No more VIP addresses, please

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No more VIP addresses, please


At a conference on venture policy at COEX in southern Seoul in early June, the host introduced a member of the National Assembly and said that he would give commemorative remarks. Immediately, the attendees looked at their smartphones or the brochure. They did not mean to be rude, but they just wanted to pass time through the boring speech. The first speech was over 20 minutes long, and then the second speaker started. One attendee complained, “Instead of the useless speeches, we need more time for the Q&A session.”

At various conferences, seminars and hearings on policies, a “ritual” that is always included at the beginning is the VIP address. The head of the hosting agency, members of the National Assembly, heads of government ministries and public agencies or high-ranking officials give speeches. Usually, they sit in the front row or at the table closest to the stage and take turns speaking. At some big events, it takes over an hour for all the VIPs to get through their remarks.

Attendees feel that most of these remarks are unnecessary. They are indistinguishable in content and format. The speakers usually say that recent changes in the environment have led to certain problems, and they hope this forum, or conference, will be a chance to find a direction for solutions through discussion with the invited experts.

Without stating any specific positions or opinions, they usually remain theoretical and state the obvious. They often add self-praise, which is just as meaningless to the audience.

The unsubstantial contents make the audience suspect that the speeches must have been written by their staff. As the attendees feel that the speakers didn’t write it themselves, no matter how influential the speaker may be in policy-making, they have no reason to pay attention to the speeches.

In fact, a friend confided to me that he saves time by intentionally scheduling to arrive at the event around the time the speeches are over. Ironically, the media only reports on the commemorative speeches that do not reflect the real voices of attendees.

Recently, the venture industry proposed getting rid of the speeches from the agenda. Some suggested conversations or Q&A sessions to fill the time. Rather than having a number of VIPs take turns repeating meaningless speeches, they should sit around and discuss their positions and opinions on pending issues. The audience can focus better and listen to the voices of the VIPs. In developed countries, this format is already widely used.

For such conversation sessions, the VIPs need to be properly trained. Many speeches are off point because the speakers do not know the specifics or are afraid of uncertain information being reported by the media. In the end, the VIPs need to have background knowledge and insight on the issues being discussed.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 15, Page 29

*The author is a business news reporter for the JoongAng Ilbo.

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