As I write this, I’m attending an NMS seminar for about 100 developers in Seoul, Korea. Ordinarily, before I speak to such an audience, I try to plant a question with a friendly in the audience, just to satisfy my western sensibilities — I don’t feel I’ve been successful if there are no questions from the audience. But today I forgot (jet lag?), so no questions. Of course there were no questions for the next four speakers, either. I’m not a fan of generalizations, but this reflects a basic difference between Asian audiences and western audiences.
I see a similar effect in our Connect Conferences. The US and EU Connect Conferences feature panel discussions with panel participants selected, in part, to generate controversy in the ensuing discussion. The Asia Connect Conference has some of this, but a lot more straight presentations.
So how does information get transferred, aside from death by Powerpoint? Certainly Asian development teams are every bit as productive as western teams, if not more so.
Over lunch I had a long conversation with a Korean engineering manager. He had attended Columbia University in the US and was still impressed at how western students asked questions and Asian students were quiet. When I pressed him on his current sources of information, his answers (paraphrased) were:
- Reading: It’s important to have good documentation, white papers and tutorials available on the web.
- Webinars: He doesn’t usually listen live, instead listening to recordings on the web at his convenience.
- One-on-one discussions: Local, i.e. in-country, contacts are great, but he didn’t feel bashful about approaching me as he’d listened to me on a webinar and read some things I’d written.
- Conferences and seminars: Especially those held locally. These give him a chance to learn something and meet the manufacturer’s local representative, even if all questions are asked one-on-one.
From my perspective, it’s important to be accessible and to find ways to let people know I’m approachable. This blog has helped, but so have my other articles, webinars, etc. In fact, a common approach line is to thank me for something I’ve written and then move on to asking a question.
The biggest change, in the 15+ years I’ve been visiting Asia, has been the web. Now it’s much easier to provide written material and it’s feasible to distibute audio and seminar presentations, i.e. webinars. Now if only I could get over my craving for audience interaction…