I have been organizing a networking event in Tokyo for over a year now. With the event, I set out to create a place where Japanese and non-Japanese software developers could meet and communicate. I’m very happy that my event has maintained a ratio of half Japanese and half international attendees, and will share some tips for creating a successful international event.
1. Have support of both locals and international people
In my case, before starting the event I had connections to lots of other international developers, but I didn’t know so many Japanese developers. However, thanks to the support of a local developer community (thanks asakusa.rb!), I was able to reach the local community as well. Had I not had their support, I think the initial event would have been mostly international developers, and it would have been harder to attract locals at future events.
2. Provide information in both the local language and English
In Japan, I’ve seen many events on how to expand business internationally, but these events only provide information in Japanese. By doing this, they are closing themselves off to the local international community, who could be very helpful participants. Having even just a paragraph describing the event in English would go a long way to making everyone feel welcome.
3. Integrate with the local communities
After I created my event, I went out of my way to attend as many related local events as possible. Part of this was to promote my event, but I also wanted to respect the existing communities, and try to create a new community that complemented them, rather than existing in parallel with them. Through attending these events, I was not only able to expand my event, but also become a part of the local community.
4. Use local speakers
I have had great success with having Japanese speakers give presentations in English. This has sometimes required some persuasion on my part, as many Japanese aren’t comfortable speaking in English. However, no matter the presenter’s English level, the talk has turned out to be enjoyable. This also has the added benefit that it is often easier for non-native speakers to understand other non-natives, because of the slower speaking pace and more limited vocabulary.