Member in focus – Richard Soo, Managing Director, MEP Meeting & Exhibition Planners Sdn Bhd (Malaysia)

PCMA Member in Focus


We sat down with Richard Soo, a member to PCMA, to ask him about adapting to the new events environment.

As a business owner, creative director and chief guru, how have you adapted to the changed events environment?

The event business has always been about change and adapting to evolving needs of our customers, their audience and continuously searching and exploring for new experiences to engage and excite them.  

  • Explore and Embrace Innovation and Technology — As a leader in my organization, I need to lead by example and encourage my team to embrace technological change and learn how to apply them to benefit my customers. This is especially true now that the pandemic has propelled us; yelling and kicking in protest, into digitalization of our business
  • Being Faster is now a Necessity — Greater opportunities are only opportunities for those who are prepared to respond immediately. Customers today expect full and complete delivery ahead of time. Note it is ahead of time and no longer on time. As a business owner, we are constantly reviewing how we can do this with less time and fewer people.
  • Keeping Your Customer Close and your competition closer — Maintain regular contact with your existing customers and continue making new connections to ensure continuity. For competitors; look at them as your potential partner and your teacher.

What are some of the strategies you’ve used to manage your team through the pandemic?

Some of the initiatives that we have quickly put into place are; identifying key areas of business development that may extend beyond events, developing new skillsets for my team so that we remain relevant to market demands.  Most importantly, to collaborate with potential partners, creating a community of reliable and seasoned professionals to harness whatever opportunity comes our way.

And lastly, to be leaner in our operations, so that we can pass the savings to our customers who no longer have big budgets to spend. New skillsets and expertise offering new scope of services, innovation, and experiences at a lower, more affordable price.

What are some of the lessons you have personally learnt during this time? 

The pandemic and the lockdown have been a huge lesson in humility for me personally and the following has been the impetus for me to adapt, survive, and hopefully thrive.

  • Being Open to the New – Today, we need to move faster to stay ahead of the challenges – learn new ways of working, new trends and technology, and exploring new ideas…   
  • Honest about what/where I am lacking – Incidentally, I was reminded of my own posting on Facebook from a decade ago – You can’t be better if you don’t think that you need to be. You can’t move forward if you think you’re there. And this has opened up new business opportunities for our business by collaborating with people whose strengths and expertise would complement ours.  
  • Letting go of Past Glories – whatever triumphs we achieved earlier are no longer fodder for our future. They may feed our credibility in the market to some degree, but your existing inadequacies will diminish your chances of business continuity and sustenance. The worse is that it imprisons you to the old way of thinking and working, which definitely does not help propel us forward in the new norm.

What opportunities do you see coming in 2021? 

Going Local – people are more reluctant to travel; companies are focusing their incentive destinations on local and regional destinations that are closer to home. Opportunities are aplenty for the Malaysian market, especially in the Luxury segment – 

  • Where it is safe; assuring attendees their wellbeing since they are not traveling long distances that would increase their exposure 
  • More affordable and therefore, giving organizers more room to create special and unique experiences if local operators employ some level of creativity 
  • Smaller groups or individual incentives since people will feel more comfortable traveling alone or with a plus one. 

Larger Venues and Outdoor Events – Being able to accommodate a larger group of people and providing safe distancing spaces between attendees, which could help in reducing the risks of infection – This will be an opportunity for larger hotels and conference centers. 

Digital Engagement – Reducing physical touchpoints at physical events – from digital name cards and badges to experiential activation. This can come in the form QR codes that links to websites and info to activation of augmented reality.

What are you most excited about regarding the future of events?

Distanced but Together – The industry is getting more connected than ever  – with people open to sharing their ideas, knowledge and views on virtual platforms.

Revenge Events – similar to revenge shopping – the moment it is safe and assuming positively that this will be so in 2021, the events will be back with a vengeance; this time with a lot more bells and whistles! While most will say hybrid events will be the popular choice, it will ultimately depend on depth of the customers’ pocket as hybrid events can be expensive.

MEP Meeting & Exhibition Planners Sdn Bhd (Malaysia): www.mep.com.my