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Part 1 of a 3 part series.
About one month ago I received a call from a Nigeria speakers bureau, inquiring about me addressing a journalists meeting in Lagos, Nigeria. He also mentioned, he had worked with one of my fellow branding peers Martin Lindstrom. Martin is a global branding expert too and author of Buyology and Brandsence, both excellent books.  So I reached out to Martin to inquire about his experience. Martin explained, you will be safe, it will be a memorable experience. He was right on both accounts.

Several weeks went by and the meeting was not booked. Then one week before the event TO, my rep from the speaker bureau, phoned me back up. They want you, please get your Visa and passport in order and they want you to address branding in government.

So the hoop jumping starts. I was actually still in NY city at the time and my lame AT&T phone had no service, so most of my communication was via email. Even though Martin said I’d be safe, traveling to a country with a questionable reputation and that I’d never been to by myself was not an option. Sure, I wanted the opportunity to visit Nigeria, but I also wanted to contain my risk and American Express travel does not offer a travel escort service, but they do offer a companion ticket with the purchase of a business class ticket. So now my goal was who could I get to travel with me and provide some value beyond being my body guard. I called Litewavemedia. They are a local company that produced my speaker video. I contacted Christian, the owner and explained the situation. Christian was booked on a big commercial shoot, but said one of his colleagues would be happy to do it. His name was Andrew, a UT film grad and well rounded, light, sound and video guy. Perfect! The trip planning could begin. Having Andrew with me was one of the smarter investments I’ve made, ever! He not only is a great video dude (taped me speaking and other event highlights), but took lots of still shots and was by my side every minute. His dedication to his craft and my safety was priceless. Thank you Andrew!! In the picture below is Andrew to the right and Paul our guide to the left. Paul works in Imo State government office in investment development. The hospitality he showed us and his friendship were awesome.

Here are a portion of my top lessons from my African adventure. See next couple blogs for more.
1) When you get an opportunity to do business in a country that is new to you, get personal references and get paid upfront.

2) Knowing the time and travel preparation needed for an event of this magnitude, I will not commit to anything with less than 2 weeks advance notice, full payment and contracts signed. Even though I pulled this off, it was a lot crazier than it should have been, unless they are paying me $100,000, which they did not, never again am I doing an event like this with that kind of short notice.  Immunization shots only take two weeks to get in your system.

3) Even though I am a seasoned traveler, I would not travel to Lagos by myself. PERIOD.

4) Tightly enforce contracts and terms and stick with them. I got lax on this and paid consequences that I should have prevented. Specifically — Only when all 100% of funds and contracts are received, will program prep start. I spent too much time chasing down money. There is a clause in my contract that states “Client must get all promo materials approved before printing” or the contract is void. The client published items not consistent with my brand, a very old photo of me and inaccurate bio info. Include in contract all extra requests like press conferences, timing and details. PLUS, specify that your traveling companion must be in the same building as you are and internet fees are covered by client.

5) Always carry an extra few copies of your bio for press conferences and at the event. My agent had provided this bio, intro to the organizing group, but 4 minutes before I was to go on stage the MC had nothing and was asking me for my intro through a screaming crowd of 500 people.

6)Don’t count on the same kind of technology when traveling to emerging countries. My phone did not work and my internet was a daily mess.

This shot is of Neta Nwosu who was the chairman of the event for the Brand Journalists of Nigeria.
She also is an editor with the top newspaper (DailySun) in Lagos.

See next blog posts for remainder of trip.

Neta and Karen in Nigeria at Nigirian museum

For more global branding adventures, view:
Making history in Saudi and 5 lessons from the experience.

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