On Monday 20 February 2012 I received an email from Shirley Lai, a first level connection from Malaysia. She is a Conference Producer for Marcus Evans events in China. Shirley was urgently looking for a speaker to facilitate a Half-day Workshop on Corporate Communications in the Digital Era in Shanghai, China that week on Friday. She wanted to know if I was available. am based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Sadly at the time I could not take up the opportunity. It was a Monday when they approached me and they needed a speaker for a Friday. Where would I find someone on such short notice?
It was just four days but I thought it was worth a try to turn to my LinkedIn connections. There was nothing to lose. I quickly sent a mail to my LinkedIn connections alerting them to the opportunity. The opportunity to go to Shanghai, China with 4 days notice all expenses paid. Was this not some scam or some gimmick? After sending out the initial mail to around 30 people I narrowed down to the list to about 6 people who were potentially available.
Marcus Evans would cover the cost of the flights, food and accommodation. All that was expected in return was for the person to show up and deliver the workshop.
One of these available contacts was Ramon Thomas, an experienced trainer and professional speaker with a keen affinity for China. I have been talking to him for some years using social media but we never actually met in person. Ramon was immediately excited about the idea of going to China and he grabbed the opportunity. A visa might take 3 days or so but he would take the chance. I pressed him on the matter and he was adamant that it was possible.
He did not have to worry about costs of the flight. Everything would be covered.
Ramon was able to get a Visa within two days for a flight to China and that Friday he was in Shanghai, China via Dubai ready to deliver the interactive workshop to companies like Ferrari’s Asian division. Even though the Visa requirements were standard there was some difficulty in communicating under pressure with the Marcus Evans staff in Kuala Lampur:
Letter of invitation from Conference and Hotel, Confirmation of return flight, Bank account statement, Payment of R500 + R500 deposit for same day clearance at the Chinese Consulate in Sandhurst near Sandton City mall.
Ramon managed to get his Visa on the Wednesday when her had the return flight confirmed from the conference organisers. . He went to apply for his Visa in the morning and in the afternoon 3pm he had his Visa. He’s flight was around 10pm that same evening on Emirates Airlines via Dubai to Shanghai, China.
After his return we finally met for coffee at Nino’s Rosebank and I spoke to Ramon and about his experience in China. .
The short trip that Ramon made to China has opened many doors for him. He added another feather his cap. It’s not every day you get the chance to go overseas all expenses paid. When opportunity knocks on your door you must answer. As the scouts say, “Be prepared”.
I am amazed by the opportunities and possibilities that are coming out of LinkedIn. What was remarkable about this particular experience was that I had not met either Shirley or Ramon but we were able to interact effectively to make the China experience an experience.