While I was posted out there, I took two very interesting side visits.
The first was to see a show Blenheim was running up in Bangkok, by then I really needed some R&R away from Malaysia. I went up on the Friday night and returned on Sunday so as to cause little inconvenience to REV ’96. It was at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, for an engineering trade event with a series of large international pavilions.
As I arrived at the venue, walking through the show I could feel there was a problem. The large German contingent was not happy and threatening to pull because their pavilion was getting no traffic. Despite my R&R objectives, the Asian CEO called me into a meeting of the team. He was a Chinese Malaysian and he set about laying in to the senior Thai guy at length, it must have gone on for fifteen minutes. I leaned forward and whispered in his ear ‘solutions?’. He ignored me and carried on the bo—–ing for another long period. I repeated ‘solutions?’ and he turned and asked me what I meant – schoolboy error on my part!
As a result, I was walking the halls until 2am with a signage contractor who said he had run out of vinyl, yet under pressure rustled up a secret stash. We used rope-and-post and blanking-off shell walls with signage to alter the traffic flows through the hall.
Then at 6:30am I had to address a room-full (sixty or more) of young female Thai students, to get them to do something that was completely against their principles. No need to call #MeToo, I got them to stand in aisles and say ‘This way sir’, pointing visitors along desired routes. Sometimes four or five of them were used to block an aisle to do this. If you know anything of young Thai girls this is extremely low down their list of acceptable things to do.
But it worked, by 11am the Germans expressed themselves to be happy and I did get a Saturday night of R&R before heading back to KL.
My second side visit was a two-day trip to Jakarta where I was to propose the launch of a new electronics trade show to the Minister of Electronics. We had a meal of their most-popular fish in a top restaurant. It reminded me of Tripoli, more bone than flesh.
It was still an early phase for PowerPoint and I had selected an off-the-shelf template of a desert island with a palm tree and the sun out at the horizon.
The Minister had shown no English, working instead through the interpreter. But at the end he called me to one side and asked, ‘Was your PowerPoint depicting the sun setting on the British Empire?’ We Brits were not quite enjoying the best Indonesian relationship at the time. But he did have a glint as he asked this with a good English accent that proclaimed he could only have learned this in Britain. I replied, ‘No it is to show that the Sun never sets on a Blenheim show!’ He took it in good part and left chuckling.