enrol on our UK Culture online training course.
The course is jam packed with insightful, comprehensive information and includes the use of quizzes and scenarios to consolidate learning.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer a live UK business culture webinar, with one of our UK culture specialists, then click here.