Being my first EMEA regional meeting as the region’s Executive Director I was full of mixed emotions, anxiously wishing everything to run as smoothly as possible, excited at the prospect of entertaining and meeting the members of my region, hoping all events would be well-received, full of interest for all delegates and their companions, plus perhaps there may be an opportunity for me to also enjoy myself in the wonderful city of Prague!
Looking back, having survived my way through to the other side, I am delighted to say that I think a fair amount of the above was achieved.
Over 80 delegates plus a further 35 companions, from over 30 countries, met at the President Hotel in Prague between May 7-10. I arrived a couple of days before the conference to ensure, along with a few other important arrangements, that the weather was going to be fine for us all. I was greeted by showers of rain which continued into my second day. After some quiet words with the “Powers That Be”, I managed to secure us (almost) perfect weather for the entire weekend of the conference.
The EMEA Regional Board met on the Friday 7 May and the conference officially began with an opening welcome from our host Ivan Fučík (Prague) of Fučík & partneři s.r.o. This was followed by our Annual General Meeting, commencing with our Chairman’s report from Peter Walter(Düsseldorf), and the Treasurer’s report by Steven Bruck (London). Steven also provided some insight into his packing regimes and the generosity afforded by “Germany” in times of trouble (otherwise known as “when one forgets to pack a tie”.) The Committee reports, other regions, and the Worldwide reports proceeded events up to Coffee.
I (Stephen Hamlet) then presented “myself”, providing an overview of my background, where I had come from, what I had done, and what I would be doing in the new role as Executive Director for the EMEA Region. This included a demonstration of the new EMEA Regional Website in addition to other new member services and ideas for further enhancement and development of the region.
Guy Bigland, our guest speaker from London legal firm, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, entertained us with his expert advice and experience of the World of Marketing for Professionals. This led us into lunch which was followed by our Breakout sessions on Transfer Pricing, Issues arising in Current Economic Circumstances, and Marketing/Business Development.
Spouses and accompanying guests had the pleasure of visiting the Karlstejn Castle and were joined by the delegates in the evening for the Gala Dinner, at the exquisite French Restaurant of the Municipal Hall. The genteel sounds of the pianist accompanied our fabulous dinner, followed by the slightly more energetic sounds of ABBA (and the like) for those who ventured onto the dance floor for the evening’s disco.
During our magnificent dinner, the forthcoming EMEA Chairman, Peter Janssen, jumped up and grabbed the microphone. Although he did not perform a rendition of “My Way” (as many of us had hoped), he did speak highly of our Chairman, Peter Walter, who will complete his 2 year term at the end of June this year, and presented him with a gift as a small token of our appreciation. Peter was further commended for his many great achievements during his chairmanship, including notably the recruitment of the very modest Stephen Hamlet…Seriously, I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of BKR and specifically the EMEA region, to thank Peter Walter for all his help, support and dedication during his time as our EMEA Chairman.
Sunday commenced with sights of brave/crazy (delete as applicable) people about to commence the Prague Marathon (none so more than our very own Graeme Boake and Donovan Fraser (plus Graeme’s brother, Kevin) from Johannesburg, South Africa. We must congratulate all 3 for a most impressive performance, completing the marathon in 4 hours and 55 minutes.
For the rest of us, we fought our way through the marathon runners onto the buses for our trip around the City of Prague. Commencing with breathtaking views by the Strahov Monastery, on to the magnificent Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral, before boarding the tramway for an exhilarating ride to lunch. With a fabulous view of the Charles Bridge we ate outside, on the riverbank, enjoying the glorious sunshine.
The afternoon commenced with a walk across Charles Bridge, where we passed local artists and entertainers, including a most impressive orchestral performance of the works of Metallica, and continued with a guided tour through the Old Town, incorporating the awe-inspiring Old Town Square.
At the end of this magnificent tour we all felt as elated as those who had completed the Prague Marathon, with many of our limbs feeling as if we HAD just completed the Prague Marathon!
The day was not over, since we all met again for another fantastic meal, this time at the Rudolph’s Foundry which included entertainment by a local Jazz band. Unfortunately our luck ran out with the weather towards the end of the meal and the short walk back to the buses allowed a number of us to experience a different sort of shower to the more dignified ones of the hotel bathrooms.
On Monday, following feedback from each Breakout group, the delegates were treated to an interesting presentation from Czech Invest and presentations on the Czech Republic system from three colleagues of our local member firm Fučík & partneři s.r.o.
After Coffee break, Les Nutter (Manchester) commenced his highly anticipated Statistical Analysis, providing an entertaining but equally important, and most valuable, presentation of firm results. It must be emphasised again that more firms should be encouraged to submit their results in order to capture a more representative picture of the entire region and to provide an even greater analysis of member firms’ performances.
We were then honoured to have one of Ivan Fučík’s clients (Mr Sven-Michael Wolf, Dillenburg) discuss his experience with creating and building a family-run business in the Czech Republic. Finally, the meeting concluded with Daniel Faura (Barcelona) showing us a couple of videos on Barcelona and inviting us all to next year’s EMEA Meeting before our Chairman, Peter Walter, closed the meeting.
The companions had spent the morning in the Lesser Quarter and visited the Museum Kampa before joining us all for the Farewell Lunch.
I speak on behalf of all participants when I thank our Czech hosts for their hospitality and can say that I have personally enjoyed very much my first EMEA Regional meeting, providing the opportunity for all to network, exchange individual experiences and viewpoints, and come away with new thoughts and ideas.