A: MDRT is a professional association for the Life Insurance and Financial Services Industries with 39,000 Members from 80 countries. Members have to qualify annually so it's the top 1% of industry worldwide. MDRT has 3 large meetings annually:
A: The MDRT Experience Asia was in Singapore in '98, Hong Kong in '04 and Thailand in '06. For the 2008 meeting we settled on Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan. The purpose of the MDRT Experience meetings are three-fold: we want to increase brand awareness in Asia, bring a taste of the MDRT Annual Meeting to our Asian members who may not be able to come to a North American Annual Meeting and increase membership in Asia Pacific. Japan has the second largest membership outside of North America, the Japanese chapter membership supported the meeting and company support was strong.
Chiba was chosen for a variety of reasons. The location of Narita International Airport makes it the gateway to Asia. Makuhari Messe convention center fit our criteria and the hotels were either attached or close walking distance. It is also easily accessed from Tokyo via commuter train - a five minute walk to Makuhari Messe (This where most of our 3,000 Japanese members live). Additionally, it has easy access for our Korean members (Korea has the largest membership outside North America)
A: The challenge was to plan an Asian meeting in Asia with all MDRT staff being in Park Ridge, IL! Communication- of course! The language barrier during planning & communication with the venues was an issue. Budgeting/Expense was also an issue, as a lot of things that are included in venues in the US simply aren't in Japan. You end up paying for various things like chairs, etc., that you might not have anticipated. The time difference played a big role in planning. By the time it was working hours in Japan it was late night in America, and vice versa. The contracting process in Japan is quite different from America. A lot of Japanese venues will not communicate with a non-Japanese company/association. Additionally, we had to be much more specific in our requests than we usually are.
A: Well, working with a local Japanese PCO is IMMENSELY helpful. The whole process goes much easier because they can take care of the contracting and communication with the venue. It opens up the selection of venues because now it's a Japanese PCO working with a Japanese venue on your organization's behalf. It also helps to just relax and stop being a control freak, in my case. Working with the local convention bureau, the Chiba Convention Bureau, in our case, is useful. They can help promote your event or locate a PCO.
When it came to offering airline transportation/registration/hotel deals, it wasn't as successful as it had been in the States. Asian companies have a tendency to do group registrations through previously used travel agents and agencies. Offering a specific deal through a specific supplier wasn't particularly useful.
A: Wonderful! Once we were on site, everything happened like a well oiled machine. The overall infrastructures of Japan are excellent, as well as the labor and work ethic. At the location, Security and Japanese staff were very professional, hospitality was four stars and overall the positives far out weighed the challenges. We will definitely be doing another event in Japan, the question is just when.