Switzerland is best known for its rugged, snowy beauty and exquisite delicacies. For business travelers, citizens are multi-cultural, efficient and friendly — earning them a reputation for being neutral in all things, even banking. When visiting Switzerland for business, PGi Meetings Experts Miriam Schnyder said, “You better like cheese, chocolate or watches!” Here are the meeting tips for Confoederatio Helvetica.
Q: How do you greet and say goodbye to a colleague or client?
A: We greet each other with a “Hi, how are you today?” Or say good bye with a “Good to see you! Have a great evening!” Shake hands with everyone in a business meeting. There are four languages in Switzerland (German, Italian, French and Romansch) but many of us are also fluent in English.
Q: Where do business meetings usually take place?
A: Meetings are usually held at customer sites or virtually. iMeet or GlobalMeet web conferencing are great because there are so many people all over Europe and everyone can meet “face-to-face” on video live at the same time.
Q: What are some small talk topics to start the meeting? And what topics should be avoided?
A: We love talking about people’s hobbies, kids or pets — fairly neutral topics. Immigration, politics and religion are uncomfortable and should be avoided.
Q: What are the best times to request meetings?
A: Any business hours before 4:30PM are fine. After 4:30, you have to worry about people wanting to go home and being distracted.
Q: How should I schedule a meeting in the Switzerland? And what do I need to supply before the meeting?
A: Outlook invites with a couple of agenda items work great. Where available, add meeting minutes from the last meeting so you can follow up on those within the new appointment.
Q: Should I schedule a lunch or dinner meeting? What is the etiquette for sharing a meal?
A: We welcome meals with associates — where appropriate. If you know the area, suggest the place and organize the booking, otherwise let the customer do the suggestions and suggest the place. Etiquette-wise, I will always suggest no more than one glass of wine and not to order any politically incorrect food, such as frog legs.
Q: At the meeting, what should I provide and prepare?
A: Most importantly, just bring your ears, brains and a smile. We rarely use Power Points as most meetings are very conversational, and business cards are appreciated.
Q: How long should the meetings be?
A: Expect to have interesting conversations, so ideally keep the meetings between 1-1.5 hours.
Q: What can I do to encourage collaborative discussion during the meeting?
A: There will be some small talk on the way in and out (usually about five minutes total) with a lot of room to be flexible based on the others in the room. Ask questions, be mindful not to interrupt and definitely keep your emotions under control.
Q: What should I wear to meetings?
A: Wear a well cut, clean suit unless the weather is far too hot and you would be uncomfortable. Bring a brolli (umbrella) and coat if needed. It’s very snowy in the winter, but we have public transportation and great snowplows.
Q: What should I do after the meeting?
A: Follow up with meeting minutes on a proper template via email and, most importantly, action items.
Q: What else should visitors to your country know?
Switzerland is very beautiful and the people are very friendly. If you’re coming to visit, make sure you pick up some cheese, chocolate or watches — or all of them! And bring your swimmers if you come in summer — plenty of fab lakes!
Have more questions about the meetings do’s and don’ts in the Switzerland?
Photo courtesy of Lonely Planet.