August 2006 issue

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Workshop choice

There is a veritable workshop war going on, as new events crop up all over the world, hoping to win the attention and patronage of agents who realise the commercial advantage of meeting educators face-to-face. Amy Baker reports.

I find workshops very useful, both when it comes to getting updates on what';s going on in the youth travel market and to get in touch with people from the industry," says Joan Lott Carlsen of Alott Work & Travel Company in Denmark. She sums up the appeal of industry workshops for all: they offer the chance to touch base with clients and competitors alike and get a feel for the latest news and views in the industry.

There is no substitute for face-to-face business meetings in any industry, and likewise, well organised social engagements can pave the way for further business collaboration in a relaxed environment. It has often been said that the best business can be done at the bar or over dinner!

The problem agents and educators are faced with is deciding which workshops to attend, and when asked "how do you decide which events to attend?" a variety of viewpoints are thrown up, underlining that a wide range of events seems to suit the varied requirements of participants. Nevertheless, the number of workshops on offer has truly mushroomed in the last few years and there are now at least 28 different workshops available year round. Some are specialised and some are open to all.

"I think a lot of choice is a great thing," says Han Steen of Universo Educativo in Mexico. "However, it starts being a problem if too many are organised in the same venue: [such as] Vancouver last year with two fairs in May and the CEC fair in November."

Steen says he makes his choices based upon the venues of the workshops. "I go to an event and visit as many schools as possible [in that location], new ones and the ones we are already working with." However, in contrast, Emilio Lavarini of Mundoeducativo in Panama says his decision "does not really have anything to do with a particular location, rather who I find there".

Diverse attendees

A range of educators representing the language learning, high school, vocational and higher education sectors is a common request from agent delegates of workshops. As the study abroad market expands and evolves, workshops need to be able to offer more than meetings with just language schools. In the UK this year, the first workshop dedicated to the boarding school sector was organised; testament to the fact that a greater variety of institutions are interested in meeting agents in a workshop format.

Jack Cao, Managing Director of DY Oceanic Consultants Co. in China, is one agent who would welcome more workshops geared towards the higher education sector. "We have not been attending workshops for over two years. Frankly speaking, the main reason is that most of the institutions that agents will meet are language schools. But in China, the majority of the students intend to study degree programmes," says Cao.

Many operators prefer a workshop that encompasses all types of study sectors. Workshops to meet companies in the work placement and volunteering fields are also popular – Icef and Gwea organise targeted events for these industries – but, aside from the WYSTC event, workshops for these sectors have been kept separate.

Arnold Rubinstein of System 3 Education in Russia attests that he likes those workshops that are "universal". "Actually we like workshops dedicated to one country, but it is not necessary to attend them every year," he adds. In Italy, Vito Carbone at Prolingue makes the point, "Workshops are quite useful as long as new schools attend them. When providers are those of the year before, a workshop is quite useless."

Timing and cost

Other factors that influence an agent';s choice about which events to attend are the timing of the event, the cost and the distance to travel – which becomes an additional cost consideration. Ernest Lau at Wise Education Services Centre in Hong Kong observes that he mainly goes to workshops in Asian countries because then it doesn';t take too long to travel to the event.

Carbone at Prolingue says he would consider "any city that is easy to reach". He says that his other considerations are the number of participants at an event and that there "should be almost no cost".

Some workshops have traditionally charged agents a nominal amount to attend, with much of the cost for their accommodation during the event essentially funded by the educators who pay far more to go to a workshop. However, with a glut of events around the world, it is now more normal for agents to attend a workshop at no charge. Some events even provide breakfast or lunch for them too.

At Séjours Homestay in France, Christine de Chanaud makes a point about when she can attend workshops. "We can only go to workshops between September and March when we are not overwhelmed by calls and applications," she says. "The big event for us that we never miss is Icef Berlin in November."

Given that agencies have varying busy periods depending on their location and trends in booking, this observation of being busy stands true, but relates to different periods, depending on the location of the agency. Generally speaking, however, workshops tend to occur between February and May and late August and early December each year, and these patterns don';t seem to be changing.

Fam trips on offer

For many agencies, attending workshops is an important part of enhancing business, but their benefit has to weighed up against time out of the office – and this is a particular consideration for smaller companies with fewer staff.

Fam trips offered before or after a workshop can be a useful way of maximising time out of the office and visiting education providers, but not all agencies are in agreement that fam trips – operating on an agreed schedule that is convenient to the majority and to the schools participating – are beneficial.

Firstly, Pedro de Diego Coppen, Director of EBI Idiomas in Spain, makes the point that although fam trips may be informative, "we don';t always have time to attend them". And Carbone says that he is no longer interested in fam trips. "You see a lot, you also see what you do not need to, and come back confused," he says.

De Chanaud in France is in two minds about the usefulness of fam trips. "Fam trips are great in large countries where you can travel quickly from one area to another and visit many different programmes in a short time, because then all the travel arrangements are made," she says. "They are not that interesting in a small country where you visit ‘next door'; competitors who sort of offer the same thing in the same area."

Nevertheless, some agencies are happy to take up fam trip opportunties, and a number single out Australia as having provided very useful fam tours. "Two very good [fam trips] have been in Australia travelling the east coast and the other one was visiting projects in Kenya," relates Lott Carlsen.

(Net)working after hours

What certainly is on offer at all workshops are social activities, which most agencies approve of as a facility to continue working, albeit in a more relaxed atmosphere. "I find that you make just as many deals in the bar or at dinner after a conference day as you make at the business appointments during the day," says Lott Carlsen. "It is important to have good personal relationships before starting to promote a new programme. So social activities are very important, and not to forget, fun." De Diego Coppen at EBI Idiomas agrees, "I think [social activities] are a key element at these events."

But again, not all agencies agree with this point. A successful workshop really has to try and account for all personal and intercultural preferences – and those attending workshops have to remember that there are many diffferent ways to seal a deal. Lavarini in Panama states, "Social activities attract employees rather than employers. I belong to the latter group."

Social plans for the evenings of workshops tend to centre around eating and drinking, and happy hours, meals in restaurants and even late night conversations in a hotel bar can lead to business opportunities. Many workshops are keen to impress delegates by taking them out of the hotel to a new venue or specially organised event. Other types of social activities tend to centre around sport – at Alphe USA, for example, a golfing competition has been organised for the past two years for any delegates interested.

Outlook for the future

As to how the workshop environment may progress in the future, it is possible that all the current events on offer will continue to be available to agents. But with new locations on the cards from some established workshop organisers – such as a new Alphe Latin America in Brazil next year and English UK moving to London from Brighton – it is likely that the market will continue to evolve. Fewer workshops will remain "must-dos" in the agent calendar while others will be tried out, or – if a workshop moves location each year – visited depending on the location and its suitability/proximity to agents.

Certainly, some workshops inspire loyalty in participants, but Rubinstein points out that there are well established events that are visited regularly, only for maintaining old contacts, while other events offer newer and different partners to meet. As De Diego Coppen underlines, all decisions about attendance at workshops are ultimately commercial decisions, "based on dates, staff availability and the needs we may have for future collaborations". Which means that the workshops that provide the best range of educators to meet, or another useful selling point such as desired fam trip or convenient location, stand the best chance of winning the workshop wars.

Profile of event: Ialc Workshop
Venue/dates of next event: Cape Sun Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa; 26-29 April 2007
Expected no. of delegates at next event: 250
Reasons to attend:
* Meet 90 accredited language schools teaching eight languages in 21 countries
* Visit Cape Town - one of the most beautiful places in the world to learn English
* Do business with the decision makers - school owners and senior directors
* Enjoy the famous Ialc social atmosphere - fabulous parties with a South African theme
* Network with fellow professionals in language travel and study abroad counselling.
Extras offered: Add-on tours: safari, wine estate, beach, etc.
Date of first workshop: 1984

Profile of event: MEI~Relsa Workshop
Venue/dates of next event: Fitzpatrick's Castle, Dublin, Ireland; 31 March 2007 (with fam trips starting on March 26)
Expected no. of delegates at next event: 200
Reasons to attend:
*  The only Irish EFL workshop – small and friendly
* All schools recognised by the Irish Department of Education (Acels)
* Free for approved agents
* Historical setting in an 18th-century Irish castle overlooking Dublin bay.
* Luxury accommodation and services 
* The workshop week will open with a Medieval Banquet in Bunratty Castle (West of Ireland) and will end with a gala dinner in Fitzpatrick's Castle (Dublin).
Extras offered:
* Optional familiarisation trips will precede the workshop
* The 2007 event will include more social and cul- tural events than ever before.
Date of first workshop: 1995

Profile of event: The Alphe UK Workshop
Venue/dates of next event: The Royal Lancaster Hotel, London, UK; 26-28 August 2006
Expected no. of delegates at next event: 300
Reasons to attend:
* All agencies reference-checked four times
* The industry';s friendliest workshop team
* Most school/agency associations represented at the event
* Productive and friendly atmosphere which makes it perfect for relaxed relationship building
* Attended by good variety of high schools, vocational colleges, higher education establishments and language schools from around the world
* Workshop location in central London op- posite Hyde Park
* Supported by agency associations worldwide
Extras offered:
* attendance at the LTM Star Awards ceremony and gala dinner is complimentary for all Alphe UK delegates on 27 August.
* All-day café serving fresh coffee and a selec tion of pastries.
* Opening reception.
* Five other workshops organised by the Alphe team in St Petersburg, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo and Bangkok
Date of first workshop: 1998

Profile of event: International Languages & Education UK Fair
Venue/dates of next event: Hilton Metropole Hotel, Brighton, UK; 29 – 31 August 2006
Expected no. of delegates at next event: 850
Reasons to attend:
* All educators (schools, colleges and universities from 17+ countries) are accredited by reputable accreditation schemes and/or are members of highly regarded membership bodies
* All agents and educational consultants must meet selection criteria or be a member of a recognised agent association
* Global in outlook – brings together all the expertise and services needed by education and language travel professionals
* Located in Britain';s seaside city of Brighton, only half an hour from Gatwick airport
Extras offered:
* eSchedule Pro appointment scheduling
* Pre-fair conference sessions and seminars
* Post-fair fam trips showcasing the UK/Malta
Date of first workshop: 1969

Profile of event: The Icef Berlin Workshop
Venue/dates of next event: Hotel Intercontinental, Berlin, Germany; 5-7 November 2006
Expected no. of delegates at next event: 1,200
Reasons to attend:
* The annual "must attend" industry event for
student recruitment professionals worldwide
* The world';s largest agent workshop of its kind
* Organised by ICEF (Since 1995, over 8000
organisations from 140 countries have attended ICEF Workshops in over 20 locations)
* Exhibition area and seminar programme
* Evening social activities enable networking in a relaxed atmosphere
* 2005 edition facts and figures: 1,150 partici- pants, 800 organisations, 78 countries
(all continents)
Extras offered: exhibition area, market intelligence seminars. Other ICEF workshops in London, Miami, Moscow, Dubai, Tokyo and Shanghai
Date of first workshop: 1995

Profile of event: Ninth Annual CEC Network Agent Fair
Venue/dates of next event: The Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; November 22 - 23, 2006
Expected no. of delegates at next event: 300 
Reasons to attend: 
* An important, one-of-a-kind networking event for international education agents aiming to develop their business with Canadian institutions
* Widely attended by representatives from all
education sectors in Canada
* 90 institutions are expected at this year';s event
* Easy appointment booking process with eSchedule Pro
* Canada is recognised as a world leader in
education, offering excellent-quality programmes
* Canadian education is competitively priced
Extras offered: breakfasts, lunches, coffee breaks, off-site reception and closing gala reception & dinner
Date of first workshop: 1997

Profile of event: English Australia Agents Work- shop
Venue/dates of next event: Adelaide Convention Centre & Grand Hyatt Hotel, Adelaide, South Australia; 19-21 April 2007
Expected no. of delegates at next event: 100
Reasons to attend:
* Have the opportunity to visit Australia (for the first time or as part of a regular schedule of visits)
* Experience what your students will experience in Australia
* Meet with quality English language colleges from across the country
* Consolidate relationships with existing partners; establish contact with potential new partners
* Keep up-to-date with new developments; gain a valuable insight into Australia
* Expand your knowledge of possible study
destinations within Australia by joining one of the state/territory visits before and/or after the workshop
Extras offered:
* Pre-workshop and post-workshop add-on tours/ fam trips to other states/territories
* Four nights'; accommodation, meals, social events, transfers included
* Orientation tour of host city
* Information seminars
Date of first workshop: 2000

Profile of event: World Youth and Student Travel Conference
Venue/dates of next event: Crown Hotel and the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, Melbourne, Australia; 9-14 October 2006
Expected no. of delegates at next event: 1,000
Reasons to attend: 
* New Partners - all attending organisations,
including agents and buyers, are carefully screened and required to meet benchmarked business standards.
* New Solutions - develop innovative cross-sec- tor partnerships and marketing and distribution channels with the world';s leading providers of work experience, volunteer, internship programmes and much more.
* New Perspectives - many WYSTC attendees have been globally marketing and communicat- ing to young people for more than 50 years. Take advantage of their expertise and savvy to learn, enhance and invigorate your own campaigns 
* Industry Leaders - WYSTC is organised by the
International Student Travel Confederation (ISTC) and the Federation of International Youth Travel Organisations (Fiyto), who together represent more than 100 years of industry leadership and expertise. 
Extras offered:
Day and nightly scheduled events including association meetings, lunches, coffee breaks, social gatherings and much more
Date of first workshop: 1992 

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