For the first time, the Thailand Incentives & Meetings Exchange
(TIME) took place as a hybrid event. Held in Bangkok last week, TIME
2020 attracted more than 100 local stakeholders at The Athenee Hotel
with a global audience tuning in to a live stream via Zoom.
Organised by the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB),
TIME started in 2016 with the Chinese market, followed by India the next
year, long-haul markets such as Australia, the U.S. and Europe in 2018,
and the ASEAN+6 region for 2019 before taking the global leap this
In a nod to the bureau's forward-thinking approach, a hologram of TCEB president, Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, was ‘beamed’ onto the stage for
an opening address, with his avatar greeting physical and virtual attendees from the future.
“Greetings from the year 2030," he said. "Despite new normal practices, TIME
2020, if my memory serves me correctly, will see great opportunities for
interactions, networking and ideas in order to provide you with a path
He then appeared ‘live’ on stage and encouraged delegates to “make ample use of the new experience and knowledge offered by
[TIME’s] global speakers…to integrate new business enhancements”.
Business survival and customer refocus
A hybrid panel session about surviving in business and refocusing on
customer engagement was a highlight. Here, all five panellists
(representing corporate planners, event agencies, and media) echoed the
same three business imperatives: adaptability, customer centricity, and
maintaining connection—even if it means going old school and picking up
the phone to chat with clients and team members.
For Francis Cheong, CEO, Aavii Worldwide, his company has already
completed 92 remote events since lockdown in Malaysia. Now that it’s
back to physical business as usual for the destination, the team is
looking to manage two upcoming launches and another two conferences.
all these cases, Cheong said clients are looking for production and on-demand
content like never before. He also shared a few twists on incentives travel, which garnered positive comments from the floor.
"Even when a vaccine is available, people will still be using hybrid
formats. So what about a drive-through event? Delegates can view
pre-produced videos or listen to the CEO's speech while they enjoy a
boxed meal in their cars,” he said.
Speaking from the buyer’s point of view, Scott Cameron, country chief
information technology officer, Allianz Ayudhya Assurance, paralleled
the idea of rethinking incentive travel programmes, especially in a time
such as this.
“Before, we could travel overseas to Europe," said Cameron. "Now
what’s that experiential side that still makes that incentive worth
working hard for? Something that really drives the performance we are
looking for in [our staff]?”
Apart from customised experiences, safety and costs are two other top concerns that consistently pop up in client’s checklists.
“We need to look at what clients really need now. We start looking at
bringing people back to Thailand, but half refuse to come as they’re
afraid of travel. Also, it’s looking into cost saving. If you can show
your business can help clients drive cost saving, do that,” said Patama
Chantaruck. vice-president for Indochina Expansion and managing director
of IBM Thailand.
For Michelle Sargent, director, CWT Meetings and Events, one of the
biggest changes is the lead times for booking events. Where clients used
to book up to eight months ahead, now it’s about three to four months.
“People are holding back a little, [but] when numbers are more
positive…they’re ready to go," said Sargent. "We’re educating our
clients, letting them know that in order for them to get the dates they
require especially the first to second quarter of 2021, they need to
consider six months out. Flexibility in regard to contracting has never
been better, so there’s no reason for people not to sign on the dotted
line and get started.”
All these sentiments are familiar to Lauren Arena, editor at M&C
Asia, having just concluded the trade title’s recent hybrid event,
M&C Asia Connections (MCAC) Virtual. She shared that understanding
client’s needs and delivering messages that speak to those needs were
“Communications should be narrative based. From a destination
perspective, be sure to highlight different players to resonate with
different segments of your audience," said Arena. "Right now, event
planners want to know what your safety protocols are, so show, don’t
tell. And focus on empathy, we are all in this boat together.”
One way to do that? “Pick up the phone and say what you need,” said
Sargent, who did just that and received five new requests for proposals
after her base of clients offered to help.
“We’ve been working with you already, [so] you know the new
challenges we face. How can you help us resolve these challenges and
bring that unique experience? Just because it’s a unique situation
doesn’t mean you can’t talk to us—how can we collaborate to think
through this new normal, hybrid, what it’s going to be?” added Cameron.
To this end, Cheong had yet another practical way of delivering empathy.
“We picked 20 of our key customers, reached out and said, ‘let us
help you produce something to kickstart your business.’ So we created
video content for them to place on their websites for free, to say ‘we
hope that you know we’re still here to support you and in turn bring us
business when the time comes'.”
Concluded Arena, “Keep talking, keep experimenting, and stay focused on people."