Most associations have a student delegation at their conferences. It’s an opportunity for college or university students to get a better understanding of the profession or industry they are stepping into, and to make important connections with potential future employers.
But according to Singapore Association of Convention Exhibition Organizers & Suppliers (SACEOS) President Janet Tan-Collis, there’s an even more pressing reason to include business-events students from Asia in global conferences for meeting professionals. “The hotel industry’s hospitality degree is very well-oiled,” she said, “but our own business-events industry is still very fragmented, and we don’t cohesively come together to educate across disciplinary boundaries.”
In an effort to change that, SACEOS has been partnering with PCMA on the Singapore MICE Challenge (SMC), a competition that has engaged more than 30 teams of students from more than 11 Singapore institutions of higher learning since its inception in 2015. SMC is a part of the Singapore MICE Forum held each summer in which university students majoring in business events, business management, and hospitality and tourism create and present a realistic and competitive event proposal to an audience of select industry leaders. The Challenge is meant to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the business- and incentive-events world.
Each year, the winning team is fully sponsored to attend PCMA Convening Leaders. This year, two winning teams brought their best ideas to Convening Leaders, held Jan. 7–10, in Nashville.
The two winning teams, representing Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education and Polytechnic Republic, presented two event concepts at Convening Leaders that touch on a hot topic in the industry: inclusivity. But the teams’ concepts went a step further by proposing ideas that would cater to groups who are often forgotten — even in the conversation of inclusivity.
The team from the Institute of Technical Education proposed a two-day conference to be held in Singapore called “Silver Tech Asia,” which would address the challenges of Asia’s aging population. The second concept, presented by the team representing Polytechnic Republic, was a three-day, Singapore-based event that focused on raising awareness of the capabilities of individuals with learning disabilities. Students were asked to share the specifics of the events in their pitches, such as marketing strategies, breakout session content, and keynote ideas.
For the students, building an event concept from the ground up and presenting it on a global stage was a challenging yet gratifying learning experience. “Coming from an institute that really battles against other student teams — we are considered the underdogs of the Singapore MICE Challenge — the win meant a huge deal to us,” said Marvin Chew, a student at the Institute of Technical Education. “We sacrificed our entire school holidays to work on this project, so walking away as the victor was really wonderful, and opportunities have already opened up for us,” Chew said, “like coming to Nashville and networking with other organizations and PCMA members.”
The two teams’ hard work was evident. Both painted such realistic and detailed pictures of their conceptual conferences — demonstrating a keen understanding of the nature of business events — that several meetings industry professionals in the Convening Leaders audience asked when they were being held and how they could help fund them.
Though the Singapore MICE Challenge might sound like it’s all about the competition, one of the two winning team’s presentations, “Embracing Inclusivity for Participants with Learning Disabilities,” meant a great deal more than winning to student and lead presenter Hannah Alkaff. As she finished a pitch for a three-day event that would celebrate the abilities of young people with learning disabilities, she revealed that she was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child. “People like me have a learning difference,” she said, “but it doesn’t mean that we’re incapable.”