What time do you call this? A guide to international conference calling

What time do you call this? A guide to international conference calling (image credit: Thinkstock/istock)

With the economy on the mend, businesses are finally looking towards ways they can successfully grow their operations once again, riding on the crest of a wave of optimism that is naturally being encouraged by the government.

Earlier this month (May 7th to 11th), the British Chambers of Commerce teamed up with UK Trade and Investment to hold its fifth annual Export Week, promoting the benefits of companies taking their wares and services overseas.

For many firms, the main barrier between them establishing themselves in foreign markets is the fear of the unknown. Not being confident in their own ability to take on an unfamiliar territory and the exposure to financial risk are two obstacles organisations often can't see past when it comes to seeking out opportunities abroad.

However, the latter is certainly not as relevant as it used to be. It's now quite feasible to be able to keep in touch with overseas contacts and colleagues without having to spend a fortune on travelling expenses and this is largely down to the growing popularity of international conference calling.

At Buzz, there is no extra connection charge for guests who wish to participate in a teleconference from another country. The only fee they have to pay is the national call rate.

That said, it can still be a veritable minefield when it comes to dealing in business with other cultures. In order to make it that little bit easier, here are a few tips to ensure you get the most out of phoning other countries.

Know when's the best time to call

Of course, time differences can play a crucial part in making it difficult to arrange get-togethers over the telephone, so bear this in mind when arranging your meetings. Familiarise yourself with how many hours behind or ahead your contact is and consider that a convenient time for you might not be as easy to arrange for them.

Another element to potentially factor in is whether or not there are any points in the day that you may need to avoid for cultural reasons. For example, if certain countries incorporate siestas into their daily routine, it may be considered rude to phone them up during their lunch.

National holidays

Similarly, you should pay attention to national holidays that are recognised in the country you are calling, as arranging a meeting for a day when one of these falls is likely to result in an unsuccessful teleconference and also highlight your own ignorance of the culture you are trying to sell your brand into.

It could well be worth investing in a calendar from the nation you are dealing with during your initial visits over there to help you plan when your catchup sessions can take place.

Learn the lingo…

Even if you have no previous knowledge of your guest's native language, it's often a good idea to brush up on a few basic phrases you can use. It's polite, if nothing else.

The main purpose for this little bit of homework is to demonstrate again that you are culturally aware. Your contact will most likely expect that you won't be able to speak their language (it's hardly something UK citizens are known for), but if you show that you have taken a little bit of time and effort for their benefit this can go a long way towards building a long-lasting relationship.

A recent article by London Translations highlighted why learning a language, or at least familiarising yourself with foreign culture, is still an incredibly useful skill to have and we couldn't agree more.

…and respect they might not know yours

Just as you should show willing to embrace the culture of your guest, you should also remember that English will most likely not be their first language.

With this in mind, you should never get frustrated if you find yourself having to explain the same point on numerous occasions. You should also be mindful of not talking too quickly and pausing every now and again to allow the participants of the call to catch up with you. 

This short break will also give them the opportunity to clarify any issues they may not fully understand. While it can feel as though this is stopping the flow of your meeting, you'll find the conference to be much more productive than if only half of those on the call understood what was going on when it comes to an end!