THIS SPRING, there is a fresh buzz surrounding international meetings. Future Watch 2005, the annual survey conducted by Meeting Professionals International and American Express, points to a second year of sustained growth in international meetings and business travel. U.S. planners are projecting that 23 percent of all 2005 meetings will be held outside domestic borders. Medical Meetings' annual physicians' CME preferences survey (January/February 2005) reports an increase in the number of physicians who will now consider traveling outside the United States for medical education.

Savvy meeting professionals should devise a professional development strategy to expand their international knowledge. It will give you the opportunity to become an expert resource within your organization and your profession. Start by taking stock of your skills and international experience, identify the gaps in your knowledge, and develop a plan that will take your international expertise to the next level.

Here are some components to consider:

  • Establish an international network

    If you work within an international organization, reach out to counterparts in other countries to learn more about their environment and the key influences affecting the way they do business. If you work independently or don't have colleagues overseas, communicate with fellow independents in other countries to share experiences.

  • Develop a resource list

    You should know where to find information and who your key “go-to” people are for international expertise and advice. I find it helpful to maintain a resource list that includes the e-mail addresses of industry colleagues with extensive international experience, conference planners for major international medical meetings, international CME accreditation specialists, and international convention and visitor bureaus and their U.S. office locations.

    According to Michel Couturier, president of Marketing Challenges International, New York, which represents several top international conference destinations and venues, “Industry professionals in Europe and Asia deal constantly with cross-cultural issues and a vast array of regulatory differences country-to-country. They can provide sound advice to their U.S. counterparts.”

  • Rethink your standard operating procedures

    I have gained a wealth of knowledge by attending and observing international events, and I usually return from an overseas trip with fresh ideas that can be applied to my business. Just because the format you use works well here, doesn't mean it will translate well overseas — learn about how things can be done differently. Not traveling currently? Quiz colleagues, friends, and other peers about memorable international meetings they have attended.

  • Attend educational and networking events

    Be sure to check out international workshop sessions at industry events. These can be a great way to update yourself on trends, and you're likely to add a few more names to your international resource network.

These core components will enable you to start developing your personalized strategy, which will directly benefit you and your organization in the future.

Sue Potton, CMM, marketing director, conference services, MediTech Media Conferencing Inc., Princeton, N.J., has 20 years' experience in marketing, sales, account management, and conference planning in the medical education industry. A native of England, she has managed pharmaceutical and healthcare association meetings and events in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and chairs the International Brand Marketing Committee for Meeting Professionals International. Reach her at