Japan thought leadership events to return as more robust hybrids

Left to right: Edelman’s Richard Edelman (appearing online), Nomura’s Ross Rowbury, LDP’s Taro Kono, FT’s Kana Inagaki and Rakuten’s Billie Cole speaking at G1 Global Conference 2021 in Tokyo on Nov. 3rd

Until early 2020, change makers of Japanese society gathered yearly at thought leadership events in Tokyo to share their visions about the country’s future. Covid-19 forced almost all organizers to stop staging in-person events, shifting their programs onto digital platforms such as Zoom, Webex and Skype. Post-pandemic, in-person events will likely resurface better and stronger in hybrid format.

This author attends many English language thought leadership events. Over the past decade they included: G1 Global Conference, The Economist Japan Summit, Roundtable Japan, Columbia Business School’s CJEB Annual Tokyo Conference and GZERO Summit Japan. The US-Japan Council, the WSJ CEO Council and the World Economic Forum also staged noteworthy in-person events.

Global and domestic issues impacting Japanese society are typically discussed at these meetings. Topics range from entrepreneurship, business, economy, finance, geopolitics, defense, education and so forth.

Well-known panelists take the stage. For example, Shinzo Abe, Haruhiko Kuroda, Taro Aso, Yuriko Koike and other famous people provide the draw. However, star panelists can overshadow the value attendees bring to these occasions.

Many attendees are themselves rising stars. They represent the future of Japanese society. One never knows whom they might meet, making attendance compulsory for those with curious minds and a deep interest in Japan.

Over the past two years, event organizers learned by trial and error to use digital platforms effectively. Webinars are especially good at spreading ideas from a few speakers to many listeners. But, they cannot create the humanistic experience of an in-person event. For many, digital events are less engaging. Networking among participants is almost impossible.

Eventually the pandemic will pass. Organizers will recommence holding in-person events. When they do, the meetings will likely appear in hybrid format, as was the case at this and last year’s G1 Global Conference. This year’s G1 conference in Tokyo attracted 294 participants and speakers of which 191 attended in-person and 103 did so online.

Hybrid events allow overseas speakers to seamlessly join in-person venues as online panelists without the need for overseas travel, offering the best of both worlds. It is, we think, the format of future global thought leadership events.

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