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  On Wednesday, March 5, I spoke as one of the panelists at Business Roundtable.with the Government of Japan: Creating a vision for the 21st century. Programs included an interview with a Japanese CEO, two keynote addresses, and six sessions, followed by the summary by the Economist Intellitence Unit. The topics covered were quite diverse, ranging from regulatory and other reforms to revitalizing local Japan. The session I spoke at was entitled “Fostering Innovation as a Driver of Economic Growth”. Other panelists included those representing METI, NokiaSiemens Network, and Nick Valery, former Tokyo Bureau chief of the Economist.
  I had assumed (although my assumption turned out to be entirely unfounded) that it would be a panel in which each panelist talked for 5-10 minutes on the major points, followed by a discussion. I was informed that each speaker would speak in his/her native language, i.e. in Japanese for me, so I prepared a few slides just in case we needed to show them. (I almost decided against using them, as this would have made for a more informal, interactive session.)      

 To my surprise (which is not that big a surprise for these conferences as things change often), I found out that the session was a bit more formal than I had originally thought. Each speaker was expected to speak at the podium! We also decided about 15 minutes before our session that we would speak in English, because 80% of the audience understood English, while only 20% or so understood Japanese.  I was fortunate to be the fourth speaker, and not the first! I put together some points for my talk while listening to the other speeches. (This is called multi-tasking!) To my relief, it was an off-the-record discussion, so I did not need to worry about how it would be reported.  My speech (which was a bit longer than 10 minutes, I am afraid) was followed by powerful comments from Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Special Science Advisor to the Prime Minister.   

  In spite of everything, it was a great opportunity for me to speak at this conference. First of all, the group of people was extremely distinguished. (Also, I was one of two women among the speakers, i.e. not the only one.) The conference gave me a rare and valuable opportunity to adapt to the situation as it evolved. I was “forced” to come up with a few major points which could be conveyed within 10 minutes or so in English VERY quickly. You do not get this type of opportunity too many times in real life. A lot was at stake for me! I appreciated the opportunity as I firmly believe in “learning by doing.” I wish we had had more time for discussion as I would have loved to argue back and forth. (We had little time for Q&A from the floor.)   

    The conference brought another happy reunion for me. I first met Nick Valery over 20 years ago in New York City. I had a job interview with The Economist when I was graduating with an MBA and Nick was one of those who interviewed me! It was a happy reunion after so many years. This just goes to show that the world is becoming smaller and that encounters across the globe are getting easier.  

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