Tips from a Project Manager on Managing International Clients

By Joanna Lee

As we welcome daylight savings on Saturday, project managers like me need to be extra careful managing calendars and appointments with international clients. Here are a few project management tips I’ve learned along the way that can help you manage international clients.

Tip #1: When communication gets fuzzy, repeat what you heard
This policy pertains to both global and local clients, and is especially useful in two ways. First, this confirms that the clients’ message has been conveyed to you, and second, it gives comfort to the client now that he/she has heard you are able to iterate the client’s message in your own way. Let’s face it, no matter how advanced the audio system is – WebEx, Skype, Lync you name it – inevitably words get fuzzy and messages can easily get lost in translation.

For example, I had a client in Europe whose English was not his native language, and his deputy filled in the status meetings in his absence. Upon returning to his office, he asked me over the phone, “Can you *static sound* mail me notes from *longer static sound* Wednesday? I don’t *static sound continues.*” I responded “Sure, I understand that you need the output and decisions made from last Wednesday CET when I spoke to your colleague. I can forward you the meeting minutes and we can revisit any items that need to be discussed.” This response clarifies not only your understanding of the static message, but also provides an opportunity for the client to clarify his request upon hearing you reiterate his message. Simple, but instrumental in clear communication.

Tip #2: Celebrate foreign holidays!
One of the perks I have working with global clients is vicariously experiencing their native festivities. From German Oktoberfest to Brazilian Carnival to Japanese Golden week, make sure you wish your colleagues and clients across the other end of the globe a happy . It’s not easy to build a relationship based purely on email communication, but every bit helps in building an approachable and friendly relationship.

Tip #3: Daylight savings time is your friend
There is a famous saying “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” While there are nifty digital tools (,, to name a few) to help schedule meetings across time zones, many apps fail to incorporate the daylight saving change. For example, if I were to schedule a conference call for two weeks in the future, and there is daylight savings in between that time, some apps fail to include the time shift. On the first Sunday when the time changes, I like to cross-reference the scheduled time between online tools and the world clock on my android. Check, check, and then check again so you can get your meetings within your project timeline.


Joanna Lee is Client Services Manager at MetaDesign.