How to get the most out of a conference

Some of you will be attending the biggest global mobility industry event this week in Boston:  ERC’s Global Workforce Symposium.  Professional conferences are excellent places to connect names with faces, discover new industry trends, and network with others in your industry.  It helps to have a plan before you go.

Here are some tips to make the most of your time:

Have a goal.  Do you want to extend your professional contacts, advance your subject matter expertise, find suppliers, develop a partnership or brush up on new technology?  Whatever your goal, take an active role at the conference.

Use the conference mobile app.  This is a convenient and efficient way to do some preliminary planning and a great way to navigate the event.  Make a list of which sessions would be of interest or beneficial to attend.  The app is also a good opportunity to review the attendee list to make the most of your connections and interactions.

Divide and conquer.  Ask your work colleagues to spread out over the conference and attend different concurrent sessions.  This strategy will ensure maximum exposure to what the conference has to offer.  Set aside time to share information with each other.

Introduce yourself to at least three new people.  Make it a point to expand your professional contacts by introducing yourself to at least three new people. If you are not comfortable, network with an extroverted friend who can help with introductions.

Take notes.  Write down a few key takeaways from each session.  Take away at least one idea, tool, concept or bit of information that can be applied to your daily practice.

Attend social events.  If you are invited to social events, try to attend as these are actually a lot of fun and really help to extend the excitement, enthusiasm and energy of a conference.  Don’t be afraid to relax and mingle.

Bring conference highlights back to the office.  Not everyone will be able to attend the conference. Consider yourself an emissary for your entire working group and be committed to sharing what you learned with others.

Follow up.  If you have exchanged business cards, make sure to follow up after the conference.  This is a great way to form and strengthen professional networks over time.

Save the conference program.  The conference program can be a great professional resource. They are directories of expert level knowledge and subject matter expertise. Let your program act as a professional resource and directory.

Thank your boss.  Tell your boss what you learned and express your gratitude for the time off and funding that allowed you to attend.

Attending regular conferences are a great way to grow your professional goals.  Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be sure to get the most out of the event.

Relying on an expert

When it comes to traveling internationally – whether it’s to relocate for a year’s work or to stay for a few weeks on business – there are many aspects that call for precise actions on your part. Professional guidance is critical in areas that are complex and subject to change, those that pose high risk, and those that require in-depth local knowledge. For example:

  • Immigration
    Entry requirements can be quite complex, and what you’ll need can depend on many factors, such as nationality, purpose for visiting, length of stay, and even what other countries’ visas are stamped in your passport. Stepping outside the host country’s law —even inadvertently — can put your presence within its borders on perilous footing. Rely on an immigration professional to keep up with changing, country-specific details.
  • Taxes
    Like immigration, taxes are complicated. Even business travelers, who may think their stay is too short to trigger tax liability, can put themselves and their companies at risk for non-compliance. A tax professional is the best source for the details that apply to your home and host countries, activity while abroad, and number of days traveling.
  • Shipping/Customs
    Referring to a host country’s customs website may be enough to advise a business traveler with a carry-on bag how to enter legally. But when shipping household goods, and maybe a vehicle, a vetted shipping company can provide valuable help with packing, container size, timing, insurance, customs paperwork, and arrival procedures.
  • Housing
    While there’s a lot we can do to educate ourselves and set expectations about host-country housing, some regions – especially hardship locations – are best served by a local agent who knows which neighborhoods answer the assignee’s needs: safety, comfort, accessibility to work, and nearby schools.
  • Schools
    Depending on your family needs, an educational consultant can be invaluable. Families who need to place multiple children, students with special needs, and families moving to hardship locations are examples of those who can benefit from an expert’s advice and contacts.

So, in which areas can you become the expert?

With access to the right information, you can quickly educate yourself on your host country’s history and culture, which – while they may seem extraneous to business travel — shed valuable light on national origins and why people behave as they do. Further, learning specifics about the social customs and business practices will ease your transition and speed your acclimation.  Basics like the local language(s) – and the likelihood you’ll be able to speak yours – are essential information. You can plan some courses in advance, on the go via app, or enroll after arrival.

You can also orient yourself about your arrival and other travel, through airports, mass transit, and ride share availability. Find out about Internet, mobile phones, and whether you’ll be safe using public Wi-Fi. And speaking of safety, you’ll need to know the levels of crime and security concerns in your host location.

Myriad other necessary details include banking, dining, food shopping, driving, and what sorts of clubs and activities are available for you and your family.

As a reminder, all of the above topics and more are covered in Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center (IRC). Access is easy, information is clear, and topics are written and presented for busy professionals and their families. Everything you need to become an expert at your own relocation!

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

How to find the familiar

Think about the last time you were in a place that was familiar…yet unfamiliar.

For me, it was yesterday. Because of some construction, my drive home took me on a different route through town — past a large grocery store I’d never been to. I needed to find something for my family’s dinner, and restock the kitchen cupboards. So I pulled into the parking lot, got out of the car, grabbed a cart, and walked through the door.

At “my” grocery store, shoppers enter directly into the produce section. However, this grocery store greeted me right away with displays of bread, boxes of muffins, and other bakery goods. Not that strange, of course. Interesting, maybe even a little exciting! Yet, I realized quickly that I was used to shopping for items in a certain order.

In this familiar yet unfamiliar place, I guessed correctly that the milk and eggs were along the back wall of the store. But I wasn’t sure where to find ketchup, or my daughter’s favorite granola bars. I didn’t know whether they carried our brand of toothpaste, and my husband is very particular about toothpaste.

I zig-zagged across the store several times when at “my” grocery store, one brisk walk-through would have done the trick. When I finally arrived at the cash register, I realized that I didn’t even have the store’s shoppers’ club card.

On my way home, tired and frustrated, twenty minutes late and with a few substitute items I’d have to explain to my family, I realized that my experience was a microcosm of what the globally mobile do every day. Certainly, some aspects of relocation and business travel are familiar. But unfamiliar elements, combined with pressing needs, is a fast recipe for stress.

Had I been greeted at the door by a friendly employee with a store map, a grocery index, and a shoppers’ club card application? My experience in an unfamiliar grocery store would have been positive — not just for me, but for my hungry (and sometimes very picky) family.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

What just passed in Japan?

In Japan there are many different festivals and celebrations throughout each year.  Aside from Respect for the Aged Day, what else is celebrated in September?

  1. Vernal Equinox
  2. Children’s Day
  3. Culture Day
  4. Autumnal Equinox
Click here for the answer!

Coaching is not only for kids

Coaching is something we hear a lot about and which can have tremendous value for individuals, whether it’s used for career development or as support in a stressful or new situation, such as helping to acclimate someone to a new environment.

Being an international assignee is a 24/7 job. Expats don’t know what to expect and may seem fine – until they’re not.  All expats experience cultural transition stress, which can manifest in sleeplessness, reduced self-esteem, and depression.  They are starting over in many areas and become preoccupied with basic daily needs that required minimal thought before.

Coaching can facilitate positive change by reinforcing new skills and behaviors until they become intuitive.  In the global mobility industry, we know how difficult it is to assimilate into a new culture and recognize the many disruptions caused by a cross-border move.

It takes a tremendous amount of mental and physical energy to establishing a “new normal.”  Starting with the basics, a coach can reveal potentially hidden challenges clients may be facing in working toward larger goal.

More ambiguous is the loss of a routine and an overall sense of stability.  It’s typical for expats to feel discouraged and ineffective in areas of their lives where they once felt confident and productive.  Even expats who started out enthusiastic about the relocation soon discover that it’s not like a movie or a book about the country. The loss of old acquaintances and support networks can weigh heavily during these times.

A coach can help an expat find stability and deal with the unfamiliar. Cultural coaching can support them through the stages of transition. Expats themselves can set new goals, and work toward them.

Learning about the host culture values is extremely important, as is identifying individual biases toward the new culture, which can be subtle and unrecognizable.  Working with a coach to understand these behaviors is essential for personal and profession integration in the host culture.

The phrase “think globally, act locally” applies to coaching expats.  They must be mindful of the unique new circumstances of the host location to help them flourish during the transition.  A good coach educates their clients about the expectations and accountability required for success.

Fortunately, there are many good coaching companies available for expats and their families.  In addition to a coach, cultural training and destination specific information will help mitigate a loss of self, build confidence, and result in a successful time abroad.

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, Managing Director

The Art of Traveling

Last weekend I attended a wedding reception at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.  I had never heard of the museum, but now know that it has the world’s largest collection of art by women.

Founded in 1987, the NMWA houses 5000 objects, hosts 10 annual exhibits, and runs public programs to highlight the impact of women in the world of art — and beyond. Works date from 16th century paintings by Lavinia Fontana to Cindy Sherman’s contemporary photography, Guerrilla Girls’ photolithographs, and sculptures and prints by Louise Bourgeois.

Another permanent women-only collection is the New Hall Art Collection at Murry Edwards College, University of Cambridge.  Among its eclectic works are an early 20thcentury drawing by Mary Cassatt and a 2011 neon Snoopy sculpture by Fiona Banner.

While equality is on the rise for modern artists, and some women prefer to be identified by their work rather than their gender, there are still imbalances to overcome in the art world. Some NMWA facts– about earnings, exposure, and other areas —  are truly illuminating.

It’s also true that the cities we visit have the power to delight us with treasures by artists from every walk of life. Whether you visit the Frida Kahlo Museum while in Mexico City, find time for the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or make your way to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St. Ives, Cornwall, viewing art enhances the experience.

Of course, there are many more museums dedicated to male artists — like the Munch Museum in Oslo, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, to name just a few.

Wherever you are in the world, experiencing pleasurable art has been shown to lower stress and improve health markers. Personally, I find great joy in the work of Swedish textile artist Helena Hernmarck, who lives not far from me in Connecticut. Her natural landscapes invite wonder and marvel; her colors both calm and inspire.

May we all find some art to uplift us whenever we are traveling – whether across oceans or closer to home.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

Bring Your Manners to Work Day

This coming Friday is Bring Your Manners to Work Day! The Protocol School of Washington created this day, observed on the first Friday of September each year, as a reminder to treat others with courtesy and respect in the workplace.

Good business etiquette comes from having empathy for others. Organizations that build a culture of respect have the opportunity to achieve long-term profitability and are viewed as more professional

Here are 10 tips for good business behavior:

  • Be a good listener.
  • Abstain from checking your mobile device when in meetings.
  • Control your temper and negative emotions.
  • Remember the basics, “please,” thank you,” and “you’re welcome.”
  • Refrain from offensive or demeaning language.
  • Dress respectfully.
  • Respond to a phone call or email in a timely manner.
  • Acknowledge others for a job well done.
  • Body language matters – smile more.
  • Respect other cultures.

Respecting other cultures is extremely important.  If your company does work internationally, spend time becoming acquainted with a new culture before moving or doing business abroad.  A culture’s surroundings, history, and values affect many facets of everyday and professional life, including greetings, gestures, appropriate conversational topics, and even table manners.  Learning about a culture’s business etiquette before traveling can also prevent misunderstandings that affect business decisions later.

Living Abroad has some handy tools that can help you prepare for any business meeting abroad.  To be immersed in the culture of the country, the Culture Coach Online is a self-paced cultural learning tool.  For global business travelers, the Global Business Traveler Center is the best fit. And if you are moving abroad, the International Relocation Center provides a wide range of articles to make the move a success.

If you’d like to learn how your employees can put their best foot forward for international business success, contact us here.

And don’t forget to celebrate Bring Your Manners to Work Day!

New (School) Year Resolutions

Many cultures celebrate a new year at different times, and in different ways. But for many families throughout the globe, there is also another sort of new year to observe — the school year!

No matter what month your school year begins, here are some New Year resolutions to consider:

  1. Update the information kept on file at your child’s school.

It’s amazing what can change in twelve months. Health records, work telephone numbers, and email addresses are just several of the items to which a school office might need to refer, and might also be out-of-date.

  1. Check old obligations against new schedules.

Sometimes, we must make appointments weeks or even months in advance of knowing if they will coincide with team practice, drama rehearsals, or field trips. Taking a few moments to review your calendar now can catch conflicts before they happen later.

  1. Evaluate regular services.

Grocery delivery, telecommunications packages, musical instrument rental, transportation services, and even mobile telephone plans may offer more for less than they did a year ago. Compare and make changes, if necessary.

  1. Welcome back successful habits.

Think about what has worked during the school year in the past. A central location for coats and bags? A particular time of day for organizing papers or completing homework? Selecting clothes for the next day the evening before? When possible, restart your best practices before the first day.

  1. As with other types of new year, find opportunities to have fun.

A new school year can mean many changes and is often stressful. Even simple activities, such as meals, board games, or outdoor activities, can help ease transitions and allow family members to celebrate!

Living Abroad subscribers will find more destination-specific tips and information for families in these International Relocation Center topics: Choosing a school, Family matters, and Country resources.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

What’s Boeing doing about it?

Having just returned from attending the GBTA conference in Chicago, I was most impressed with one of the speakers, Dennis Muilenburg, Chairman, President, and CEO of Boeing.  Boeing’s the 5th largest defense contractor in the world and designs, builds, and sells airplanes, rotorcraft, rockets, satellite communications, and missiles on a global scale.

Last year there were 90 million accident-free flights.  There are 5 million people traveling daily on a Boeing plane.  Sadly, two deadly crashes of its 737 Max killed 346 people recently.

The first question out of the interviewer’s mouth was “what changes are being made right now and when can we expect the Max to fly again?”  The travel managers, travel management companies, and travel suppliers in the audience, who are responsible for the lives of many global business travelers, were waiting to hear his reply.

Muilenburg stated that Boeing consistently focuses on safety as their core value.  The company is concentrating on these top 5 initiatives to make sure the 737 Max is the safest plane in the air when it flies again in Q4:

  1. Software updates that will be certified by the FAA in September.
  2. Continuous training & education updates.
  3. Deep engagement with the stakeholders.
  4. $100 million fund to address the family and community needs for the victims’ families.
  5. Ongoing investment in their employees and their commitment to safety.

As a young girl, I was nervous to fly on a DC10 to Australia right after several DC10s crashed due to engines falling off the wings. My father, who is an engineer, said that after all the safety updates, they were the safest planes in the air.   I had heard of the two recent plane crashes over the news and it was comforting and inspiring to hear what lengths Boeing is taking to make sure the 737 Max stays one of the safest planes in the air.

Muilenberg also shared some exciting new projects on the horizon.

  1. The development of the 777X, which will be able to fly farther than any plane with a 7200-mile range.  The cabin will be more spacious for passenger comfort with LED cabin lighting, noise reduction, larger windows, and twice the volume for carry-on bags with easier closing bins.
  2. Currently testing flying vehicles with wrap-around technology for future airspace travel for both piloted and autonomous vehicles.
  3. Supersonic travel that will be more economically viable than the Concord.  Boeing is working on a business jet that will take 3 hours off the flight time across the Atlantic.
  4. Hypersonic technology where planes will be able to fly 5 or 6 times faster than the speed of sound.  This will be able to connect any two city pairs in about 2 hours.
  5. Space travel will become more routine and companies are developing space hotels. Boeing is developing a vehicle to fly in space called the Starliner, which is scheduled for a test flight later this year.

Given Boeing’s investment in the future, it sounds like we have a lot to look forward to and places to visit in record time–and that includes space!

Do you have employees working remotely?

When we wrote about telecommuting a few years ago, a study by Ipsos had produced the figure that one in five employees around the globe works remotely on a frequent basis.

More recent results by Swiss-based workspace company IWG determined that 50% of the 15,000 global professionals they surveyed work remotely at least 2.5 days each week.

There are other studies and lots of data out there, all pointing to a clear trend: Flexible workspaces are becoming increasingly important to both employers and employees.

Some basic benefits include:

-Employees are more productive (fewer distractions and drains on time)
-Companies save money on real estate costs
-Employees save money on gas, wardrobe and clothing care, food (coffee, lunches out) etc.
-Employees report less stress, higher morale and lower absenteeism than in-office counterparts
-Companies experience less turnover than those with less flexibility – as much as 50% less
-Flex cultures attract millennials, with more than two-thirds of them stating a remote option positively influences their interest in a company

Telecommuting is not without its challenges, of course. Cybersecurity is a concern, especially in smaller companies that don’t have protocols or safety systems in place. Mental health is increasingly on employers’ minds, as about one-fifth of remote employees experience loneliness.

Companies embracing flexible work environments are adapting and innovating in order to keep talent while boosting their bottom line. And as this business culture becomes more the norm than the exception, it’s a benefit many job-seekers can take advantage of to strike a good work/life balance.

For further discussion on telecommuting in our original article, click here.