Meetings in Brazil

Meetings rarely start on time. In particular, decision-makers often do not appear until the meeting is already in full swing. An appropriate strategy for dealing with this is to use the first half an hour or so simply to chat to the other participants. This offers the advantage of allowing you to get to know each other a little more closely on the one hand, while on the other, not having to repeat the main points more than necessary. Similarly, it is also common to find that key decision makers may not be continuously present throughout the entire meeting, as they have ›more important things to do‹ at the same time. Don’t let this bother you. In general, the flow of information works, despite these temporary absences.

Try to gain insight

The conduct of the meeting is taken on according to hierarchical rules. Particularly at the beginning of a meeting, it is best to avoid directly addressing any individual participant: if an employee is addressed before his superior, this can cause offence, and also lead to embarrassment in front of everyone if the particular party is poorly prepared. It is often best to permit the respective leaders to invite participants to take the floor. This way, you are able to recognise their positions and can avoid these problems. As an outsider, it is often difficult to identify immediately the internal power structures and decision-makers. It is invaluable to know an insider who can give you some insight into the existing hierarchy and who knows the correct way to deal with interpersonal relationships.

Take a break

Long monologues from individual participants are common in Brazilian meetings. These can be problematic as the main thread can be lost very quickly. You can always interrupt the speech of your counterpart with praise and approval. Then find a creative ›turn‹ (a jeito) to get back to the actual subject. It may be that your Brazilian colleagues have not consulted with each other sufficiently prior to the appointment. The meeting falters. Why not allow them the necessary space and freedom to make up for lost time quickly? For example, set up an artificial break, by going to the car to get something. This way, your partners can reach an agreement in the meantime.

Critical moments can be defused by taking a break together for a cafezinho (strong aromatic coffee with a lot of sugar). This way, the subject can change, without breaking the thread of conversation. The situation relaxes. Once the small cups are emptied, the actual point of discussion can be tackled again.

Timing in Brazilian meetings

In meetings with Brazilians, the most important is dealt with last. Time and place have another dimension and weight. The routes to finding solutions are flexible. So do not expect that only scheduled meetings offer the opportunity to discuss key points. Because of the Brazilian communication style, the etiquette of meetings prohibits rushing ahead too quickly. Do not be tempted to ›frontload‹ the early part of any meeting with all the key statements and information. It is only when the atmosphere is right that the important aspects can be genuinely discussed and not simply forgotten. This also means that the ›right moment‹ may also be found outside the conference room, for example, during a personal conversation in a restaurant or in a bar after the formal meeting itself. Good follow-up is key to realising the proposals developed in the meeting. It is essential that you ›keep your eye on the ball‹ and from time to time kindly remind those responsible to carry on with their agreed tasks and deliver results.

Markus Hasenfratz
Gerardo Müller Albán

+49 (0)711 722 468 44
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