Meetings can be confusing affairs as they are often subject to unforeseen interruptions and alterations. Don’t expect the standard western approach of meeting room, punctuality, agenda, action points etc.
Punctuality is variable in the UAE and a meeting scheduled to start at 10am might start on time but may well start an hour or more late. It is also difficult to predict the end time of a meeting with any degree of accuracy – which can make it difficult to visit the UAE and arrange three meetings in the morning, followed by three meetings in the afternoon. Two meetings a day is probably the safest option.
It is not uncommon to arrive at your meeting to find your host in a meeting with several other people and that these other people could be meeting your host about completely disconnected issues. This process can make meetings very lengthy and it can be a little frustrating if you don’t get the complete attention you feel you deserve.
Some people recommend setting up meetings at the up-market local hotels where you can serve coffee and refreshments – and where you are less likely to be interrupted as frequently!
In the UAE, relationships are all-important and meetings will often start with a lot of seemingly trivial small-talk. Do not underestimate how important this relationship building process is to the overall success of your project. Make time to chat – the rewards will flow in the long-run.