Before going on the trip to Thailand and Vietnam, I had no idea what the seminars would be like. I expected that we would be given presentations from Thai natives with a strong language barrier. I figured that the business seminars would also be extremely formal and highly structured. To my surprise, they were nothing like I expected them to be. Here are a few tips to remember before going on an international business seminar.
Make Sure You Do Your Company Research
If you end up going on a trip through IBS, it’s really important that you do your research before you leave. Not only will it help you write your paper, but it will also help you better prepare yourself for any questions you might have during the company visits. While sitting in each seminar, you could really tell who had done their research and who had not. These business executives have agreed to let us Americans sit in with them and ask them anything, so why not take advantage of that to learn more from it? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I was intimidated at first because I didn’t know what to expect, but once we got to the first meeting, I realized that it was a nice, relaxed environment and you could ask them anything.
Remember to Take Notes, and Pictures of Course!
When you go into your meetings, make sure to bring writing materials so that you can take notes while your presenters are speaking. That way you won’t forget any key points that they make after the presentation. It is also very important to take pictures as well because you will get the opportunity to shake hands with the business professionals you meet at each company. This will be the perfect time for you to share some photos on your LinkedIn profile for potential employers to see your experience. I brought a journal and a Polaroid camera so that I could keep some pictures inside my journal from our various company meetings.
Most of the Presenters Were Expats
Almost all of the companies that we visited had ex-pat speakers (people living in a country different from the one they are from) and a lot of them were actually from America. This really surprised me because I figured that most of the speakers would all be from either Thailand or Vietnam. But because we visited the larger cities, (Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City) there was a very diverse population there with many English-speaking locals. Because a lot of the presenters were from the states, it brought an opportunity for important cultural questions. Specifically, the differences in etiquette and the “right or wrongs” in different cultures. We learned that it is not culturally acceptable to give an item to someone with one hand in Southeast Asia; you must use both hands when handing something off to show more respect to that person. Little things like that are extremely important to know, especially if you plan on working abroad in the future.
The Company Visits Will Exceed Your Expectations
My favorite company visit was definitely IKEA Thailand. I had always shopped at IKEA back home in Chicago, but I had no idea what their company culture was like. I figured it would be a simple PowerPoint presentation for a few hours and then we would head out. IKEA was inside a giant mall, and we got to walk around for a bit before the presenters came to get us. Then, we went inside their conference room for the seminar. The room didn’t have a long table with chairs lining around it, instead we sat on pillows on the floor. I really liked that idea because it made everyone more relaxed instead of feeling nervous in a typical conference room setting. They had multiple speakers from different departments such as marketing, supply chain, operations manager, and the sales team that spoke to us about their expertise. We were served some IKEA bubble tea (which was delicious by the way) and got to go on a company tour! We were taken through the entire building and made a day of it.
Overall, I really enjoyed each company visit that we went on. We visited an accounting/law firm, manufacturing plants, government facilities, and much more so that you will get a variety of different types of businesses in Southeast Asia. You will learn so much and come back with the knowledge that will help you in your future career.