2022 X-Culture Global Symposium in Panama City, FL

The 2022 X-Culture Global Symposium

Post-event reflections


. The first in-person X-Culture student gathering since the 2019 San Antonio and 2019 Calgary symposia. Then two years of online events.


. Online offers many advantages, but in-person gatherings are so much better. A whole different level of engagement, relationship forging, learning, and fun.


. This time we met in Panama City, Florida. The event was co-organized in collaboration with the Academy of Internation Business – Southeast USA chapter. The 10th anniversary: the first time we brought X-Culture students to the AIB-SE conference was in 2012 in Ft. Lauderdale/Miami, FL. I can’t believe it’s been a whole ten years.


. The advantage of organizing the X-Culture Symposium as part of the scholarly conference is that the students can participate not only in all the many professional development workshops, seminars, and training sessions organized by X-Culture professors but also attend the conference research paper presentations, panel sessions, and networking events – a huge benefit for students who are thinking about applying to graduate school or pursuing an academic career.


So a HUGE THANK YOU to the Academy of International Business – Southeast US Chapter team for being our long-term trusted, supportive, reliable partner. Amit Arora, Wendy Ritz, Malika Richards, Carri Reisdord, Daekwan Kim, Jun Wu, Daniel Rottig, Matthew Mitchel, and the whole AIB-SE Board and conference organizing committee  – we owe you a big one!


. This time, we invited 60 best X-Culture students from 22 countries. Normally, we limit the group to 50, but this time we invited more to catch up on the missed events in 2020-2021.


. As always, several students didn’t get U.S. visas, a couple tested positive for C19, and even though they were asymptomatic, they could not fly,  and a couple had their flights canceled and delayed so much that it made no sense to fly b/c they’d catch only the last day of the conference. So, in the end, we have 53 students in Panama City.


. Day 1 was on the beautiful campus of Florida State University. Days 2 and 3 were at the Blue Green Resort and Golf Club. Interestingly, when we started preparing for the event, the hotel was under Sheraton’s ownership. About three weeks before the event, the ownership changed, which caused some confusion, but in the end, all worked out just fine: Blue Green honored our arrangements with Sheraton.


. In fact, the new resort’s top management team met with our students and delivered an outstanding panel session on the effects of the global turmoil on the hospitality business and the challenges of managing organizational change.



. Highlights and novelties of this year’s program:


. As always, we had a partner/client company that presented a challenge for the students to solve. This time it was Larsen Motorsports that asked our students for help with their marketing and promotion efforts.


. Unlike before, this year, the students had to present their proposals twice, on Day 2 and Day 3. Interesting format. Aid learning. The second-round presentations were much stronger; students learned from the first attempt and feedback.


. We’ll share the recordings of the presentations shortly. One notable observation: the quality of presentations has dramatically improved over the years. If 5-10 years ago, most teams just presented with PowerPoints, now the teams produce professional-grade video commercials, use super-advanced graphics, incorporate role-playing in their presentations, etc. The presentations looked as if professional advertising agencies had prepared them, not student teams.


. Additional training sessions this year:


  • Building an Effective Global Virtual Team
  • Cross-Cultural Communication
  • Interview and Resume Tips


. THE ELEVATOR PITCH competition was a lot of fun, as always.

In real life, you can’t just walk into a top manager’s office or venture capitalist’s office to ask for a job or investment. But sometimes you’re lucky enough to stumble upon the key decision maker in an elevator – and when you do, you have about 1 minute to sell pitch your talent or your idea. Which is what this competition prepares you for.


. So, the way it goes, we put 2-3 real executives in a real elevator, and they ride the elevator up and down. The students walk in and start with, “Excuse me, aren’t you Mr/Ms XYZ of ABC company? I have always wanted to work for your company. Would you give me 30 seconds to share with you my brilliant idea?” The judges then pretend to be, in fact, from that company, and the student pitches their brilliant ideas until the elevator reaches to top floor.



Two judges (and I, as an observer) are in the elevator. A student walks in to do his pitch. A hotel guest also walks into the elevator, but we don’t mind her.

The student starts, “Aren’t you a top manager at McKenzie? I always wanted to work for your consulting company, if you give me a few seconds…” Before the judges could say “Yes”, the woman/guest said, “Yes, I do work for McKenzie. How did you know?”

We gasped, a moment of silence, and then one of the judges said, “You know what, talk to her.”

So the student talks to that lady, trying to get the job.

She says, OK, I am here for my daughter’s wedding, just give me your card, and we’ll see what we can do.

The student goes, “Ups, I don’t have a card, I can give you my LinkedIn iD”

The lady, “I don’t have time for that. If you’re serious, I am here for the weekend, find me later with your card, and we’ll go from there”.

The student did find her later, so we’ll see if it leads to a real job interview.
The lesson – always be ready. You never know when an opportunity will present itself.


. Pre-Gala Event was on a Sunset Dolphin Cruise. The day was a  bit cloudy, but we did see the dolphins.


. For the Gala/Award Ceremony event, our wonderful Tim Muth insisted that the winning teams get real $$ this time, instead of plaques. Accordingly, the #1 team members got $100 each, #2 team $50 each, and #3 team got $25 each. Not a huge amount of money, but it kind of felt special when Tim gave students real greenback bills.


. A funny story going back to the airport. I told students I’d be getting an Uber at around 3:30 am to make it to the airport for a 6 am flight. In Panama City, the airport is about an hour away, and you can get there only by taxi, at about $60-70. Not a cheap deal. So I figured, if I am paying for an Uber, why not take a few students with me. Well, the word got out, and 7 students showed up at 3:30 am. My Uber was an SUV with three rows of seats, designed for 6 people, not 8 (as we included the driver). The driver was accommodating and said as long we fit, she’ll take us all. Somehow, we managed to fit 8 people and 8 suitcases (plus 8 backpacks or computer bags) into that car.  Wouldn’t do it again, but glad we did this time. 😊


. The Panama City event reminded me HOW MUCH WORK it takes to organize an in-person event. SO MUCH WORK. We were fortunate to have a great AIB  support team. Wend, Amit, Malika, Tunga each invested hours and hours managing our registrations, scheduling, room arrangements, and more.


. Still, it was HUNDREDS OF HOURS OF WORK put in by our wonderful Leilani Bumanis, Tim Muth, and Karen Lynden to make it happen, as well as about a dozen other X-Culture professors who served as panelists, competition judges, facilitators, and chaperons.


. In the end, yet another event went smoothly without a hitch. When you bring so many young people to an exciting location, you always worry that something could go wrong. Well, as before, all sessions happened as they should, we didn’t lose anyone, nobody got in trouble, and everybody left happy.


A good event. Very happy, very proud, and very appreciative of our Dream Team.