transmitCHINA 2010: 3rd year a major breakthrough, critical success
// by Tyl van Toorn, photos by Tobyn Ross / Jun 24, 2010

It was June 1, 2010 in Beijing during our first B2B focus group that we realized the gamble had paid off.

Archie Hamilton, Mathew Daniel and I all had smiles of relief on our faces as we shared a look 30 minutes into our first attempt to host a transmission roundtable in China. It was a truly awesome moment. It was working, like a Swiss watch. While the group was a little larger than we would have liked, we had a room evenly split between Western industry heavies and their Chinese counterparts. All were rolling up their sleeves and openly sharing inspirations and frustrations, ideas and challenges in a way we had never witnessed before.

// Beijing, June 1

Terry Tang, from DMCS China, discusses the relevance of Long Tail theory in China

“Terry Tang, CEO of DMCS, discussed the relevance of long tail theory in China

Everyone around the table chuckled as Terry Tang, head of DMCS China, broke the ice with a response to a Canadian question on the issue of recorded sales models. The interpreter, not really understanding the jargon, tried to translate what everyone around the table knew and understood as a common point of debate in the West. She wasn't sure what she meant as she cautiously translated, "this argument is irrelevant. There is no....long tail? in China?"

Everyone laughed. Nothing like a joke to break the ice, especially when it comes from the Chinese side of the table.

It was at that moment that we knew that the upcoming roundtable conference in Shanghai was going to be a breakthrough.

Let's start by placing credit where it is due. First, a big high-five to Mathew Daniel, VP at R2G (China) and member of the International transmitNOW Advisory Board for pointing out the obvious: transmission has become famous for its unique roundtable format. So why weren't we doing them in China? This was a question that Mathew posed to me in one of our 2am Skype sessions.

My response was superficial at best: “Well, uh, the presentation format tends to be better in terms of dealing with the language barrier we face when trying to find common ground in China." As this came stumbling out of my mouth, I realized that Mathew's query was a gentle nudge for me to review the transmitCHINA format we had used in '08 and '09.

But while making excuses for programming assumptions, the epiphany of the scope of our breakthrough was almost instantaneous: we had had it all wrong. While it was important to accommodate the language barrier, it was vital that we build a format that bridged the gaps between business cultures in China and the West.

// Shanghai, June 3

Kaiser Kuo presents the realities of online content in China

While the transmitCHINA events in 2008 and 2009 were informative, featuring speakers from both sides of the Pacific, improvements were needed to connect Chinese and Canadian delegates on a B2B level. Many of the Chinese presenters remained more comfortable with a more subtle approach to sharing their opinions, views and perspectives in front of large audiences. This style goes contrary to the sensationalism that we have come to embrace in the West.

At the same time, back-to-back presentations increasingly led to a passive atmosphere amongst participants – sitting back and letting the information simply roll over them. As a result, the rare opportunities that delegates got to mingle still left something to be desired. There had really been no opportunities for people to bond as we have had at transmission.

And yet, there it was: the answer was right under our noses.

While a roundtable format might move a little slower due to language barriers, the opportunity and the responsibility to offer an environment that could overcome the barriers of two business cultures was far more important. Our roundtables offer a shared space of confidentiality that allows people to talk candidly about the challenges they are faced with: regulation, rights management, technological change, consumer trends. Roundtables are what we are known for. What has worked for transmission ended up working for TransmitCHINA fourfold.

The project was hard and exhausting on everyone involved. With over 25 different events in seven cities over only eight days, transmitCHINA 2010 set the bar for connecting people in local markets. Our feedback has been universally positive in how our format and frame brought people together for meaningful, valuable talk.

We almost decided to abandon transmitCHINA in 2009 as a result of sponsorship shortfalls. I’m so glad now we stuck it out. We had always asserted that there was no short game when developing a relationship with China. Staying in the game is paying off.

// learnings from transmitCHINA 2010

As we have come to realize, working in China isn’t always about doing business in China. Our experience there continues to have a positive impact on our programming decisions for future projects.

Many amazing people and organizations from around the world are already preparing to leverage the transmission roundtable format to the fullest. As a result of our test runs at transmitCHINA, we are now introducing a new B2B Focus Group programme that puts specific emphasis on the challenges and opportunities that exist amongst key stakeholder groups such as mobile apps developers, publishers, labels and managers. Our B2Bs in China proved very successful: sector-focused sessions that were both juxtaposed and highly complementary to the cross-sectoral nature of our featured roundtable programme.

And while we know it’s good to have our programme nailed down well ahead of time, it’s also important to leave lots of room for the issues that will be hot topics by the time we reach the conference. Stay tuned for additional speakers, presentations and features that will be added as we cruise through the year.

Beijing, June 1

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