As more meeting planners shift their eyes toward the promising opportunities to connect with new attendees in the Asia-Pacific market, PCMA united a high-level cast of global meeting planners, CVB CEOs and convention center managers from around the world for the first-ever regional PCMA Global Professionals Conference. Held at the Hawaii Convention Center from August 26 - 29, the conference was designed to help meeting professionals recognize how to work more efficiently and more effectively in the Asia-Pacific region.
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Framing the Global Conversation in a New Light
“The headlines make it clear that the global economy is changing, but many of the headlines we read in America may not give the complete picture of what those changes will mean for the meetings industry,” Michelle Crowley, manager, global development, PCMA, says. “Regardless of who your target audience is currently, it’s crucial to think ahead to determine how you can attract attendees from the Asia-Pacific market in the future.”
Before you can attract those attendees, you’ll need to recognize how the meetings industry is taking shape across the Pacific. Here are three key lessons from the conference.
1) Forget free.
While many planners have grown accustomed to the wonderful price of free for space in the U.S., everything has a cost in the Asia-Pacific market. That doesn’t mean that a meeting is going to be insanely expensive, but it does mean that planners will need to adjust their negotiation tactics and plan to spend more on space.
If you’re considering hosting a meeting somewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, it’s important to find out everything that’s included in the cost, too. Leave no item unchecked. Heat and air conditioning, electricity, furniture - - you get the picture. Some of the items that may not come to mind in the U.S. are additional expenses.
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2) Connectivity can be tricky.
Estimating bandwidth needs and calculating the costs of connectivity are nothing new to planners in the U.S. However, that process can be very different in Asia-Pacific countries. Participants discussed the fact that there are no real regulations around the cost and reliability of A/V. The best solution? Ask a venue where you’re considering holding a meeting for contact info of other planners who have hosted events in the same location for peer-sharing tips.
3) Listen more, talk less.
Outside of business negotiation skills, it’s essential to learn the basics of human interaction, too. From how to hand out business cards to how to give gifts, a different set of norms governs the day-to-day flow. Retired U.S. Ambassador Lauren Kahea, a former U.S. Diplomat who has worked in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, closed the program and stressed the importance of doing more listening than talking.
The Time to Learn is Now
While U.S.-based planners may have plenty of uncertainties about the differences in cultural etiquette and business norms across the Pacific Ocean, one truth is undeniable: the future of business lies in the Asia-Pacific region.
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For example, consider Vietnam where 65 percent of the population is under 30, but these emerging business professionals aren’t just young - - they’re very smart, too. The country has a whopping 98 percent literacy rate. Think about China and India where citizens will represent a whopping $10 trillion of consumer spending by the end of this decade.
The statistics confirm that today’s meeting professionals will need to get serious about understanding the nuances of doing business in the Asia-Pacific market.
“The best way to get ahead of tomorrow’s meetings industry is to immerse yourself in the culture,” Crowley says. “Read travel guide books for first-hand accounts, and then, plan a visit to go experience it for yourself.”