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Go Global or Go Home

Paul Bridle

What’s your contribution to globalization?

By Paul Bridle

The word “global” is used widely today but has many dimensions that most people don’t consider. Today, I read on Facebook, a lady blessing globalization because her son’s music teacher from California was visiting Reno and had to cancel his lesson. She couldn’t reach her son, so she reached out to her daughter in Pennsylvania by email, but her daughter’s phone was missing, so she then emailed her friend in Utah who sent a text message to her son in Nevada telling him that his teacher was sick and had to cancel.

I am not sure that this was globalization since it was all happening in the United States, but she made a valid point – communication today allows us to reach around the world instantly. In Zimbabwe, Africa, where I was born, a phone call to my grandmother in England had to be booked a week in advance. We would listen as the operators connected us across the globe until my grandmother’s voice finally crackled through. Now, I can call my elderly father across the Atlantic on Skype for no cost. Last week, I had a conference call with business associates who were based in Brisbane, Australia and Derby, England, while I was in Toronto.

The World is Shrinking
Twenty years ago, the presidents and prime ministers of the world had days to digest information and make informed decisions. Now, they are forced to make decisions in minutes, while the media follows what is happening from the other side of the globe.

The link between the speed of globalization and improvements in communication provided by technology is important to understand for all those in the meetings industry. After all, meetings are all about communication. To sit at the heart of globalization and to embrace it means we play a part in making a better world. Of course, communication is only as good as the content of the communication. Poor or even false content is dangerous.

Those who plan, organize and deliver meetings, have a responsibility to ensure that meaningful communication is delivered in a timely and effective manner. So what do we need to be aware of if we are to embrace globalization?

First, we need to appreciate that technology is a tool that services our industry, not the other way around. Technology opens our meetings and events to more people, in more places, than ever before. For example, there was a time when the Olympic Games cost the host country and city dearly and always lost money. One man realized that advancing technology meant the games could be broadcast live around the world. This meant that revenue from people attending the event was augmented with revenue from broadcasting rights and increased sponsorship and advertising. The games started to be profitable and cities started to bid to host the games.

Technology opens the doors to globalization and allows a range of new opportunities that enhance our meetings and events. Too many meetings use technology simply because it is new or they are sold on it as an end in itself. When embracing and seizing the opportunities of globalization, meeting planners and event organizers need to know what they want to achieve and how technology can help them achieve it.

Most people are very aware that what is happening on the other side of the world can and probably will affect them and their business in some way. We only need to look at the recent economic crisis to see an exaggerated example of that. Many businesses are dependent on suppliers or customers on the other side of the planet and they have staff and teams scattered across the globe. A recent T-shirt said, “I love my team! One day I hope to meet them in person!”

Think Global, Plan Local
Understanding that this is how businesses operate also enables us to understand the importance of thinking globally when planning meetings or events both in terms of outgoing communication and input. This means that there are likely to be people that cannot attend the event but need to be part of it in some way. Maybe they can’t attend due to the distance, cost of travel, the time it takes, or many other reasons, but it is vital for them to know what happens and be connected either in real time or as close to that as possible.

This may mean broadcasting the event or recording it to be shown at an alternate time. However, it is not only the speakers or workshops that should be considered. Recording some of the social aspects and interviewing some of the delegates also allows the person not attending to get a greater appreciation of the meeting or event. It helps them connect and be part of the experience. The opportunities to do this can make a meeting a lot more meaningful to many more people and engage them wherever they are. Of course, part of this requires considering language and cultural differences as well. The way a message is delivered needs to be considerate of local issues or challenges.

What works in North America may not necessarily work in Asia and the communication needs to take that into consideration. This deals with the outgoing element, but there is the input element as well.

Input means globalization requires that those attending are getting information with a global perspective. People want to know what is happening in the world that may affect them. A global trend does not necessarily start in our backyard so, content needs to be in a global context. A company selling into a foreign market is not just doing the same things it does back home. It has to approach business in a manner that is relative to that country’s practices.

So, the content of meetings has to take into account the issues that may affect the delegates in the audience (most are very aware of the issues that directly affect them), and provide information on issues that are outside their perception – the wider, global issues that are in their blind spot and may impact their future.

Embracing Globalization
So, globalization is happening and will continue to happen. The question is, do we all have the mindset to understand what our contribution needs to be in order to remain current and relevant in a global world? Everyone in the meeting industry needs to appreciate we are central to globalization. That does not mean we are driving it, it means we are part of ensuring it happens in a meaningful and efficient manner. Resisting it or turning a blind eye to it means we do not give our customers and their delegates the richness of quality they deserve and need. Being part of oiling the wheels of globalization ensures we stay current, meaningful and relevant in a changing and demanding world.

Meetings and events will always take place. The manner, approach and content will change, not driven by technology, but by globalization.

For more than 20 years, Paul Bridle has studied effective organizations and the people that lead them. He speaks, writes and advises about trends in business and the workplace of the future.

Appeared in Speaking of Impact, Winter 2013 Edition

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