What are some of the key shifts you’ve recently made in the way you plan and organize events?
Kuepper: The biggest shift is towards digital, since this is the only way to engage with our audience right now. However, we did not attempt to just replicate our physical events in the virtual world. Instead, we thought about which elements of our trade shows would make sense to bring online, and then we curated a unique online experience for our target audience.
Using our dental event [IDEM Singapore] as an example — it very quickly became clear that it would make little sense to try to build an online exhibition where companies showcase their product and dentists “walk” around virtually. Therefore, we built our digital platform around content instead of the trade fair.
Arlando: The biggest shift has had to be rapidly adapting to the new environment by rethinking and redesigning traditional event formats. The business needs of our own customers have also evolved as they, too, are adapting to the new operating environment. It’s a time of tremendous opportunity — if we succeed in rising above the noise and finding meaningful and creative ways to engage audiences beyond the traditional two- or three-day event showcase.
Keok: As the venue partner for Singapore’s first hybrid pilot event in August 2020, we had an opportunity to strengthen our capabilities. Hybrid formats with a mix of face-to-face and virtual interactions look to be the new norm for business events of the future.
A visit to Singapore’s Marina Bay reveals some of the destination’s most recognizable sites, from historic gems like the five-star Fullerton Hotel Singapore to the ultra-modern Marina Bay Sands. (Courtesy Singapore Tourism Board)
How has your organization pivoted to cater to the future of events?
Kuepper: Although the need to pivot our business came very suddenly, fortunately we have not been entirely unprepared. For example, Koelnmesse had already started digitalizing our day-to-day work processes some time ago with home office and flexible working hours. For some events — gamescom, for example — we started streaming some of the content to reach a much wider audience. [We’ve also] intensified our collaboration with … partners for matchmaking solutions, registration, etc. The challenge really is to integrate all these different technologies in order to create a seamless digital experience for our customers.
Arlando: We’ve become even more obsessed with customer needs. To meet them, we have built solutions to ensure continuous engagement with communities in a 24/7/365 fashion. We now offer customizable digital audience engagement platforms and a fully equipped broadcast studio for quality live-streaming and web engagement sessions.
Keok: During the recent hybrid pilot event, our MICE team worked to ensure compliance with the Safe Business Event Risk Management Framework, consulting closely with the Singapore Tourism Board. We implemented safe management measures while not compromising the guest experience, including safe distancing, mandatory safe entry for contact tracing, temperature checks, face masks, no intermingling between groups, supplying hand sanitizer, and the disinfection of audiovisual equipment and microphones after every use. Meals and tea breaks were served to delegates at their seats instead of a regular buffet service.
Resorts World Sentosa recently earned the Singapore government’s SG Clean certification — a new benchmark for venue hygiene and sanitization.
Do you have any words of advice to the industry in relation to how they can reinvent for the new normal?
Kuepper: Some of the new hygiene or safe-distancing measures are probably here to stay, others may fade or become obsolete over time. But to a certain degree, digitalization and hybrid formats will certainly become integral parts of the event of the future. Listen to your customers and ensure that whatever you are planning addresses their needs. Not everything will add value for them, and it will be necessary to find the right mix between offline and online to stay relevant.
Arlando: In times of change it’s a good time to go back to the fundamentals — people. Digitalization may be the buzzword of the year, but companies succeed because of good implementation, not simply having or adopting the latest technology. A company is also only as resilient as its people. Take the opportunity to recalibrate work processes, retrain and upskill where needed, and strengthen core capabilities for the long term.
Keok: We expect Singapore’s MICE industry to evolve, albeit experiencing a slow recovery, where events will likely comprise a mix of physical and digital components. [However], there is currently still no technology that can completely replace the effectiveness of physical meetings. It is, therefore, important to stay nimble and attuned to clients’ needs as well as current developments.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.
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