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Networking in Ho Chi Minh

Mar 16, 2015
This year’s IMC Conference held on 28 – 31 January moved east from its traditional home of Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City. Deputy Editor David Jordan took a trip to Vietnam to report for The Mover.

Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City after a 16-hour flight from London is at first a shock to the senses.  As I emerged from the airport, bleary eyed and wilting in the 35 degree heat an army of taxi drivers all offering ‘cheap-cheap fares’ hustled bewildered foreign travellers in an attempt to win their custom. 

To my relief I was soon rescued by an oriental lady holding an IMC placard bearing my name.  “Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City,” she said with a beaming smile. “I have a taxi waiting for you, he will take you to the hotel.” As we weaved our way through the mayhem of honking traffic, miraculously avoiding the sea of small, often hopelessly overloaded motorbikes, I peered out of the taxi’s window and reflected on a very different way of life from the chilly well-ordered streets of London I’d driven through just a few hours earlier.

Half an hour later I arrived at the Sheraton Hotel, the conference venue and home for the next four days.  In the plush air conditioned lobby I met friends from last year’s conference and enjoyed a cool beer with them before collecting my ‘dog tags’ and heading upstairs to catch a few hours’ sleep before the welcome party that evening.

At 7 o’clock, camera in hand, I made my way to the 23rd floor and joined the party. The view from the open-air bar was magnificent, the brightly lit skyscrapers testament to the progress the City has made since the end of what the Vietnamese call the American War.  As I chatted with the great and the good of the international moving industry I was surprised how many of them knew about The Mover and looked forward to reading it every month online. The World Wide Web is indeed a powerful tool.

At 9 o’clock sharp the following morning we gathered in the hotel ballroom for the opening plenary session. Those hoping for a gentle start to the day’s proceedings were about to get a wake-up call as the peace was shattered by the thunderous sounds of drums, cymbals and gongs and the spectacular entry of brightly costumed acrobats performing a traditional Chinese Lion Dance.

Facilitator Terry Hart introduced IMC partners Dermot Whelan and Patrick O’Donnel who welcomed everyone to the conference and explained how the organisation had progressed during its first four years. Dermot confirmed that plans to introduce an annual membership fee had been dropped and that instead the cost of providing new member benefits such as training and preferential freight forwarding rates, would be paid for by those members wishing to use them.  He also said there would be a consultation about the kind of services members would be interested in using. 

Patrick pointed out that the cost of attending IMC was approximately half that of any other major conference and that this year 17% of the companies attending had brought two delegates. This was particularly important given the format of IMC where up to 35 one-to-one meetings can be booked in advance and therefore a single delegate could only formally meet about a third of the participants.

Dermot also welcomed members of the Asia Mobility Conference (AMC) who were running their inaugural event in parallel with IMC.  He said he believed there were opportunities for the moving and relocation industries to work more closely and hoped that delegates would use the one-to-one meetings to explore possibilities and opportunities.  This was reiterated by AMC organiser Steve Burson who also invited IMC delegates to join them for a half-day tour of Ho Chi Minh City to view typical expat accommodation and the Saigon International School.

IMC Training Consultant Steve Lewis took to the stage to point out the need for training to bring out the best in people and perhaps discover hidden talents.  To drive the message home Steve ran a clip of Susan Boyle’s famous audition on TV’s Britain’s Got Talent and posed the question, “Do you have a Susan Boyle working in your organisation?” Steve invited delegates to approach him with ideas for training topics and the most appropriate method of delivery.

After a short coffee break it was time for the one-to-one meetings, which members booked online ahead of the conference.  The session uses a similar format to ‘speed dating’ where delegates move to numbered tables every thirty minutes in line with the meeting schedule. The system works brilliantly with surprisingly few no shows and makes a pleasant change from the informal meeting arrangements at other conferences.

After a busy productive day we gathered in the Sheraton’s Night Spot on the 23rd floor for the traditional Gala Dinner. Later, facilitator Terry Hart took to the microphone with some slightly risqué jokes before handing over to Patrick who presented mementoes of the Conference to people who had supported IMC since its formation in 2011.

Two more days of one-to-one meetings followed before it was time to head for the airport and for many, a long flight home. As in previous years everyone I spoke to enjoyed the conference and found the format of the meetings very conducive to business.

Next year IMC returns to Thailand with the beautiful island of Phuket pencilled in as the venue.  The conference is open to all in the moving industry, so if you are looking for international contacts why not give IMC a try in 2016?

Photos: From the top: Some of the numerous small motorbikes that densly populate Ho Chi Minh City's streets, and a relic of the American War; Terry Hart; Dermot Whelan, Patrick O'Donnell and Steve Lewis; traditional Chinese lion dance; the Sheraton hotel; delegates enjoying the party and networking sessions; AMC delegates visiting the Saigon International School; Patrick O'Donnel presents IMC supporters with mementoes of the conference; the gala dinner.

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