In Argentina, meetings are primarily held to deepen personal relationships with business partners. Exchanging concrete information or making decisions is often relegated to the background.
Aims of meetings
Agreements that are made during a meeting are therefore by no means to be regarded as absolutely binding and are often thrown out at a later date. The really important things often come up in a more informal setting before or after the official meeting. The coordination of business details is often delegated to assistants or lower hierarchical levels.
In view of this, meetings in Argentina are not as important as they might be in many other countries and there are comparatively few meetings.
Anyone who attaches a lot of importance to punctuality will need to exercise a certain degree of tolerance in Argentina. Arriving 5-10 minutes late for a meeting is still considered to be on time. In Buenos Aires, by the way, the frequent delays are also related to the heavy traffic on the roads.
If your meeting starts late, be sure to use the waiting time to get into conversation with those already present. Contributing to a pleasant atmosphere in the room will make the meeting with your relationship-oriented Argentine partners even better.
If you are responsible for scheduling the meeting, be aware that 9 am is too early for most Argentinians. As mentioned before, this is partly due to the heavy rush hour traffic in the capital. So you might want to start a little later and remember that lunch breaks in Argentina can be up to two hours long. You should therefore plan to have lunch between 1 pm and 3 pm. Lunch with your Argentine business partners may even last until 4 pm!
As far as planning topics are concerned, an agenda should only be seen as a rough guideline. Argentinians like to do several things at once and leave plenty of room for the unexpected. That’s why they don’t like to stick to an agenda in meetings and prefer to jump impromptu from point to point. It is also not unusual for several people to talk about different topics at the same time during a meeting.
Argentinians speak in a lively and engaged manner using a lot of gestures. At the same time, they communicate indirectly and in a relationship-oriented way. Simpatía, mutual esteem, always comes first. Argentinians strive for harmonious cooperation in the conference room and avoid conflicts as best they can.
That is why Argentinians will often avoid taking a concrete stand on a specific issue in meetings. Even criticisms are not openly addressed. This is mainly due to the need not to attack others and to preserve social harmony. And if you hear a “Maybe”, “I think so” or “Don’t know” from an Argentinean, you can confidently translate that to mean “No”. People don’t like to say “No”, because such a harsh refusal is perceived as very rude.
Argentinian companies are also very hierarchical. The boss has an almost patriarchal role to play, while the employees usually have little personal responsibility. If different hierarchy levels are represented in meetings, the company manager is the main addressee, for example, if an employee gives a presentation.
Critical questions or objections are unlikely to arise. So, don’t use meetings to discuss problems or voice criticism. That would only put your Argentinian counterparts in a very awkward position. Such conversations can only be conducted in private and preferably only with the company manager in person. It is better to talk about positive things at the meeting in order to meet the Argentinian need for harmony.
As mentioned at the beginning, meetings in Argentina are mainly held to deepen personal relationships and build simpatia. Always keep this in mind and make sure you give plenty of time and attention to discussing the really important things before or after a meeting in a more informal way.