JTB Meetings & Events: Event Producer Interview #3
In this interview series we want to introduce you to our internationally oriented staff members
here at JTB Meetings & Events by JTB Communication Design (JCD). This way you can get a better idea of the variety of people working at JCD and their backgrounds, giving you a more personal glimpse of who you might be working with if you decide to make use of our meetings & events services. So far we have introduced you to event producers Takahiro Yoneyama and Haruna Enomoto, and this week we’re talking to JCD veteran Rie Sasaki.
Who are you and what do you do at JCD?
My name is Rie Sasaki and I’m part of JCD’s Corporate Solution Department. I have been working for JCD for over 8 years now. I have mostly been working on corporate events like corporate conferences and seminars, exhibitions, and incentive award ceremonies. Recently we are also seeing a lot of international business matching events, which are always fruitful for all the companies involved. Over the years the clients I have worked with cover a wide range from IT and software companies to global consulting businesses, as well as creditcard, insurance, and manufacturing companies.
Have you lived abroad? Where and how long?
While studying in college I was in the Foreign Studies department focusing on Chinese language and culture. As part of that program I spent a year studying in Beijing, China. I always wanted to study other cultures and try living in another country. When it came time to choose a language and country to focus on, at first French seemed interesting and cool, but Chinese seemed to be more useful in the long run for finding work and doing business. China is of course a very big country with many different cultures and industries. Also, there are a lot of Chinese people here in Japan. I thought that I could understand various cultures and interact with many people by learning Chinese.
More recently I spent one year in Honolulu, Hawaii. I was there under a global training program with our American partner company MC&A. I worked there as part of the Meeting & Event team doing a lot of hands-on work. MC&A’s main clients are major companies from the US mainland and they come to Hawaii for incentive programs. There they go around visiting different islands, doing conferences, awards ceremonies, workshops and teambuilding exercises and more, usually for about a week. In the end I worked on about 10 to 15 programs. Additionally I worked on strengthening the connection between MC&A and JCD by finding new ways to collaborate and bring Japanese corporate clients to Hawaii.
Do you think your international experience has influenced you in some way?
My experiences have definitely influenced me! My year in Beijing was an extremely valuable experience not just because of what I learned about China but also thanks to all the other people I met there. There were exchange students from all around the world and interacting with all of them was great. The year in Hawaii also taught me a lot, especially the hands-on work experience that is a bit different from how we do things here in Japan. On top of those two years abroad, I have many years of experience working with international clients here. A lot of international events are yearly recurring events, so I have worked with overseas clients and vendors, which keeps my global communication skills up as well. I have also travelled to other countries such as Spain, Taiwan, Indonesia, and more, for work. All that experience builds, and affects how I act around people in daily life. It is simply very interesting to learn how to interact with all kinds of people.
What are the biggest challenges, and the biggest benefits from working with international clients?
Of course intercultural communication can be challenging. Not just because of the language but also differences in working culture. One experience that stands out was in working with a South East Asian production company. They basically had a different work style that was very different from Japanese. While they still get the work done in the end, they started off more slow-paced. This frustrated our client and she expressed that by getting a little angry. In their culture, however, getting angry in public is absolutely taboo, so they reacted very shocked. It all worked out in the end but these are things that you learn along the way. It’s a sort of a game of catch ball of intercultural communication where you learn about, and adjust to, others’ values and way of doing things.
On the positive side I absolutely love showing foreign guests the Japanese culture. I have family in the Kyoto area and so introducing people to historical venues like temples is always great. One of the biggest events we handled as JCD was also set in one of the major temples in Tokyo. The preparation was a long process with many challenges along the way. But when the event finally happened, and the American client came with thousands of attendees from all around the world, everyone was so impressed by the beauty of the temples and culture that it was totally fulfilling and satisfying in the end. In the future I hope to do more localized promotional work. I would love to introduce some more unknown places to foreign visitors.
Why should foreign companies come to Japan and work with JCD?
A corporate incentive event’s main purpose is usually increasing motivation and celebrating clients. We want people to come to Japan for special sorts of incentives. Here they can experience many things that they cannot experience in their own countries. The Japanese culture is very unique, not only the traditional temples etc. but also modern pop culture. These experiences leave a strong impact, and this is why holding events and doing incentive programs in Japan can be so much more effective than doing them in a place your attendees already know.
Here at JCD we have a wide range of people doing all types of corporate events and exhibitions, providing many different kinds of experiences. On top of that we are a one stop service, taking care of everything from planning and scheduling, to the execution of the event itself, and the evaluation afterwards. Also, JCD has a strong position as a global company. The JTB group is connected worldwide which makes international collaboration that much easier.
We hope you enjoyed reading about Sasaki-san’s story, and how she is putting her international and intercultural experiences to good use as an event planner here at JCD in Japan. We have many more interesting interviews like this in store for you, so keep an eye on our website and social media. If you are looking to get in touch with our varied and experienced team of event planners, or have any questions at all, make sure to contact us here!