To meetings and presentations in Germany you should come well prepared and ready to passionately debate and defend your viewpoints. One explanation why meetings can become rather large in regard to the number of participants is that German companies tend to employ specialist. In discussions, designated specialists from various departments are expected to contribute information from their field of expertise due to this meetings can become quite lengthy at times.
In search of the right answer, direct and firm debating is encouraged. Sometimes these meetings can seem to be fiery, passionate and intense. However, the discussion will normally be based on the factual and not on the personal level.
Participants of the meeting
Who is invited to a meeting can vary very much. In general, only participants are chosen, who can contribute reasonable and important input to the topic of the meeting or who are able to make a decision or have a say in the matter. In order to tackle a task most effectively and to find suitable solutions the number of participants should be as small as possible, yet include all necessary expertise.
A well-prepared business meeting should follow a formal procedure. German managers work with precise and detailed agendas, which can already contain a chain of thoughts (›roter Faden‹: guiding thread). This is why agendas are usually strictly followed. Meetings always aim for decisive outcomes and results, rather than providing a forum for open and general discussion. Often after meetings, one can expect written minutes trying to summarise what was said and to list the tasks (and the persons attached to them) that need to be completed next. (written word!)
Business meetings should start and end punctually, often the starting and ending time are communicated. The recommended time to schedule a business meeting is between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm or between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm. Avoid scheduling appointments or meetings on Friday afternoon, and avoid rescheduling.
The agenda is actually already the outline of a plan. That is the reason why the agenda is of such importance and should not be skipped or changed too much. Hard work has already been put into it.
If you want to make sure, that your points are addressed in the meeting, make sure they are on the (written) agenda. Otherwise, people will be surprised and might have a hard time following you, because they had no time in advance to deal with your points. The individual points of the agenda occasionally already give the structure of the record.
Punctuality / Planning
Meetings and presentations in Germany are often scheduled well in advance and planned thoroughly which can be very time-consuming. But once the planning is done, the assignments clarified and the timelines set, the process can move ahead quickly. Being punctual shows respect and reliability. Try to be punctual for a meeting. If you are going to be even slightly late, call and explain your situation.
Also, follow your co-workers and observe the specific meeting culture in your department. Maybe there is a tolerance of a few minutes, maybe not.
A good presentation follows a logical structure and invites people to follow the line of thoughts. Presentations in Germany should be well prepared, comprehensive and clear. They should be presented in a formal and rational manner. You can show facts and figures to underline your arguments. This is a good way to show, that they are valid.
The material should be well structured and proofread. A handout is a good opportunity to show data, numbers and facts. You should take advantage of the information in the handout.