Special Events

Internationally Speaking: It's a Wide, Wide World for Special Events

It's here! It's the 21st century, and the global promises of the 20th century are becoming today's realities.

If you want to run with the leaders of the pack in event production, now is the time to learn how to service international clients and trade successfully in the global marketplace.

Fortunately, we have increasing opportunities to learn the best ways to take our businesses into the global fast lane, as seen recently at seminars on both sides of the pond.

The Special Event 2000, held in San Diego in January, offered an incredible series of seminars covering a gamut of topics hosted by an impressive array of international speakers. Meanwhile, back here in the United Kingdom, Event Expo welcomed Ginger Kramer, president of Coast Special Events and Catering of Sunnyvale, Calif., to speak alongside U.K. government ministers.

A veteran of The Special Event and an international conference speaker, Ginger is at work expanding her own multinational client base. She says she is certain that these events have been pivotal in helping her forge a network of contacts worlds away from her own home base.

I caught up with Ginger on her recent visit to London, and the subject of international business was clearly high on her agenda. She has opera-ted her company for some 20 years and has witnessed the globalization of business firsthand.

Hailing from California's Silicon Valley, Ginger has worked with IT (information technology) companies that operate around the world. Thanks to her firsthand understanding of corporate culture and structure, corporations around the world have invited her to manage their events outside the United States.

"I love the new situations and people I've met recently," she says. "More than anything, the wide mix of experience has enriched me, and I have built lasting relationships with some special people."

Before you make the transition into the global marketplace, you must understand the countries where you intend to work.

Don't expect to march into a new territory and immediately pick up loads of new business. Develop contacts and gauge what you can offer. One of the biggest benefits to clients is that the newcomer often brings something new to the party. Identify what you have that people will want, and make local allies.

Still interested? Well, before you reach for your passport, remember that the route to international riches has challenges along the way. Here are a few pointers as to what to expect-not least of which is the time away from home. Prepare your fam-ily to see even less of you!

Understanding the cultural and corporate minds of businesses abroad will be one of the main challenges faced by anyone looking to cross international borders.

"I have really had to study how people act, think and live to understand how to do business with them," Ginger says. "For example, America has a very short history compared with many other societies, so we lack many of the customs that other countries have spent centuries refining." So spend time learning the protocol and heritage of your target country.

Language also can be a challenge. During translation, the real meaning of phrases might be lost as words are omitted or paraphrased. Learn to listen to voice inflections and watch body language and, if in doubt, ask for clarification!

On the financial side, be sure to learn how to work with import customs, currency exchanges and international tax laws.

"I believe in hiring professionals, especially on legally intricate and financial matters where errors could cost you your profits-or worse!" Ginger says.

International contracts, tax laws and financial matters need expert scrutiny and advice. It's definitely worth not cutting corners.

Sound like fun?

Of course it does. The growing number of event companies entering the international marketplace bears testament that the benefits are worth the challenges. And remember, plenty of people will be happy to help you join the game.

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