This is a leaked memo from the Annual Meeting committee of INTA, three years from now.
Now that we’re back from Vienna, we want to thank the international annual meeting sub-committee for doing a bang-up job..
It has been suggested that we consider the ‘Pearl River’ super city of Guandong, etc. as the site of the 2024 INTA annual meeting. The remaining few of you who remember the 2014 Hong Kong meeting have expressed some reservations. However, as the Pearl River region alone has a population larger than any EC country, and accounts for 5% of the global economy, it seems that as part of INTA’s mission as a global brand association, we have to continue to hold meetings outside North America and Europe, especially in the epicenters of world trade.
The important lesson we learned from Hong Kong is to manage expectations and to help the attendees adapt to novel circumstances. We do that as legal practitioners for our clients, and we need to do that here. We also know that 10000 busy lawyers will not have time to digest long ‘how to’ articles before going, so to communicate effectively we have to boil down our message, for a successful conference in a Hong Kong-type locale:
1. DRESS DOWN
2. GET THERE EARLY TO LEARN THE TRANSIT OPTIONS
3. DRINK PLENTY OF LIQUIDS
We know from Hong Kong that attendees who were not used to the humidity of the rainy season, had trouble functioning. At a minimum, we have to communicate this effectively to the attendees, and note that there will be no dress code (other than basic decency) at this meeting. Not that attendees need permission to dress down, but the express encouragement of the conference organizer makes business people comfortable to show up to meetings in sandals and shorts.
We also learned that the humidity, in combination with the absence of sidewalks, made for an un-walkable city. Of course HK residents can get around on foot by playing a life-sized version of chutes and ladders in shopping malls, but it is difficult to learn that, when you’re running fifteen minutes late for an important meeting. We also saw that in the absence of the ability to walk between the more distant conference hotels and the convention center, and in the absence of INTA shuttles, that the attendees placed a severe burden on the cab system. So we have to (1) bring back the INTA shuttle bus and (2) communicate to attendees that they need to get to the conference a day or two early just to adapt to not only the time zone, but the climate, and to the transportation systems. And allow for delays when scheduling events.
It may even make sense that there are ‘moving’ orientation sessions on the Saturday, in which locals take attendees on walks, and on the public transit system.
And it’s always important to stay hydrated. (note to INTA sponsorship committee – approach Gatorade and Sportade?)
So to conclude: we have to continue to have annual meetings in China and other non-Western jurisdictions. But we have to prepare our attendees adequately for a different type of annual meeting, with a short but sweet advisory email. Otherwise we tarnish the INTA brand.
p.s. And again we have to remind law firms not to abuse the attendee list by sending mass e-mailings.