Member in Focus: Razlan Manjaji, Head of Global Events, South China Morning Post

Meet Mr. Razlan Manjaji, Events Director at South China Morning Post (SCMP) based in Hong Kong. In this Q&A spotlight, read how Razlan and his team transformed their event calendar increasing the number of events four-fold, while decreasing costs and doubling their revenue.

Can you share a little about your role and what type of events SCMP run?

I am the Events Director at the South China Morning Post (SCMP) and I am responsible for managing a portfolio that covers Impact Events, Marketplace Events and Special Project Events.

The events business is an expanded vertical of our core business – the SCMP is a Hong Kong-based English-language newspaper. Impact Events are our flagship events which bring our journalism to life as an interactive engagement touchpoint for conversations around issues that matter.

Events are an extension of our journalism, offering balanced viewpoints and diversity of speakers; some examples include our ‘China Conference’ and ‘Redefining Hong Kong’ series. Our Marketplace Events provide a platform to connect buyers and sellers, in particular industries, largely in the Hong Kong market, such as our flagship International Schools Festival. Special Project Events are used to promote SCMP’s new initiatives, including the Digital Transformation Series.

How did SCMP pivot to digital events, manage to raise the number of events four-fold despite the pandemic, while revenue doubled, and costs decreased?

Prior to the pandemic, we organised around 16 face-to-face events per year. Due to the pandemic, the pivot to virtual events required us to organise additional virtual events to achieve the same revenue targets. We had to learn and adapt fast, educate our stakeholders, and develop an annual events calendar that was drastically different from what we had originally planned for.

The team found their pace and managed to increase the number of events four-fold despite the pandemic. We’re happy to share that our efforts paid off as we managed to double our revenue, while lowering costs by 15 percent.

How do you entertain and keep audiences engaged online? Do you have any advice you can share with the APAC community?

This might seem cliché to say, but content is king, and it holds true with virtual events. You can have a fancy event platform with all the bells and whistles, but without compelling content, you won’t be able to engage your audience. Content is the single most important consideration that will determine your event’s success.

Your content must be powerful and valuable to attract and engage attendees. Having said that, there are tools and activities to engage audiences online, tools like Slack Platform Community, VIP private forum, as well as interactive elements like virtual scavenger hunts. These tools will not work for all events, so knowing that your content can stand on its own is essential.

How did you support your team through 2020?

2020 was incredibly challenging for all of us. My team has been working from home for the last 18 months. Not seeing each other in the office does impact morale and productivity. To help my team to go through this very difficult time, I maintained complete transparency across how we work, and I supported a culture of continuous learning. My team knows everything I do – the P&L of every event, the reasons why certain decisions are made, as well as sharing challenges in an honest manner.

We also enhanced communications with all our stakeholders:
● Starting a “This Week in Events” e-newsletter to internal stakeholders every Monday so they know our team’s progress
● We adopted a project management tool where everyone has full transparency with the same access rights within our team
● We have weekly team meetings and regular functional head meetings to enhance transparency. I made it clear to our team that it is okay to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them

What’s the best advice you can share about running events?

The best events are often a combination of having a disciplined and structured production plan. It also requires a degree of fortune to get your stakeholders – such as speakers, sponsors and partners – to be aligned at exactly the right time.

For that, I encourage our peers to maintain a standard approach in terms of producing and running an event. Making sure it can be scaled across your entire calendar and supported by a robust project management tool will help from a productivity and efficiency standpoint.

And you should always build relationships, read widely, broaden your network, and dream big – especially when it comes to who you want to feature at your event. Having the right event proposition that aligns to your speakers’ agenda would be a good starting point.

You recently attended a webinar and then signed up as a member. What appealed to you to get you to join the PCMA APAC community?

Although I have experience in events management, it was never my core responsibility. When I was asked to lead the SCMP Events team back in 2019, I knew I needed to level up my approach to run the business. I came across PCMA by chance and in it I found a community of peers who are in the same boat, dealing with similar operational and business issues… and are in my time zone!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with PCMA APAC members?

The pandemic has pushed our industry to take a transformational leap forward.

It is a huge credit to the industry to have adapted quickly by shifting to virtual events and it is encouraging how well-received and attended these virtual events have been.

This has given us confidence moving into a new platform for the events industry once things are back to normal, as we move forward with a hybrid face-to-face and virtual events format.

How the future of the events business will shape up tomorrow will depend on our action, resolve, and wisdom today. Let’s heed this calling together as a community, share abundantly, and learn relentlessly.

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