Danes are pragmatic. This is why a meeting does not begin until everyone has arrived and taken their seats. After all, you don’t want to have to say the same thing over and over again.
It is alright to be fashionably late to official business meetings in Denmark—for some. As a guest, you must never be late! By being punctual you are also proving that you are reliable. In Denmark, the reliability of business partners is extremely important.
Since Danes are masters of understatement, you should introduce yourself only briefly at the beginning of a meeting. Don’t go overboard and make long speeches when introducing yourself. Tell them who you are employed by and what you are working on at the moment—and not all that you are “responsible” for. In Denmark, hierarchies are flat and keeping yourself on an equal level is an important part of good communication.
For the same reason, seating arrangements are also based on equality: everyone sits at the usually u-shaped or circular conference table wherever they choose to. The important thing is that everyone can have eye contact with each other.
In Danish companies, a meeting begins in an orderly fashion. The inviting person has the floor and then proceeds to the first agenda point.
This is followed by a very open exchange of opinions, which may seem to be somewhat excessive. However, in keeping with their democratic attitude, it is immensely important for Danes that every participant has an opportunity to express themselves.
Meetings take as long as they need to take. Hectically rushing through items on an agenda is not the Danish way. Be sure to plan plenty of time, even for a long lunch break. Lunch is generally substantial so that all participants can enter the second round well-fortified.
The atmosphere in Danish meetings is relaxed, but people treat each other with respect. Everyone lets each other finish speaking without interrupting and no one will try to stand out through long addresses.
Truth, frankness and authenticity are very important in Denmark. Nevertheless, you must never criticize as Danes themselves don’t criticize either. They are masters of diplomacy. Use carefully phrased questions such as “I see this slightly differently from you. What do you mean exactly?”
When you are the one making a presentation, step forward so that everyone can see you and hear you speak.
You should keep your presentation short. From a Danish point of view, precise, well-structured statements are professional. Figures and dates underpin what has been said.
Design your presentation slides as keywords; simple titles and keywords per topic are sufficient.
Danes don’t want to be “overwhelmed” by a presentation but would rather work together with you on the issue. They prefer to feel like they are taking part in a discussion.
So, throw some questions into the room. Leave space for ideas and don’t feel that you need to have an elaborate counter-argument to everything when questions arise. Instead, answer something like “This is a good suggestion. The idea could be pursued”.
Don’t be too perfect and even be a bit restrained when you are presenting. Listen, show interest and communicate that the content of your presentation is not an unshakable status quo.
Minutes of the meeting
Even if Danish meetings sometimes seem lengthy, there is someone who always has an overview: the minute taker. The task of recording the meeting is assigned in a rolling system. As you may already suspect, position and company rank play no role whatsoever.
In terms of content, Danish minutes contain what has been discussed, what has been decided and what needs to be done after the meeting.