Neil’s China Adventure

My last visit to this part of the world was in 2006 when I traveled to Taipei, Taiwan, to lead a multi-day business course for Canmeng International. The people were wonderful, and the culture and sights were so inspiring, I vowed to return to the Pacific Rim. Well, here I am writing this week’s Monday Morning Wake-Up from my hotel room in Beijing – right across the street from the site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the swim cube and massive “Birds Nest” stadium.

I’m in Beijing to deliver the opening keynote at the very first Esthetics China Exhibition and Congress. The event is produced by IIR Expositions, a global company that produces more than 10,000 events and training courses, 45,000 book titles, 2,000 subscription-based information services including academic journals, magazines, newsletters, real-time information and news services, unparalleled performance improvement solutions, and hundreds of exceptional brands in 80 countries.

I arrived in Beijing on Wednesday afternoon after 20+ hours of flying, layovers and delayed flights. On the drive to the hotel, I got to experience Beijing traffic firsthand. It’s amazing how 5-million cars in one city can dodge in and out of lanes without crashing.

I met up with Nisa Ren from Esthetics China to get a quick tour of the ballroom and meeting space to see where I would be speaking the next morning. Nisa is one of those extraordinary project managers who knows how to get all the details just right. I thank her for making my first trip to Beijing a stress-free experience. At this point, all I wanted to do was give in to my jet lag and crawl into bed. (Beijing is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time back home.)

After a good night’s sleep, I was ready to get to work. Listening to the translation of the opening ceremony on my headset, I heard my introduction and up on stage I went. Just to keep things interesting, the PowerPoint remote worked only the Chinese version of my slides on the big screen. I had to advance the English version by hand on a podium laptop. It was a bit awkward at first, but I made it work.

It’s a truly different experience addressing an audience through translators because everything said has a delayed reaction. To compensate, I pay close attention to eye contact, head nods and body language, as that’s the best way to know that they’re “getting it.” Interestingly, delivering a keynote to an audience via interpreters makes you slow down your delivery and process your thoughts so they’re concise and clear.

Here are some no-compromise reflections on my first keynote address in China:

  • The desire to learn overcomes language barriers: It was an honor to speak to and inspire business leaders from China, Singapore, Hong Kong and other Asian countries in attendance. Even though the words they were hearing were the interpreter’s, I could tell my words were getting through by the furious note taking, eye contact and head nodding. And every time I changed a slide, up popped cameras and mobile phones to take pictures for later reference. Yes, the hunger for knowledge is universal.
  • The results are in the preparation: Just as I had to study and understand the needs and challenges of business leaders halfway around the world, you need to do the same in your own business. My keynote in Beijing “spoke” to that audience. Are you “speaking” to the needs of your customers?
  • It’s always about the service experience: Just as Nisa Ren planned and organized every detail of my trip to China, every member of the Esthetics China event made sure that I had everything I needed. They made me feel special before, during and after my visit. Likewise, it is my responsibility as a speaker to make sure I make their experience working with me just as special and stress free. I pride myself on being a “low maintenance” speaker. I always step up to help event producers just like I’m a member of their team.
  • It’s about networking and building relationships: I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know some of the other event speakers. What a pleasure it was to meet Cathy Brillantes-Turvill, owner of a five-star anti-aging spa, as well as a training and distribution company in Singapore. We even discussed bringing Strategies business training to the Philippines. Relationship building is what business is all about.
  • Just take it all in: I’ve been a speaker “road warrior” for well over 30 years. My trip to China was a true learning experience. Although I didn’t have time to take in the sights of this amazing region, new opportunities will be bringing me back to China next year. Discussions are underway for a Chinese version of my book No-Compromise Leadership, and I will be doing a monthly column for New Beauty (China’s leading trade publication for luxury spas and medspas). This will all lead up to a major business seminar in China next year.

All in all, this truly was an amazing China adventure.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click above to comment.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


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