It's every marcom managers' nightmare. The CEO announces a new, revolutionary, worldwide tour to sell the company's latest software. "We're going to 85 cities in 95 days--Paris, Berlin, Prague, Moscow, Athens, Tel Aviv, Johannesburg, Bangkok, Lima, Mexico City, Detroit . . ." For a moment, you imagine hiking to Machu Picchu or sunbathing on Australia's Gold Coast--then reality hits. "All I'll see of South Africa is the night sky through the barbed wire fence of my hotel compound."

And then you really start worrying. What about customs, labor, regulations, shots, medical emergencies, crime, and the language? Oh yeah, and don't forget that this is the CEO's pet project. So, what do you do? And more important, what don't you do?

Your Partner Needs Partners To begin with, your in-house event team can only be stretched so far. What if your shipments don't clear customs--and at the same time the CEO loses his luggage? Worst of all, who takes over if the event manager gets sick?

This is one of those times when a trusted production firm is essential. But if your production firm contacts tell you they can personally handle everything, beware! They are fooling themselves. The company you outsource to has to understand outsourcing itself. For complex international events, your U.S.-based partner needs established international contacts to ensure a smooth event.

Use your U.S. firm as the lead producer. This provides single-source accountability as well as a consistent look and production process around the globe. It should coordinate the content for the entire event--getting the designs to the overseas partners, coordinating with the venues, and selecting the right AV firms and transportation companies.

This hub and spoke outsourcing system yields the highest rate of success. When the relationship is right, each international firm serves as a seamless extension of your U.S. partner. And each knows a whole lot more about local conditions then your U.S. firm does! Some cases in point:

* Parlez-vous Delay? Without our local amis, we wouldn't have known about a strike that was planned in Nice. Things shut down completely when the French strike, including the road system. Without our French connection, our production would have been French-fried.

* What Hurricane? A local AV company we use in Korea kept one of our producers from becoming known as the typhoon buffoon. The company staff suggested we ship a property to Korea a week earlier to avoid the hurricane that was moving up the coast. Only the locals knew it was coming.

* Backup Banners. About six years ago, we produced a user conference in Johannesburg for the first time. During the night, someone stole the beautiful banners that had hung outside the hall.To our surprise and relief, our local partners had extra banners on hand. They were prepared for the practice of decorating the local houses with goods "borrowed" from the convention center.

Save Yourself for Handholding So, don't try to go it alone internationally--and don't let your production company either. With a trusted hub-and-spoke outsourcing system in place, you'll be able to concentrate on taking care of your people. A chief technology officer or engineer is a fish out of water in some place like Kuala Lumpur. You'll worry less and they'll worry less if there's a familiar face to meet them at the airport, show them the hotel, and guide them through the city.

For references on international production company partners, please feel free to contact me.