It seemed like a good idea at the time – a wonderful opportunity to run a congress of this magnitude in another country. And so it was that when the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) approached Think Business Events to organise their 15th International Congress in Santiago Chile, Directors, Denise Broeren and Kim Stevenson jumped at the chance.
Denise had managed the 14th International Congress in Sydney in 2006, and had the advantage of prior experience, and understanding of the occupational therapy (OT) culture from managing both national and international OT Conferences. So in late 2008, when the local committee in Santiago asked WFOT for help with planning, they turned to Think Business Events to take up the challenge.
Think Business Events was appointed to manage the six day Congress and associated events which featured up to 12 concurrent sessions, with a total of 696 presenters, 989 posters, 5 pre congress workshops, and 3 social events spread over 5 venues! Think Business Events role included managing the extensive program, online abstract submission and review process, international marketing, sponsorship and exhibition, registration, logistics and supplier management; whilst a Local Manager in Santiago secured local suppliers and worked as a secretariat to the local committee.
It was the first time that WFOT had presented their International Congress as a bilingual event – but to add to the challenge, even meetings and daily communication with the local organising committee in Santiago were bilingual! Regular teleconferences kept us in touch on a regular basis, with each meeting including a translator, so that every sentence, every question, every idea and every decision had to be translated. This resulted in lengthy meetings and lack of fluid discussion due to delays of the sequential translation.
All official documentation was professionally translated, but daily communications with delegates, suppliers and committee were ably helped by bilingual staff in the Think Business Events office – and ‘Google Translate’ which became our faithful friend! Denise remembered “There were many funny ‘lost in translation’ moments, but we soon learnt that ‘Hasta Pronto’ which most Spanish speaking delegates signed off with, did not mean the rather abrasive literal translation of ‘See to it quickly!!’ but a more friendly meaning of ‘See you soon!’ “