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[webinar] Behind the scene: Talking sustainability and business entirely in Indonesian

I was invited to speak at a webinar on sustainability and business organised by the West Java government. As I talk about this kind of thing a lot, I took it somewhat lightly, but a few days ago, I was alarmed to see a sudden increase in the number of subscriptions to the company newsletter. The number of subscriptions to the newsletter means that the number of people registering for this event increases. The events I do are usually in English or Japanese, and I'm generally pleased with 50 subscribers, but the events in Indonesian done by Indonesian staff always get close to 100-200 subscribers. This time I was supposed to speak in Indonesian, so I was a bit nervous when the number of registrations suddenly increased. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country globally and has a large population of young people, so sustainability and business topics are very popular.

This event is the second time I have done a webinar entirely in Indonesian, but the last one was on a different topic, climate change, so I prepared for it with a fresh perspective. The carpenters who are building our office and my daily life are almost 100% in Indonesian, but it's English when it comes to technical topics. Therefore, I am less confident than usual to give presentations in Indonesian. I thought of changing my presentation materials to Indonesian, but I remembered that a staff member told me a long time ago that the descriptions were more luxurious in English in Indonesia, so I dared to leave them as they were. Even presentations and word documents can be translated almost perfectly these days using Google Translate or DeepL. Already, there is no doubt that there will be no more work for translators in a few years. It is still common to see products in shops with packaging written in dubious Japanese. Does Japanese, like English, still have the same effect of giving a sense of luxury?

The plan was "a 20-minute presentation followed by a 10-minute Q&A". But, the questions dragged on and on, and I ended up speaking for an hour in Indonesian. The last time I gave a presentation on climate change in Indonesian, I used Google Translate to respond to the questions in the chatbox. Still, for some reason, this time, the event host had put restrictions on the text in the chatbox so that I could not copy and paste questions to enter them into Google Translate. I managed to get through to the internal WhatsApp group by asking, "I can't copy and paste into Google Translate. Can you give me the details of their questions? In Indonesia, people who talk for a long time tend to be more appreciated, and the first person who asked me a question had a lot of opinions and didn't get the point, so I honestly didn't know what he was asking. So I gave a muddled answer that didn't get the point, and the person who asked the question seemed to agree with me, so that was good.

The second question was, "How do you balance sustainability and business?" As I have written many times on my blog, I closed my session by saying that "it is not a question of balancing sustainability and business, but of making sustainability more valuable to the business". Sustainability tends to make products and companies more valuable these days.

After an hour of talking, I realised that I was sweating a lot, whether from impatience or fatigue. It was a weekend morning, and I thought that I need to learn more Indonesian.

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