When life revolves around planning events

Updated: 2013-10-06 07:05

By Mark Graham (China Daily)

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Organizing large-scale events in China, featuring thousands of people from all corners of the globe, is all in a day's work for Richard Rheindorf.

The Germany-born executive is based in Beijing, a city which is becoming increasingly popular as a destination for events, conventions and conferences.

Rheindorf is deputy managing director of MCI, a Switzerland-headquartered company that specializes in putting on mega events. It means organizing everything including booking and equipping the conference venues, securing hotel rooms, scheduling sight-seeing trips, fixing various dinners and banquets and catering to special requests.

For Rheindorf it is a perfect job. He has been intrigued by China for much of his adult life before finally securing a posting to the country five years ago. It allows him to pass on two decades of expertise to local colleagues, ensuring that events in Beijing and Shanghai are staged seamlessly, and to be an integral part of the world's fastest-growing economy.

 When life revolves around planning events

Germany-born executive Richard Rheindorf finds his life in Beijing fascinating. Provided to China Daily

"I am living my dream, I really enjoy living in China, it is such a different culture and forces me to get out of my comfort zone to forget what I learned in Europe and the United States before to learn the culture and try to understand the people. You learn every day, it is fascinating."

Many of the events that MCI stages are on behalf of professional associations representing a wide range of industries. Their aim in coming to China is two-fold - to stage their gathering in a new, and adventurous, location and to attract new members in China itself.

Such is China's importance in the contemporary business world that professional bodies that have not staged conferences here may well be missing out on potential business.

These days it is relatively straightforward to put on mega-events given that Beijing has world-class convention facilities. But, says Rheindorf, there are certain local protocols that have to be adhered to.

"Generally people coming here for the first time are overwhelmed especially by how modernized the lifestyle is, the rise of the middle classes and the buildings and the amount of people," he says.

"Relationship building is very important," he says. "You have to integrate your Chinese partner right away. The hardest part is for people to understand the cultural differences. If you come to a culture like China then what you know from before has to go to the background, you have to build relationships, guanxi.

One of the biggest conferences in recent years was the World Congress of Cardiology, held over three days in Beijing, which featured 6,000 delegates from overseas and 4,000 from China. The main aim was for the heart doctors to swap professional notes, learn about new developments in their professional field and acquaint themselves with what is happening in China itself.

When life revolves around planning events

Apart from the crammed daytime congress schedule, there were also large-scale dinners and banquets, along with post-event visits to iconic sights such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City. Delegates from overseas also had the option of adding on trips to cities such as Shanghai or the terracotta-warrior city of Xi'an.

Another big-ticket event was the International Astronomy Union gathering, held for the first time in China, and lasting for three weeks. There is some kind of large-scale gathering in Beijing almost every day, with particularly strong representation from associations, and companies, involved in pharmaceuticals and management consultancy.

Rheindorf knows of what he speaks after more than 20 years in the travel industry. Before being posted to China, he had worked in the United States and Canada, representing the German Convention Bureau and the German National Tourist Office.

During five years in China, MCI has seen China register some of the fastest growth of the 23 countries where it has representation.

There have, inevitably, been problems along the way, including occasions when deadlines have been met with only hours to spare.

Rheindorf chuckles at the memory of a Forbidden City dinner, involving marquees, where the construction work was running late and storm clouds were looming. When workers downed tools to take their lunch, the overseas organizer went into panic mode.

"We had to calm down the project leader as she could not understand that they would break for lunch, even though the deadline was close," he recalls. "If you start yelling at them, or being unfriendly, they might not come back at all."

China Daily

(China Daily 10/06/2013 page5)