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Monday, April 07, 2008

Speaking Tips - Presenting in Hong Kong

Welcome to Hong Kong. How many of us can remember the old airport with the runway in the sea and the greatest challenge for every airline pilot. All that has changed now and Hong Kong airport is amongst the most modern in the world. A short train ride on a clean modern express takes you into either Kowloon or the Island of Hong Kong.

It is a country of fascination, history, and wonderful foods and of course the best shopping in the world. The main business district is on the Island of Hong Kong in the “central” district. It is easy to get around as the MTR underground is fabulous, clean, efficient and always on time. I normally buy an “octopus” ticket for HK$150 (approx US$20) and this can be used for a week. The hotels are first class as are the restaurants but be prepared, Hong Kong is an expensive city. Taxis are efficient but get your hotel to write out the address, as many taxi drivers don’t understand English. Most speaking venues are in the hotels or at the World Trade Centre and are super efficient. Do your homework before you go. I made some unforgivable blunders in the beginning. The first time I went to Hong Kong, I spoke to a group of approximately 100 Chinese business people. After the talk, many came to meet me and handed their cards to me, which I put into my pocket. I was politely told that I had insulted everyone and was then shown the correct behaviour. The card is handed over and accepted with both hands. You should read it, show appreciation by feeling it and making some gesture and then put it away in your pocket. Always carry a supply of business cards as the culture dictates the swapping of cards immediately.

As I travel to Hong Kong about 4 to 6 times a year, I bought some books on Chinese etiquette, which has assisted me tremendously. The Chinese can appear almost shy to start with, but they enjoy entertainment as much as anyone else. Your talk must contain many educational points, as this is a priority. The people are serious, professional and the hardest working nation I have come across. Never be late for an appointment.

Always expect the unexpected. On my trip last month I spoke to the sales force of a Chinese client that I had worked with twice before. They had moved into new offices where I would be speaking. They have a sales force of around a hundred people and I was expecting to speak in an auditorium. I was surprised to find that I was speaking in a huge office where they would all be sitting at their desks watching me on three giant TV screens. I was standing at the front of the office on a platform where a cameraman was filming and projecting the images (it reminded me of the old machine shops where everyone would be sitting working while an overseer controlled things from the front.)

My next talk was at the FCC (Foreign Colonial Club) and I arrived very early to get a feel of the venue. It was a breakfast talk and the room had been set up taking every last bit of space and leaving no room for the speaker. I quickly had to rearrange things and a factor that I take into account when I speak anywhere in the world is to be very specific about the arrangements and still always arriving early. I arrange a lot of my own speaking tours and it is up to me to ensure that everything meets the client’s expectations. I always tell my Chinese audiences that they can laugh, ask questions and enjoy themselves. Their culture dictates that normally the leader of the group would answer all questions. I am a very enthusiastic speaker and tend to speak fairly quickly, when speaking English to the Chinese I need to be very aware that I need to slow down and ensure that I am understood.

If you enjoy shopping (like me), there is no place like Hong Kong. There are shops literally everywhere. I have found the best places to shop in Mongkok, which contains a ladies market and night market, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui. Gadget junkies will lose themselves at Star City and Wanchai Computer Centre. Nightlife abounds with wonderful restaurants and bars around Soho and Lan Kwai Fong. Taking a trip up the cable car will give you a spectacular view of the city. Take a bus ride to Stanley Bay where you can pick up all kinds of bargains at Stanley market like a beautiful silk tie for about US$1.50. Visit Happy Valley Racetrack or take a boat ride to Aberdeen to see a city of boat people. Enjoy the “Star Ferry” from Hong Kong to Kowloon with the locals or take the hovercraft to Discovery Bay for a game of golf. One of my favourite places is the Island of Chin Chau and a half hour ferry ride will take you to the favourite holiday resort of the locals. Beautiful beaches, no cars (only bicycles) and the best seafood will have you returning more than once. Another hovercraft trip will take you to the Island of Macau, which was previously under Portuguese rule and still has all the influences. The Island of Lantau has the giant Buddha and visit Sea Park with its cable cars that will give you a spectacular view of Hong Kong and will take you to the world’s longest escalator. Speaking opportunities abound, so get it to the top of your “opportunity” list.

If you ever get the opportunity speak in Hong Kong, the people are wonderful and the food and shopping great!

Frank Furness CSP CFP TOT is a professional speaker and trainer specialising in sales, technology and sales management. He has educated, entertained and inspired audiences in 48 countries. His publications and sales CDs have been sold globally. For more information or to sign up for the free ‘Sales Tips & Ideas’ newsletter, email and for resources take a look at and
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1 comment:

Jonathan Marks said...

Agree with your comments Frank. HK remains a vibrant city and is fairing up well against competition from other Chinese cities, especially Shanghai.

I agree with your point about business cards. In fact, I took advantage to get mine double sided, Cantonese one side, English on the other. It is local custom to give the card with the Cantonese side facing up.