Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

August 2012

Power for the People

By Jennifer N. Dienst, Contributing Editor

get up close with 123 specially selected posters -- presentations on the latest research and studies -- and their authors.  Conveniently tucked away in a quiet corner of Exhibition Hall 6, the IES featured an informal setup conducive to casual conversation and browsing, not unlike an oversized science-fair exhibit.  Attendees could explore the presentations through giant interactive touchscreen displays or sit in on quick, 10-minute chats with the authors.  Presentations were also kept up throughout the day, allowing for attendees to come by at their convenience.

“The interaction allowed me to meet other experts that will be helpful to my future work,” said Jim Drago, P.E., senior manager of market intelligence for GPT (formerly PSI/ Pikotek), who presented two posters in the IES.  “Allowing experts 10 minutes to present was a first for me.  All other poster events I have been involved with don’t allow that.  The fact that there was an opportunity to speak helped to justify the trip.”

Keeping up with KL

For the first time in its 25-year history, WGC met in Southeast Asia; and this was just the second time that the conference was held in Asia.  With some of the world’s most popular meeting destinations nearby -- Singapore, the fifth most popular, according to the International Congress and Convention Association, is less than an hour flight away -- why did IGU choose Kuala Lumpur?

For several reasons.  Malaysia is the world’s 15th-largest natural-gas producer, and many industry leaders are touting Asia as a key region for the development of natural gas.  Zhou Jiping, president of China National Petroleum Corporation, told delegates during his keynote speech that it’s likely that the “Asia Pacific will surpass the U.S.  and Europe to become the largest natural-gas consumer in the world.” Petronas, Malaysia’s state-owned oil and gas company and WGC2012’s main sponsor, is in a race to build the world’s first floating Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility, and offered conference delegates half-day tours of its current on-shore LNG Complex in nearby Sarawak, the world’s second-largest LNG production facility in a single location. 

The company also played a large role in hooking the organizers during the bid process. Petronas financed a new air-conditioned pedestrian bridge that now links the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre to the popular 1.37-million- square-foot Pavilion Kuala Lumpur shopping mall and a number of area hotels.

“It took the personal involvement of senior officials from Petronas as well as government and airline representatives,” Datuk Peter Brokenshire, the convention center’s general manager, said of the bid that Malaysia made for WGC2012 more than seven years ago.  “It was a large, formidable delegation that presented a case very forcibly that Malaysia was the right place for the event.  It was important that WGC come to Southeast Asia for the first time.”

Malaysia is centrally located in Southeast Asia, with Kuala Lumpur (locals call the city KL for short) as its bustling, multicultural hub, making it an easy gateway to the rest of Asia, India, the Middle East, and Europe.  With large populations of native Malay, Indians, and Chinese, both KL and the rest of the country are commonly seen as a cultural melting pot of the Asian continent. 

“We are strategically located in the heart of Southeast Asia, between the two booming economies of China and India.  With its neighbors, Southeast Asia accounts for over 50 percent of the world’s population,” said Ho Yoke Ping, general manager of sales and marketing for the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau.  “Malaysia is ranked as one of the best value destinations in the world, making it very affordable for delegates to visit.  It’s an easy place to stage international conventions.”

The destination’s ability to draw high attendance from numerous regions plays a major role with events like WGC, for which attendees come from around the world to connect with companies with which they might never get face-to-face time otherwise.  “My favorite part [of the conference] was the opportunity to network with people from all around the world,” said Pedro Henrique Moura Quintela Ribeiro, Rio de Janeiro–based process engineer with PETROBRAS’s Research and Development Center.  “Globalized conferences like the WGC are important because they are opportunities for companies and nations to discuss all the industry’s issues, like partnerships, technologies, markets, and best practices.”

Beyond the destination providing a convenient gateway for WGC2012’s array of international attendees as well as a relevant backdrop to the conference’s content, the convention center’s flexibility also played a major role in attracting the event.  For example, security was tight -- even members of the press had to go through screenings just to come in and out of the media center -- so the convention center’s staff was required to hand over the venue’s security management to the WGC team during the conference.  Three marquee structures were also added specifically to contain WGC2012’s exhibition and other events.  

“Because of the success of the events since we opened [the convention center] in 2005,” Brokenshire said, “Malaysia as a business-tourism destination has gained momentum.” Indeed, the destination and the convention center have become so popular that an expansion is in the works after only seven years of operation.  The details are still being finalized, but “in our initial business plan, we thought we’d do 13 exhibitions a year,” Brokenshire said, “but now we’re averaging 62 to 64.  And many of our existing exhibitions have outgrown the center.”

Fortunately for IGU, WGC2012 wasn’t one of them.  

Sidebar: 'One Big Convention City’

To house WGC2012’s 220 exhibits, 47 technical sessions, media center, daily luncheons, and a long list of other programs, WGC’s National Organizing Committee created a self- contained concept village that extended well beyond the walls of the 215,913-square-foot Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.  Three new marquee structures specifically built for WGC - one of which became a permanent addition - and the adjacent Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur, formed the conference campus.

“The size and complexity of the conference was of a very different dimension,” said Datuk Peter Brokenshire, the convention center’s general manager.  “We created one big convention city.”

To seamlessly connect the marquee structures to the convention center, and keep attendees out of Kuala Lumpur’s high humidity and temperatures, the team also added air-conditioned, enclosed walkways.  “Attendees could walk from one to the other,” Brokenshire said, “and not realize they’ve left the convention center.”

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