David Thomas, keynote speaker, thought leader and entrepreneur, equips business leaders with the knowledge and tools to navigate their business, brands and aspirations throughout the Asian region. David helps leaders develop their own strategy for success in the region through practical examples and solutions to cross-cultural challenges.

Speaker Video

Speaker Showreel

Speaker Showreel

My China Journey

My China Journey

Diversifying Australia

Diversifying Australia


Such a dynamic, engaging speaker. His keynote was very well received by our audience.…

Property Profile Group

Rated as one of the standout sessions of the program.

BT Group Licensees

The energy and clear insight that you brought to the Masterclass was a real strength.

Westpac Banking Corp

Cutting edge, insightful, highly researched and thought-provoking. A speaker with ideas…

Business Blueprint

Extremely refreshing and addressed in very straightforward and easy to understand and…

Mark Hay Realty

Loads of practical tips on how to embrace the opportunities in China. His talk was highly…

Real Estate Results

He is well known in the Asia Pacific region for his experience, credibility and passion for identifying, building and facilitating trade and investment relationships between developed and emerging countries. And he has inspired, motivated and educated global business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors to pay attention to the massive growth potential available within Asia.

David will take you on a journey to identify and build long-term business and investment relationships in Asia with a savvy understanding and experience of the way business is conducted. By emphasising a series of strategic approaches, David shows that building trust through relationships is critical for new ventures as well as existing trade & investment arrangements. Commercial success which includes the re-negotiation of existing trade contracts, such as recent examples in agriculture, aquaculture, mining and wine exports, can be epitomised by the Nine Bend Bridge analogy. As a Buddhist belief, a curved shape could ward off evil spirits, and in many Asian cultures and traditions there is the belief that evil spirits can only travel in straight lines. The zig-zag bends along the journey allowing you to travel slowly, safely and appreciate the journey by bringing others along with you. Rewards await those who successfully navigate the challenges along the way.

David lived in Hong Kong in the 1980s and 90s. His father, the Attorney General for Hong Kong (1983-88) was involved in the negotiations between Britain and China to design and implement the new Basic Law of Hong Kong in 1997. His step-mother was a senior political leader in Hong Kong and worked with Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher to negotiate the future of Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty post 1997. David has had a life-long interest in Hong Kong’s role as a regional hub and considers modern China to be the financial engine of Asia. For the last 30 years, David has worked with entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders to successfully engage with their Chinese and Asian counterparts. In his keynote presentations and workshops he draws on his own personal stories, anecdotes and case studies to teach leaders how to communicate effectively across cultures.

Based in Sydney, David is a Keynote Speaker and Thought Leader on Australia’s role in the Asian Century, and the author of ten books and over 500 blogs on the topic of doing business in Asia.

Speaking Topics

Doing Business in Asia is not a straight line

Asia has the money AND the market

We live in the Asian Century. In the coming decades, China, India, Japan and Indonesia will rise to become amongst the largest economies in the world, driven by an explosion of innovation, productivity and domestic consumption from their large and fast growing middle class and high net worth populations. 

Smaller Asian countries like South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines will also emerge as economic powers in their own right, as the World tilts towards Asia and business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors seek access to the high growth markets of the region.

The innovative and high-tech companies of the future now need to commercialise, capitalise and scale their technology and products into the Asian region, starting with the traditional investment and logistical hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore, and moving north into southern China and south into ASEAN.  

David Thomas is a proven expert in supporting companies with their Asian expansion plans, leading missions and delegations to key markets and providing support, advice and introductions to investors, distributors, partners, suppliers and customers.

Book David to speak to your leadership team and answer their questions on:

  • Understanding the different markets of Asia - navigating geographical, logistical, lingual and cross-cultural differences
  • How to select one market over another - how do you start? where do you land first?
  • Preparing your pitch to investors - what do Asian investors look for and how do you present a compelling innovation which will get their attention?
  • Building long term sustainable relationships with local partners and distributors - when does ‘yes’ mean ‘no’?
  • Managing and Mitigating the risks - IP protection, data management and storage, taxation, company structuring, managing shareholders etc.
  • Branding, identity and marketing - how do you present your capabilities in an Asian context?

Managing relationships in Asia is not a straight line

Build Relationships Not Transactions 

Despite some of Asia’s significant economic advances in recent times, their approach to doing business remains refreshingly similar to the way they’ve done business over the past one thousand years i.e. they only do business with people they know, like and trust.

Business executives, entrepreneurs and professionals need to deal with people of other Asian backgrounds to deliver successful commercial outcomes, and it's become critical for leaders to learn how to communicate, negotiate and connect with senior decision-makers and business leaders from both sides of the cross-cultural divide.

Working with Asians can be rewarding and highly lucrative but it can also throw up cross-cultural differences and challenges which can cause frustration, stress and even conflict on both sides. Addressing, understanding and resolving areas of difference, especially when communicating and negotiating with Asian investors, entrepreneurs, partners and employees, is a skill that can be learnt and applied in high stakes situations, as well as in everyday interactions.

For the last 30 years David has worked with entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders to successfully engage with their Asian counterparts. In his keynote presentations and workshops he draws on his own personal stories, anecdotes and case studies to teach leaders how to communicate effectively across cultures, including:

  • Understanding hierarchy and how to engage with unfamiliar management structures
  • Learning when 'Yes' can mean 'No', and developing effective communication strategies to deliver more certain outcomes
  • Resolving conflict and complexity in challenging situations
  • Overcoming difficulties and frustration and finding a constructive win/win approach to successful commercial negotiations
  • Building long term sustainable relationships built on trust, confidence and mutual respect
  • Simple steps, tools, tricks, and tactics you can adopt to deliver amazing results

Other speakers you might like:

The Ethical Futurists

Alison Burns and James Taylor are The Ethical Futurist™, award-winning experts, keynote speakers, podcast hosts and corporate advisors on a mission to help people and organizations think and act more ethically and sustainably.

Amanda Johnstone

As one of Australia's most globally acknowledged AI technologists and technology communicators, Amanda's contributions have been celebrated by TIME as a Next Generation Leader and by The CEO Magazine with the Start-up Executive of the Year award. In 2023, LinkedIn awarded her as a Top Voice in Artificial Intelligence.

Recognised as a subject matter expert in both emerging technology and modern leadership, Amanda lends her insights to organisations including YPO, Zoom, The Australian Digital Health Agency, Allianz, Kellogg's, Universal, Stanford, Optus, ADMA and Google Cloud.

Justin Herald

Justin Herald is known globally as the guy who took his last $50 and turned it into a $37 million global brand (Attitude Inc) in just 6 years. He is also the Managing Director of Customer Culture, one of Australia’s leading staff training companies as well as the author of 8 International best-selling books. Justin is constantly asked to speak at events due to his down-to-earth style, humour, his cut-through content, and his ability to engage an audience right from the minute he hits the stage.

Rael Bricker

As a seasoned entrepreneur who turned a health scare into motivation, Rael Bricker leverages his diverse experiences from finance to education, on two continents and two listed companies. He serves businesses globally, having navigated challenges from starting companies to managing billions in loans. His partnerships are a blend of real-world experience with academic qualifications (MBA, MSc, CSP) to guide people and companies towards excellence.

Inbal Rodnay

Inbal Rodnay is a former programmer, entrepreneur, and innovator who helps businesses create effective technology strategies and thriving cultures of innovation. She co-hosts the Agents of Change show and is the CEO of Theory and Motion.

Back to Top