What’s the real value of working in the emerging markets

When asked ‘what’s the real value of working in the emerging markets?’, I had to step back and think for a minute.

You might say that I’m the last person that should comment, since I’ve never operated an event in the UK. But over the past fifteen years I have worked across many of the markets most event professionals call ‘emerging’.

While the fundamentals of event management are the same the world over, it’s the subtle elements that can present challenges when delivering a great event in countries as diverse as Indonesia, Saudi Arabia or Brazil.

There are six tangible attributes that I see regularly in those that succeed in the emerging market space.

Start with the culture of the market you’re planning to work in. It’s true that people buy people, but you need to understand the local culture to really appreciate how to present yourself and your company’s ideas in the best way possible.

It can feel like you’re going back to the early days of your career, but spend the time to learn the right way to present your message, to reach the right decision maker and to know if the answers you’re getting are real, or just a brush off.

You need to establish strong partnerships and that always leads back to culture. Be aware that culture extends into the very nature of an event; opening ceremonies carry special significance in some locations and conference sessions need to be managed in particular ways. You need to be fully immersed in the culture to deliver an effective event in an emerging market.

Communication extends beyond culture, and where English is rarely the first language communication is a challenge for those who don't have a native speaker’s grasp of the local tongue. Those subtle messages you’ve fine-tuned over years in your home market are suddenly taken away from you.

Everything becomes more complex. Selling that detailed awards sponsorship, event concept, or conference topic has to be broken down into bite sized chunks. Assume nothing and you’ll be safe. Gaining agreement is one aspect, but recording that agreement is vital. You need reference material, agreements and contracts to ensure that what you think was understood is actioned and delivered, by both parties. Don’t assume that the lack of delivery always comes from the partner, often it will be your own team that hasn’t understood what was expected of them.

Once the project has been launched or secured, your challenges are just starting. International venues come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, as well as capabilities. Be prepared to be very flexible with everything from delivery times, to quality of supplies and the degree of event complexity.

In some markets it’s an advantage to flip a room from conference to lunch in 15 minutes, using an army of local staff. In other locations you might struggle to have stable power supplies, so that expensive conference production might fall flat.

It takes time on the ground at international venues to appreciate the scale of the issues you will find, so research is essential. Attending competing shows is always worthwhile, you never know what you might learn.  

Know the value of local connections. A good local connection can carry an event across the finishing line with everything from their language skills, or their understanding of the ‘right’approach. Your local team is an essential and invaluable asset.

Over the years local markets have witnessed many large international players come into their territory and fail. More often than not, the few who have made it have done so with essential input from local connections.

In simple terms, you’ll find those that have spent time in emerging markets have learnt their event craft dealing with unusual issues, while tight on time and improvising resources. Their speed, flexibility and adaptability all go hand in hand, making the value of operating in emerging markets significant and always enjoyable.

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