The mission of Going Global is to educate and inform Midwest technology companies on what local technology companies are doing internationally so other firms can learn from the successes of like-minded peers.
CHICAGO – John Janowiak is senior director of the International Engineering Consortium (IEC), a non-profit organization dedicated to catalyzing technology and business progress worldwide in a range of high-tech industries and university communities.
In part two of a two-part Q&A, international expert Michael Muth sat down with Janowiak to explain the realities of trade show participation, how to produce events around the world and how to expand internationally.
Michael Muth: You put on conferences and events in the U.S., Europe and Japan. How about Latin America and Australia?
John Janowiak: Latin America will come in the next three to five years. We are working on something in South America. There’s a need in that region for the type of education we provide. We’re seeing it. We’ve watched the trends on our Web site and what content is being used by users around the world. We know what subjects are pertinent.
MM commentary: Though getting academia involved for free should be no problem, finding qualified local schools and corporate sponsors below the equator could be more difficult.
MM: You put on conferences the world over. What problems do you run into when organizing them?
JJ: I wouldn’t say there are problems. Each market requires its own special care. For instance, when you work in different regions, there are different protocols. In Asia, for example, the food and beverage service for an event is different from an event in Europe or in the U.S. Also, the way people are introduced is different.
Ceremonies are important in certain Asian cultures. We had a significant opening ceremony in Korea with traditional dancers and performers and it was important to have a minister there. It adds to the entire experience when you have those local protocols. The professionals from outside the region felt very welcomed after that ceremony in Korea. There was a connection between cultures and what the visitors were experiencing.
MM commentary: Finding the right local partners ensures that you’re able to learn how things are done locally so you don’t have to deal with the problems of the local partners.
MM: Trade show participation has dropped. How have you seen this internationally?
JJ: Overall in the tech space, you had a drop after the dot-com bust. I think things have stabilized and are moving in a positive direction. On the international side, it has been more stable. We’ve been on a faster upward trend.
MM commentary: My personal impression is that part of the reason trade show attendance has fallen off is because of the plethora of information available on the internet. For this reason, I don’t see trade show attendance at IT shows coming back.
As the rest of the world catches up in Internet penetration, international trade shows will become correspondingly less relevant. While trade show advocates will claim that the Internet will never replace the face-to-face contact of trade shows, the proof is in the pudding (for the technology community at least).
MM: What percent of your users who are utilizing your online education forums come from outside the U.S.?
JJ: About two-thirds of the site users come from outside North America.
MM: What percent of your communications technology program participants are international?
JJ: That model (an individual user paying for educational services on the Internet) has not worked out. The model that works is for us to provide the content free to the user and offset our costs through some other mechanism (like advertising or corporate sponsorship).
MM commentary: Other organizations have gotten the paid education over the Internet model to work. I suspect that the IEC’s conservative approach might have had something to do with it.
MM: What’s your role with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)?
JJ: That’s just one group with which we have relationship. We’ve been successful not only in the U.S. with other non-profit service organizations.
We’ve also taken the model that worked so well in the U.S. (partnering with like-minded organizations that serve our industry) and we’re doing that abroad as well. While ETSI is focused on standards for the European Union, they don’t have a platform to amplify what those standards are. We’ve worked with them and others to provide that platform through our activities.
MM commentary: The IEC works with the North American standards organizations the same way.
MM: How did you entice Telecom Asia to become a media partner?
JJ: I happened to meet the publisher in Hong Kong. He was impressed with the Broadband World Forum conference we presented in Seoul because he saw that as an international neutral organization. The IEC was able to come in, build the program and bring together the major players and carriers from the region. Generally speaking, they wouldn’t all get together.
MM commentary: Sometimes it’s preferable to not be native. Being “Switzerland” has its advantages.
MM: What is ZTE and how did they get to be included with telecom heavyweights in your virtual exhibits?
JJ: ZTE is the second-largest manufacturer of telecom equipment in China. They’re a significant worldwide player. They are exhibiting at our program in two weeks in Venice and they are aggressively going after the European market. The two leading Chinese manufacturers exhibited at our show in Europe.
MM commentary: This is another example of the growing influence of the Chinese (some of which the rest of the world is hardly aware).
MM: Are any of your forums, conferences, exhibits or publications localized? If so, into what languages and how?
JJ: We localize some content into Chinese with our sister universities in China. We worked with all the Big 10 engineering schools and took a lot of basics of communications courses. We translated them into Chinese and provided that to the university.
MM: Do you bill in U.S. dollars, Euros or any other local currencies?
JJ: We work in the currency of the country. We don’t try to hedge against fluctuations in the exchange rates. Sure, it’s a risk. Business is a risk. Still, we like to work in the currency in which we’re paying.
MM commentary: Netting is another viable financial strategy (i.e. balance your income versus expenses and assets versus liabilities by currency so you’re exposed only to fluctuations in your net exposures and you hedge those rather than gross exposures).
MM: Are you looking to expand the Enterprise Communications Consortium internationally as well?
JJ: Yes. There’s lot of work to be done there and we’re putting a lot of resources into it. The ECC meeting at SUPERCOMM was a good first step. It took the IEC 50 years to go international. It won’t take ECC that long.
MM commentary: After working with the CICA for a few years, I realize it won’t take the new ECC 50 years to go international. Still, I doubt it will go quickly.
MM: Have you considered opening foreign offices or branches?
JJ: We’ve thought about it. It’s an interesting question. The major factor is cost. Having an international perspective when you come into a region has some advantages in terms of bringing fresh ideas and relevant contacts. I was able to introduce an executive to someone I knew from Tokyo. If I had an in-country person in Japan, that contact might not have happened.
MM commentary: While in many cases the major obstacle is cost for private firms, that’s not the only consideration. It depends on what your objectives are and the best way to reach them. Feet on the street have huge advantages, too.
If you’re just popping in and out for conferences on a regular basis (as some sales representatives do), it might not make sense to invest in local offices yet. However, once a basis for a long-term presence is established, it’s tough to manage ongoing operations in Europe from the U.S.
MM: Do you speak any foreign languages? If so, how much has this helped you in your localization efforts?
JJ: I studied Latin, which is kind of a dead language. I don’t know what that says. You have to speak some phrases in each country. You learn the protocols of the culture. You represent the organization and yourself in a professional way.
We learn by the Web. We send out etiquette messages. It’s a matter of not sleeping on the plane and getting through it. As an organization, we encourage everyone to send links around so we’re up to speed before we get on site.
MM commentary: Learning the hellos, goodbyes, pleases and thank yous will get you by. Visitors gain a lot by attempting to show respect for the local culture by learning a little bit of the local language before arriving at a foreign destination. Much of what you used to find in books (like Roger Axtell’s “Dos & Taboos of International Trade”) can now be found on the Web.
MM: How much did your educational background help you pursue international clients?
JJ: I didn’t have any intention to get into this. I actually had a completely different background in wildlife management. I wanted to become a forest ranger. This kind of wildlife brings all sorts of different people and cultures together. We have a lot of fun with what we do here.
MM commentary: I suppose an education in wildlife is as good as any.
Disclaimer: The IEC is an advertiser with ePrairie
Michael Muth is managing director of GATA, an international business development consultancy that helps technology companies build international partnerships. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for Muth’s full biography.
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