If you ever had a meeting cancelled in Brazil this article will explain you why and how to avoid this in the future.
This is kind of a hot potato, especially in São Paulo where people often see themselves as hard working and punctual people with a high business ethic.
My very unscientific questionnaire between other Brazilian business professionals has confirmed that I'm not the only one experiencing about 25% of scheduled meetings cancelled less than an hour before the scheduled appointment.
So why do Brazilians cancel meetings?
The answer is as easy as it's harsh: You are not important enough for them to prioritize time to meet you.
Brazilians are very diplomatic by nature, when you call them to schedule a meeting it's natural for them to answer yes since that's what they know is what you want to hear. It's simply the "path of least resistance" at that point. Not showing up later does not cause any confrontation either.
How to avoid delayed meetings?
There are a few strategies it's worth trying out in order to reduce the chance of investing time and energy in a meeting that gets cancelled.
- Call 1 hour before to confirm the appointment
- Not schedule meetings before 9:30 AM to avoid the traffic excuse
- Not schedule meetings at 14:00 PM to avoid the out for lunch excuse
How to handle a "no show" meeting
So, you are sitting there in the reception, you already registered and told the receptionist that you are there but nobody shows up. What do you do?
First of all, you need to understand the line of operation of larger offices where you are meeting a management representative. The receptionist will call the secretary informing that you have arrived and the secretary will prepare the meeting room.
Keep in mind this does not actually mean that the person you are planning to meet is even in the building and much less that he was actually noticed about your arrival.
After 10 minutes: while waiting, you ask the receptionist if the person is delayed and the receptionist will again call the secretary. At this point the secretary might make a call to the person you are planning to meet and let him know that you are there.
After 20 minutes: you tell the receptionist that you have another appointment and that you will have to leave in 10 minutes if the person you were going to meet does not show up. This normally accelerates the process since it's not following the normal interaction with the receptionist.
After 30 minutes: it's not worth playing the game anymore. Politely, give your business card to the receptionist and ask the person you plan to meet to call you back if he wants to reschedule the meeting.
What to tolerate
If somebody is traveling to your place in order to meet you, it's normal to tolerate more than if you travel to somebody else's office. Traffic and other problems in the larger Brazilian cities are very unpredictable and for the traveling party to be 30 minutes delayed should not be considered unacceptable.
Time in Brazil is relative and not absolute. When somebody tells you he will be there in 10 minutes, you should not get inpatient before 20 minutes later.