. Malaysia Business Events Week walks the talk with new hybrid format | Meetings & Conventions Asia

Malaysia Business Events Week walks the talk with new hybrid format

The sixth annual meeting focused on rebuilding market confidence, but questions on longer-term resilience and competition remain.

Members of the Business Events Council Malaysia shared insights on how to face the 'new normal' for events.
Members of the Business Events Council Malaysia shared insights on how to face the 'new normal' for events.

KUALA LUMPUR – Hybrid and virtual events will be part of the MICE landscape for the foreseeable future, according to industry stakeholders at this year's Malaysia Business Events Week (MBEW) — which was also a hybrid event, with international speakers participating online.

Organised by the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) and held at the World Trade Centre on 24-25 August, the event saw 292 registered delegates on-site, together with 200 virtual participants from around the world. It was launched by Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Dato’ Sri Nancy Shukri who detailed various government initiatives with a RM1 billion (US$240million) fund for tourism financing.  

Dato’ Sri Nancy is confident that Malaysia's MICE industry can rebuild and restore confidence among international event planners.
Dato’ Sri Nancy is confident that Malaysia's MICE industry can rebuild and restore confidence among international event planners.

Since the virus outbreak, Dato’ Sri Nancy said that only 24 events secured by MyCEB have been cancelled, with 64 rescheduled. She added that with Malaysia’s success in battling the pandemic and the solid SOPs in place to ensure the safety and health of participants, she expected the country to rebuild confidence in holding business events and maintain it.

MyCEB CEO Dato’ Sri Abdul Khani Daud, revealed that MyCEB had already secured four online international meetings for for 2021-2025 and was also trying to persuade those who had cancelled to rethink their decision. And for this meeting, participation fees for both on-site and virtual participants were waived in an effort to gather industry players and share knowledge on how to revitalise the industry.

New normal, new ways

The use of mobile apps to foster greater engagement and 'safe' networking at in-person events is set to increase. At MBEW, for example, gaming app GoTeam was used to facilitate a team-building session. It can be customised according to each organiser’s needs and proved popular among MBEW participants.

Meanwhile, members of the Business Events Council Malaysia (which helped draw up the SOPs for running events in Malaysia) shared some of their innovative ideas in a panel session. 

As the new requirements include pre-packed food, customised tiffin carriers were handed out and doubled up as mementoes for participants.
As the new requirements include pre-packed food, customised tiffin carriers were handed out and doubled up as mementoes for participants.


MEP Meeting & Exhibition Planners chief marketing guru, Richard Soo, spoke of recreating the experience of a gala dinner for the virtual world with a theme requiring participants to dress up and theme-appropriate catering delivered to delegates in their respective locations.

Informa Markets group managing director and SVP (Asia), Gandhi Muthiah, shared that the largest furniture fair in Southeast Asia, MIFF, was rescheduled for March next year. However, Informa is also working on a virtual experience for international delegates (6,000 participants from 140 countries) in case the country’s international borders are not opened by then.

“While the physical booths will be there for local visitors, we will create a VR representation of the floor plan and navigate international participants to booths. Delegates can then click and actually chat with the exhibitors via a mobile app, with a live tour of the products on show,” he said. 

Meet in Malaysia being the first big event of the year during the pandemic ensured all the required SOPs were adhered to.
Meet in Malaysia being the first big event of the year during the pandemic ensured all the required SOPs were adhered to.


Moving forward


MBEW managed to successfully implement the new SOPs for business events in Malaysia with scans, tracking, physical distancing, hand sanitising and use of face masks by participants, and pre-packed food for meals. 

The theme of the event was Rebuilding Confidence and speakers and participants continually affirmed their own confidence in running successful events. What is needed, they agreed, is to instill that same confidence among clients and international delegates.

As Hotshoes managing director, Collier Yong, pointed out, his clients are willing to spend, but are worried about consequences. “It’s still not clear what the liabilities to organisers and clients are if, for example, a participant tests positive to the coronavirus, even though all SOPs were adhered to," he said. "We can’t control what happens to participants outside of their time at the venue. It’s the onus on the government to give clarity on that and restore confidence.” 

Medical Conference Partners director, Dee Dee Quah, now collaborates with a tech solution provider when pitching for projects.
Medical Conference Partners director, Dee Dee Quah, now collaborates with a tech solution provider when pitching for projects.

Medical Conference Partners director, Dee Dee Quah, explained that collaboration is the way forward, and encouraged event companies to join forces with suppliers like tech providers. 

Along with collaboration, concepts like sustainability and resilience, re-skilling (especially in tech), pivoting, adapting, and continued engagement were continually repeated throughout the event. Travel bubbles were also addressed, with Dato Sri Nancy pointing that, while bilateral negotiations are ongoing, regional travel is proving difficult. Instead, she suggested establishing 'bubbles' between cities rather than entire countries. In Thailand, for example, Phuket plans to open its borders to international travellers in October. 

No matter the destination, the consensus among MBEW participants is that domestic events must drive the industry until international travel is firmly re-established. Amid ongoing uncertainty, every country is seemingly taking a similar, hybrid approach. Reflecting on this, International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) regional director, Noor Ahmad Hamid, asked: How can one differentiate themselves and not just copy what everyone else is doing?

This is a question that all industry stakeholders and respective governments need to answer.