PCMA APAC Ask me Anything: Additional Questions

In this Ask Me Anything session, PCMA leaders Kirsten Olean and Sherrif Karamat shared their sincere and straightforward answers to questions from the APAC audience about the future of the business events industry. Topics ranged from how to increase employability as a new grad in the events industry, to the evolution of traditional revenue streams. Due to the overwhelming response, this information-packed hour was insufficient to answer all the submitted queries, but fret not as we have your answers from PCMA’s leaders right here.

We have a lot to cover! Click to go directly to the questions that fall into these topics:
On the Future and Trends
On Supplier Relationships and Feedback
On Education and Future Talent
On Revenue, Business Models and Innovation
On Corporate Incentive Travel in APAC
On Recovery and F2F Events

On the Future and Trends

What are the trends of associations or corporates about hosting events in 2021?
KO: I’m seeing a lot of variation on the corporate side. Some companies are enthusiastically getting back to F2F events only with hybrid not being considered. A lot of the events that corporates host don’t translate well to virtual, so there is a desire to get people back together to achieve their objectives. Other companies are being very conservative and still handling their meetings virtually until next year. Some companies are also recognizing cost savings of not traveling/meeting in person and in the short term, they may hold less events. But I believe that they will soon realize that they aren’t as effective when they aren’t meeting F2F, and over time, we will see those events start to come back.

Many associations are struggling to stay afloat as so much of their revenue was tied to F2F events. Some associations are finding they can’t generate enough revenue in a hybrid model where F2F attendance will be down, so they are opting to stay virtual. Many are going the hybrid route, but it varies widely how much of their audience they expect to get in person. F2F events will also be core to the business and mission of associations, but they will also be looking at diversifying their revenue, expanding their audience reach through virtual, and building up their virtual offerings to supplement revenue from F2F events.

SK: Virtual platforms have allowed corporates to reach a larger and more diverse audience as well as identify who is attending – e.g. the customer profile, and this has seen some level of success for them. Associations on the other hand have been able to engage their community more due to attendance costs being reduced. One thing all agree on is that personalised and meaningful connections have shown greater significance and make up the real value of face-to-face events.

Can you tell us about planning cycles for future live/hybrid meetings?
KO: I think the live meeting cycle will eventually be similar for the large meetings to what it was before – while demand dried up for a while, even for future years – organisations are starting to look at future year dates now. In the short term, the cycle may be shorter as organisations are cautious about overcommitting and figuring out whether their meeting will come back to the size it was. I suspect that the planning cycle may shorten for smaller meetings, as organisations determine what needs to be F2F vs virtual vs hybrid and make those decisions more last-minute.

Sherrif Karamat, CAE, President & CEO, PCMA

Sherrif Karamat, CAE, President & CEO, PCMA

SK: In the APAC Dashboard survey held in April this year, 82% of respondents are already planning in-person events in 2021 as compared to 90% for 2022. Organisations are still cautious for in-person activities and are delaying decisions to a time where COVID is hopefully in a better situation. However, the majority of events planned are centered around Q4 2021 and Q1 2022 showing an expectant if not urgent need for events.

In the long-term planning cycles might also be affected by digital components. Due to the ease of access, more and more organisations are changing their content distribution strategy to year-round events rather than a one-week annual event where content is slowly being pushed to the audience before and after the event. This disrupts the traditional buildup cycle to an ongoing one.

How do you see the future of events? Will it still be predominately online events?
KO: The future of events will be a combination of in-person, virtual and hybrid. If we are thinking strategically about our events, we should be looking at the audience and desired outcomes for each event and determining the best delivery method. I do think that organisations will develop additional online events to supplement their F2F events and their revenue. And I do think that many F2F events will have a virtual component to them. However, I do not think that every event will be hybrid, and there will be F2F events that are just F2F.

SK: In the short term there will continue to be a mix of events. F2F events and their real value is being recognized for what they can do for a business or association. By bringing together experts, explorers, developers, sales people and innovators where they can build relationships, have meaningful interactions and solve big problems. This is all done within an environment that is conducive to knowledge exchange, so nothing can replace these personal connections. So, I believe F2F will thrive and will evolve in how we meet rather than be replaced with online.


Do you think the idea of chapters, either professional or student-run, will work in the APAC region?
SK: With the diverse culture and languages in the APAC region, the greatest challenge that might arise from chapters is that it might require a more local touch

to operate rather than a professional centralised headquarters. Associations are not as prominent in the region as compared to North America and as such PCMA looks to build communities rather than chapters. This provides a platform for closer relationships to be forged as well as promoting networking and peer learning.

In Singapore, PCMA has a student community through the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). We believe that students are the next generation that will lead the business events industry into the future, and we empower them by providing free student memberships through the PCMA Foundation. This allows them to learn, earn scholarships and even connect with industry professionals. PCMA’s community will definitely be an enticing factor for students to join as they step into the industry and even more so as our influence grows in this region.

There have been a lot of changes in the structure of PCMA at the head office level, how do we get to know the best people for us to liaise with to build a greater global network?
We’re here for you! Here is who to contact for what, or send us an email at [email protected] and we’ll connect you with the right people.

Karen Bolinger, Managing Director
Philip Pang, Education and Events
New position coming soon! Advertising and partnerships
Cherry Lau, Partnerships
Mervin Ho, Digital Event Strategist Certification course
Stacey Shafer, Membership

You can also connect with members of our regional advisory board and the talented people we feature in our Customer Deep Dive series and meet ups. Keep an eye on pcma.org/apac for upcoming webinars and events.

Kirsten Olean

Kirsten Olean, CAE, IOM, Director of Meetings, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, PCMA Board Chair

On Supplier Relationships and Feedback

With event budgets getting leaner and procurement officers getting pressure to review more options, it is common that the pitch process become more tedious and competitive? Where suppliers are happy to pitch their ideas and service offerings, it is also beneficial that timely feedback is given upon rejection (if a rejection is made in the first place). Any advice that you can offer for such scenarios to get the real rejection reason?

KO: This is an interesting question, because I know I am always very candid about my reasons for rejection! I think encouraging and expressing a preference for honesty from the beginning of the process could be helpful. “If we don’t win this business, I’d love to know why so that I can improve my pitch and my chances in the future.”

SK: Agreed. We must make it easy for someone to give us feedback. We could do it through the relationships we built as we are going through the sales process. Build it up from the start and as you pitch to them, consider, and clarify their needs. However, not all situations allow you to build a personal relationship with the enquirer. You could also create a simple rejection feedback form that asks, “Tell us how we can do better”. This provides broad options for them to choose on why they rejected the pitch.

On Education and Future Talent

From an educator standpoint, would you see the need to revamp the curriculum for the conference and exhibition?
KO: The curriculum does not need to be completely overhauled, but information on digital events, if not already included, needs to be added. Expertise in digital and omnichannel events is going to be a must-have skill for anyone in the conference and exhibition standpoint. Event design – and a strategic approach to events – is another focus area.

SK: As an educator it is sometimes hard to produce relevant materials in the events industry due to its ever-changing nature. Educators should work in greater collaboration with industry professionals to bring real life examples to academia. This ensures that students have relevant knowledge of the industry.

As someone who’s graduating this year, how do we enhance our employability in the MICE industry?
KO: A knowledge of digital and omnichannel events is critical now and, in the future, so I would build up those skills if not already acquired. The newly launched Digital Event Strategist (DES) Certification course for APAC would be a great option to supplement your academic education.

SK: Industry knowledge acquired from actually working in the events industry can sometimes be more beneficial than theoretical knowledge. I agree with Kirsten in that digital and omnichannel knowledge will be critical as you work to further your career in this segment.

On Revenue, Business Models and Innovation

It appears that virtual events will be the mainstay for at least the next 1.5-2 years. Revenue management is critical for event organiser and/or management agencies. Any insights, recommendations on how agencies can better manage the revenue model for virtual events?
KO: We should be charging a registration fee for virtual events. This is challenging because so many organisations offered their virtual events for free in the beginning of the pandemic. However, there is value in the content and experience we provide, and charging a fee tells our audience that. If an organisation is sticking with virtual for the foreseeable future and needs to generate revenue, they should charge for their events. I think we are all still struggling to find the best model for exhibits and sponsorship in virtual events, but it seems like the most successful organisations have focused on sponsorship opportunities rather than virtual exhibit halls as a means of generating revenue.

SK: We must redefine what is needed by the audiences and what success looks like. Regardless of the channel, we still want the audiences to engage with one another. Delivering the ROI to an exhibitor or partner is always necessary. So when we bring them together digitally, you have to ask what your stakeholders need and craft an experience around that to deliver the audience. There will always be value in bringing people together, it’s just a matter of how you define success.

Additionally, are you offering them branding awareness when they want thought leadership? How are you driving the audience to them? Those expectations haven’t changed in a digital world. It’s our role as event organizers to tell the story of the importance of a digital engagement strategy to the stakeholders who are slower adopters. We can use data to help tell that story.

On Corporate Incentive Travel in APAC

Corporate Incentive Travel within the APAC region, once a prized market, has literally come to a halt. With border closures, social distancing, mask-wearing and all the regulations involved, what does it take to bring back such motivational travel experiences again? All while keeping everyone safe.
KO: While many events may translate into digital experiences, incentive travel is not one of them. The nature of these events made them almost impossible to hold with all of the restrictions, but as things start to open up, they are starting to come back. Some corporations are ready to jump back in, and others are more conservative and will wait until next year to start hosting events. These events will come back – the value of travel and being together will only elevate after so much time apart – but due to the nature of them, they will only come back when restrictions are eased enough to make them the special experience they are.

SK: For the short-term, destinations will be reliant on incentive travel within their own country until the vaccine has a wider roll out and uptake, borders are open and confidence for corporates to travel from a safety and hygiene perspective is restored. Of course, the economy will be the biggest driver as companies determine how to recognize and reward their employees. The key will be in creating homegrown experiences available to your locally targeted audience that money can’t buy.

On Recovery and F2F Events

How to promote the power of face-to-face business events?
KO: We need to demonstrate examples of when meeting F2F moves the mission forward for an organisation; and examples of when it didn’t. What didn’t happen when we met virtually? For example, in my organisation we believe the science did not move forward as quickly because we met virtually; it was the major driver for deciding to meet in person this year. The more stories we can tell of the impact of F2F events on an organisation’s mission, the more we demonstrate the value of these events.

SK: F2F events are platforms for knowledge exchange, trade and investment as well as innovation. We as an industry have to get better at telling this story in the same kind of language our audience uses – often governments. Post COVID-19 we have an opportunity to gather information about what happened to our business, creativity, and community engagement when the world couldn’t meet, what changed and how do we respond to that lack of serendipitous interaction that can lead to big leaps forward in medical advances, business practices, research and development. The power of face to face will never be as understood and valued as it is now.

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