Latin America (LATAM) is an energetic region that’s perfect for business events. Its culture is vibrant, its people are passionate, and it offers a huge choice of fantastic destinations and venues.
As the major countries in the region have stabilized politically, they’re attracting increasing numbers of U.S. and European companies to establish local headquarters there, with the aim of doing more business. The knock-on effect is that national economies across the LATAM region are experiencing growth, and as they do, even more businesses are turning their attention to creating a presence here. The opportunity for MICE business is immense.
Here are five tips to consider when it comes to doing business in the region.
1. Remember, it’s a region, not a country
Many business people make the mistake of treating LATAM like it’s one country, with shared beliefs and culture. In fact, each country in LATAM has its own identity, its own approach to doing business, its own habits, customs and history.
Events such as IBTM Americas are an opportunity to discover a broad range of markets all under one roof. If you’re planning to visit the countries in person do some research and arrive equipped with some understanding of the places you intend to do business in. When you visit, it’s a good idea to walk the streets, try a few restaurants, and learn first-hand about the local area. Be ready to talk positively about any aspect of the locality (as always, it’s best to avoid religion or politics). Latin Americans are very proud of their culture; making an effort to appreciate it means a lot to them, and it will make the all-important trusting relationships you need to succeed in business there that much easier for you.
2. Speak some of the local language
Across Latin America, you will predominantly find Spanish, Portuguese and French spoken. Making an effort to learn a few words of the local language shows respect and will give you a clear advantage when relationship building. Learning a handful of the most common greetings can pay dividends when it comes to getting your meetings off to a positive start.
3. Be prepared to talk
Latin Americans are very sociable and like to engage in small talk before talking business. Asking about family health and happiness will often be the first topic of conversation. Don’t be surprised if you’re shown photos of family by your new contacts. You’ll find it’s normal to lighten the mood in this way before the business talk begins. Don’t forget to turn up the warmth when they reciprocate—remember your aim is to build trusting friendships. If you’re short of topics to discuss, whip out your football (aka soccer) and music knowledge, they’re both region-wide passions and can be great ice-breakers.
After meetings or networking events, if you’re invited to stay for a chat over coffee, take your contact up on it. Enjoy getting to know people in more casual and social environments and you will reap the rewards when it comes to doing business with them.
4. Dress well
It is normal across most of LATAM to dress smartly for business. The more casual business dress that has infiltrated North America and Europe in recent years isn’t so common here. If you look ready for business, you will be treated with respect and taken seriously. This means business dress is de rigueur.
5. Time isn’t always of the essence
When meeting business people in LATAM, don’t be surprised or offended if meetings don’t start quite on time. The pace of life in the region is more relaxed, and start times can be a little flexible. That said, they will likely expect a delegate from the European Union or North America to be on time, especially in a structured environment like IBTM Americas, so make sure you remain punctual.
People from across Latin America are fun and friendly and make great company. They want to do business with you. Do your prep and have genuine intentions to foster new friendships with the contacts you make—enjoy the culture and hospitality—and there’s every reason your trip to the region will be exciting, enjoyable and highly profitable.