I had a difficult decision to make earlier this year, as follows:
- Deliver a keynote address to FE colleges at the Association of Colleges Annual Communications conference
- Go to SXSW in Texas (again) for my serious dose of professional development and time-out ‘thinking time’ (and Austin in the Spring – stunning *sigh*!)
- Speak at the annual Chartered Institute of Marketing Higher Ed special interest group conference (HEMIG)
- Or, head to Asia Pacific to speak at CASE APAC’s annual conference (and a couple of other events ‘out East’)
Tough call, hey? AoC and CIM events would give me great exposure in my home territory, but then I already do a LOT of speaking at conferences in the UK, and perhaps folk there are a little bored of hearing from me (?). SXSW has had me for the last two years as a delegate and is a truly awesome event and great thinking time for me. But then the East was calling too, and since Asia is such an important part of the world for those of us in the West to be aware of, and Australia poses such competition to European HEIs, I decided to head East instead. So, here I am writing this blog from a hotel room in Singapore, having just flown on from last week’s CASE APAC conference in Hong Kong (and shortly on my way to Australia where I’m going to be running a social media workshop for Australian universities next week). As I write this I have an eye on a tweetchat screen checking out what I’m missing at the CIM conference (#hemig5) and, as much as I would love to be there, I am so pleased I made the decision I did. And so, I can’t help thinking that more European organisations should be investing just a little bit more budget to send their advancement professionals in an Easterly direction to really start to understand this crucial region.
While I found that many of the Asian organisations in particular were really just beginning their journey with social media (what I was there to talk about – see my presentation here from the main conference), I certainly didn’t find them ‘behind’ in any other areas. The cultural insights I have taken away from that conference are so valuable and insightful. And the real enthusiasm and belief in what they are doing really rubbed off on me. Tricia King from Birkbeck Uni was also there and in an opening to another session commented on how ‘gloomy’ the HE sector can feel in the UK at the moment. I couldn’t agree more, and I must say that getting out of there for a bit and coming to see education and the impact it has on those who work in it and those it serves in the rest of the world, has been an absolute inspiration and left me feeling energised and ready to take on the world (albeit a very jet-lagged one).
In an exchange on Twitter with someone from the UK, it was commented that their organisation would never stump up the budget to send them to an event like CASE APAC. I hear that kind of thing a lot. But I would just like to make the point that I don’t earn a vast amount of money, and as a proportion of my annual turnover, my financial commitment to coming out on this trip is significantly (significantly – I feel the need to emphasize this point!) more – percent-wise – than any investment a university would be making to send a member of their staff out (who could also then return and conduct a thorough debrief with their colleagues, thus also helping others). Yes, this is an investment in my knowledge and professional development, and thus in my company (I didn’t come on this trip with the objective of winning new business though), but so too should universities be making those kind of investments. So many HEIs claim to be global institutions these days, or with a global outlook, and yet I come across very few marketing and communications folk that are ever allowed the time and opportunity to learn from their counterparts in other parts of the world. Shame on you, HE, shame on you. How can we call ourselves global if our staff are, at most, only ever allowed to London, Manchester, Birmingham or, if we’re really pushing the boat out, Edinburgh. I’ll continue my commitment to learning from the rest of the world for the benefit of myself, my clients and education as a whole. I really hope some of you may join me too.
I very much hope that this is just the beginning of my relationship with, and work in, the education sector in Asia Pacific. There’s a lot to be done, and I’ll be over in a hurry if the opportunities arise. There are some folk out here that I would just LOVE to be working with.