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Toronto, Canada

Meeting Etiquette Tips for Business Travel to Canada

Oh, Canada! This vast, incredible land is lush with beautiful forests, stunning cities and unique cultures. Canadians are known for the generosity, warmth and ferocious love of hockey. PGi Meetings Experts Cristina Lucas and Sharon Mercer shed light on how to meet for business success in Canada.

Q: How do you greet and say goodbye to a colleague or client?

A: Greetings depend on how well you know a colleague or customer. This can range anywhere from a handshake (acquaintances) to a double cheek kiss (friends). The same goes for goodbyes. There is a caveat, though. If you are meeting with a French Canadian colleague, the double cheek kiss is expected regardless of how well you’re acquainted.

Q: Where do business meetings usually take place?

A: Meetings take place everywhere! Formal meetings are usually in office boardrooms, whereas more casual meetings can be in other office spaces or public spaces. Parks, restaurants and coffee shops are perfect meeting places. For participants that are located in multiple places, we use GlobalMeet web conferencing or iMeet face-to-face video meetings.

Q: What are some small talk topics to start the meeting? And what topics should be avoided?

A: Small talk topics are always the weather and your local hockey team! Feel free to comment a business associate if you see on a picture of a child or pet in their office. As Canadians are known to be polite, we try to avoid politics and religion. If you hear Canadians discussing this topic, they are most likely friends and have shared a drink or two.

Q: What are the best times to request meetings?

A: Tuesday-Thursday from about 10AM-3PM, preferably in the morning while everyone’s fresh and starting their day. Anything outside of those times would be considered a breakfast or dinner meetings (which still take place, but much less formally). Mondays are considered “admin days” and Fridays are “casual days.”

Q: How should I schedule a meeting in Canada? And what do I need to supply before the meeting?

A: Scheduling a meeting usually begins on the phone or email and then we send out an Outlook reminder. In the invitation, it is a courtesy to explain the reason for the meeting request. For meetings with more than five people, agendas are suggested. Telephone before the meeting to make sure they are in the office and still available.

Q: Should I schedule a lunch or dinner meeting? What is the etiquette for sharing a meal?

A: Of course, everyone must eat! It’s common practice to take meals with business associates. If reservations are needed (usually only required for a very nice dinner), then it is the responsibility of the meeting organizer to make the reservations and pay. Dinner is usually scheduled for about 6 PM and is a very long event. Let the meeting organizer know if there are any special dietary requests, and special care will be taken to ensure the restaurant is appropriate for everyone (not too loud or crowded).

More common is the post-work drinks & tapas meetings. These are more casual, but still have some business associated to them. These meetings tend to be a “wide broadcast” type of invite to whole departments or offices, with people arriving anywhere from 5 – 7 pm.

Q: At the meeting, what should I provide and prepare?

A: Bring your mobile phone and provide a business card arriving at reception desk. Give everyone a business card when shaking their hand and introducing yourself. Many companies will not allow you to use your computer but you can always use their computer for a demonstration. Canadians prefer to have an authentic conversation, so very few visual aids are needed.

If you’re attending a meeting that will last longer than two hours, like a training or demonstration, refreshments and snacks are expected. If the agenda is scheduled over a meal time, good etiquette dictates that a meal be served.

Q: How long should the meetings be?

A: A meetings should not go longer than 30 minutes, unless it’s a formal meeting with many action items (like a training, product demonstration, etc.) — and then no longer than an hour. Keep it to 80% business, 20% small talk. At the end of the meeting, leave with a “thank you,” handshake and a smile.

Q: What can I do to encourage collaborative discussion during the meeting?

A: The key to having a collaborative discussion is to facilitate the conversation. Ask pointed questions, and don’t be afraid to look at different individuals throughout the meeting for answers.

Q: What should I wear to meetings?

A: Canada is either really cold or really hot! Expect snow in the winter — the temperature can get below -20 degrees Celcius so bring a very warm coat, hand and gloves. Most parts of Canada have hot summers, with the temperature reaching in the high 30s (Celcius) do don’t forget the sunscreen!

Q: What should I do after the meeting?

A: Send the minutes in a thank you email.

Q: What else should visitors to your country know?

A: They would need to know about the hello kisses (it always funny to see how surprised people can be with that). Other things to know: we start quite late — finish late, too — and take lot of time to eat.

One thing to do is to have breakfast in a small Parisian bistro coffee + croissant (can be done with client or colleague).

Jokes are very much appreciated, but don’t make jokes about French people or French food or France, for some reason we don’t find that funny!

Have more questions about the meetings do’s and don’ts in Canada?

Photo courtesy of iGuide.