What does business transformation really mean for Asia's events industry?

Event entrepreneurs in South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia share market insights and survival tips at M&C Asia Connections Virtual.

Industry leaders from Chab Events, Aavii Worldwide and Chris & Partners shared business tips and best practice for hybrid and virtual events.
Industry leaders from Chab Events, Aavii Worldwide and Chris & Partners shared business tips and best practice for hybrid and virtual events.

SINGAPORE – A highlight of Northstar Travel Group’s recent M&C Asia Connections (MCAC) Virtual event, was a panel session flanked by industry leaders who discussed practical ways forward in this ‘new normal’.

With more than 100 regional attendees tuning in, M&C Asia discussed market sentiments with Kuala Lumpur-based Francis Cheong, CEO of Aavii Worldwide; Song Yi Kim, COO of Chris & Partners based in Seoul; and Alexis Lhoyer, co-founder of Chab Events, which has a presence in Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia and France.

In the wake of Covid-19, the biggest challenge for all three companies was the need to 'pivot' to virtual events and transform their underlining business model accordingly. 

For Cheong, the ability to act quickly — together with "a lot of trial and error" — has kept him ahead of the curve. “Our team only had two days after the announcement of Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (on March 18) to transform a live event for the virtual sphere," he explained.


"Luckily, due to some previous experiences in managing webinars and live streaming, we progressed quickly, hosting seven webinars in April, and 11 in May. In August, we ran a mixture of hybrid and live streaming events.”

In South Korea, Kim said her business was one of the very first to make the 'pivot' to digital, and quickly transformed her office into a webinar studio. As events were cancelled across Seoul, Kim pushed ahead to host a highly successful live streaming event in May, and backed this up with a hybrid conference in early June, which was attended by 40 city government leaders and 158 speakers globally.

“With these successes, the market became more receptive to trying new virtual and hybrid models," she said, revealing plans to expand the webinar studio. 

Market needs are continually changing, and for Chab's Lhoyer, this means additional training to ensure his team can adapt quickly.

“We spent a lot of time training the teams in web technologies, HTML, video and content creation, and also a lot of education on the buyer’s side — because everyone experienced webinars before Covid-19, but how can we execute in a meaningful way? And how do we cost to it? That's the big change for everyone,” he said.

Chab Events is currently planning the Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed) Virtual Forum 2020, set to take place on 24 September in Singapore. The hybrid event, which will bring together more than 1,000 virtual attendees and 50 in-person delegates, has also been earmarked as a pilot event to test the government's recently introduced Safe Management Measures for events. 

“To create an interesting conference experience, we've had to weave multiple technologies together. On the content side, we have 90 speakers for more than 60 education sessions, and AI-powered networking. We're also using gamification to raise the customer engagement — because when you do virtual conferences, the number one question from sponsors is: “How do I get people to my virtual booth?” shared Lhoyer.

“So, we’ve been building up tools for engagement, not just classic ones like surveys, but embedding technology that allows attendees take selfies and turn it into a logo… We try to maximise engagement with the audience through every single platform.”

Rounding up the session, the experts agreed that the key to business survival is "progress and agility,” as Cheong stressed.

Song said that ongoing uncertainty surrounding the spread of Covid-19 means that event planners must be ever-ready to adapt.

“We thought we could open up in September, but in Korea a second wave just hit us and all hybrid events are now back to virtual, because we can longer have audiences in the same room," she said. "Everything happened so quickly and planners like us have to be ready to react to change accordingly — be ready, but don’t be afraid”.

Next up on Northstar Travel Group’s calendar is M&C Asia Connections Virtual - Global Edition, set to take place on 28 October 2020.

Stay tuned for updates.