At the airport: efficient business meetings
At times I fly more than two times a week between the different Gulf States for a business meeting. I pile up thousands of frequent flyer miles and recognise each and every face at the airport. The check-in and out, customs controls, waiting in the business lounge before the flight, it has now all become routine. I am friendly greeted by the ground staff behind the counter and the man at the baggage scanners always gives me a welcoming handshake.
When you travel as much as I do, you meet business associates in airports. We sit in a quiet corner in the business lounge, where snacks and drinks are up for grabs. These meetings are usually volatile in nature, nothing more than a small consultation or discussion. For more complicated meetings we fly deliberately at a designated destination to meet in a private meeting room.
It’s a lot of work for the secretaries to tune the flights of their bosses on such a way that everyone has a stop around the same time at a determined location. But once that is successful, it is an efficient way to gather together. It is a matter of flying in, having a meeting, and flying out again. Or is it slightly different?
We met with several Asian and Western partners in a posh conference room at the airport of Doha. In the middle of the room stood a large square table displayed with ornate Arabic coffee cans, water bottles and plates with dates. The luxurious black chairs around it had high, snug backrests, in which you could lean back comfortably.
Flight hours and time zones
All parties were flown in from different parts and time zones of the world. Some had a journey of 16 hours. Some had travelled eastward, while others had flown in the exact opposite direction. For me it was more or less a home match. I was in the same time zone, and had only flown 1.5 hours to reach the destination.
The Asians, generally very modest and humble by nature sat upright in their seats, were eager to start. They were clearly looking forward to the meeting about the production, which would give them a lot of work. They all seemed to be vigilant and alert.
The director of a German-American company, who arranged the meeting, appeared completely the opposite. The otherwise talkative man sat a little quietly, staring out over the meeting room. Meanwhile, he rummaged in his papers in search of the discussion documents. This time he seemed to be totally disorganised, while I knew him as always well prepared. He could expect little help from his assistant beside him. He looked just as impassive as his boss.
Trot with a hop
As the director himself realised that he was not fully awake, he apologised and asked the Asians to start with the presentation. A little man with a distinctive oriental draw in his face jumped energetically up from his chair. In a kind of trot with a hop, as only the Chinese can do, he rushed to the presentation screen.
The presentation lasted and lasted. Slides with figures, a picture of the factory, a group of workers in orange overalls, and even more slides with figures and numbers. It was deadly dull. If you didn’t have a jet lag already, you would certainly get one. But the presenter’s ping-pong English sounded so funny that I could keep the courage. However the director and his assistant needed considerably more effort to keep up. They were nodding their heads in an uncontrollable manner, staring at the screen with their eyes almost closed. If you did not know better, you’d think they were not interested.
Sigh of relief
When the slide with financial statements finally came into view, a sigh of relief was dispersed over the meeting table. This is what we had been waiting for, the deciding factor for potential cooperation. All members of the assembly shoved their chairs a little closer to the table, leaned forward to read the details carefully and began to ask questions.
All members, but one. The most important partner, the director of the German-American company, had let himself slip back in his comfortable chair. He had been seized by a huge jet lag and was sleeping with open mouth. A huge snoring sound echoed through the hall.