Americans and Europeans often experience substantial frustration and anxiety while working in Loose Time Cultures such as Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, India, Nigeria or others. This generally stems from the tremendous contrast between their respective viewpoints surrounding the concept of TIME. Generally speaking, Americans and most Europeans value a more precise view of time when contrasted to those from Loose Time Cultures. Clashes can easily occur as they are working with people who do not reckon time with nearly as much precision.
Here are some tips to help you avoid these clashes in cultures which have a loose reckoning of time:
PACE: First, recognize that things generally move at a slower pace in these cultures – and you can’t really change that in the few days that you will be in the country! People in those cultures often have the attitude that you should relax, try not worry too much, that there is always more time, and that the work can be finished tomorrow. They place a higher value on the importance of developing relationships with others than on the arbitrary measure of time. As a result, it is not uncommon for shows to open with exhibits not fully finished.
TIP 1: Focus on the development of long-term relationships.
From a show perspective, it is very important to work on a tight schedule. Establish very clear milestones for each DAY of installation – and stick to them no matter what! Keep the crews working – or bring in more crew members early in the process – to make sure that each day you finish to the level required to meet your schedule. Otherwise, there will be a huge surge in the end with lots of mistakes.
TIP 2: Work to meet DAILY deadlines, and target to finish well before show opening.
TIP 3: If you are facing the dreaded “all-nighter,” provide a sufficient meal (and snacks) to energize the team to go all night.
PRODUCTS / EQUIPMENT: Related to the schedule discussed previously, many local exhibit builders are only focusing on what work THEY have to get done to finish the project, and may not be aware of all of the time that YOU need to install your products / equipment or to set-up demos. This is especially important in countries where exhibits are generally single-use (a.k.a. “build and burn”), versus a booth that is pre-built. I strongly recommend that you give them EARLY deadlines of when their work must be completed so that your team can install equipment / product, and begin preparing demos or conducting rehearsals. However, simply agreeing on a deadline will not guarantee that it is met, you must also use the scheduling tips discussed above.
TIP 4: Allocate time for product / equipment installation, testing, and rehearsals.
FLEXIBILITY: Expect people to arrive late to meetings and appointments. This should not be viewed as a sign of disrespect. In major cities the traffic can be extremely heavy, easily taking two to three hours to get across town, contributing to delays. It is normal that your local contact will be handling a variety of other relationships which are important to them, as well as tasks (or meetings) at the same time that he is working with you.
TIP 5: Be flexible when you can.
TIP 6: Consider broadening your concept of an acceptable level of tardiness.
STRESS: People can get really panicked when time is running out and things are unfinished – and sometimes even explode under intense pressure. I’ve observed exhibit managers screaming, yelling and throwing things – all in an effort to get things moving faster. Those huge gestures don’t help much in the long run! In fact, they slow things down as people become afraid, distracted, and unsure of how to react. The better approach is to remain calm, but VERY firm. It is critically important to maintain RESPECT for everyone involved. Calmly review details with your local colleagues, and PRIORITIZE which items need the most urgent focus, as they may not realize what is most important to you. Consider additional support staff (sometimes from another company) if they are capable of working alongside of the current crew in a productive way. Doing the work yourself can create other problems, especially in a country with a very high Power Distance Index (PDI).
TIP 7: Prioritize which items need most urgent focus.
TIP 8: Consider additional team members.
TIP 9: Remain calm and respectful under stress.