After a difficult 2020, CWT Meetings & Events's Singapore director, Petrina Goh, believes empathy and humility are more important than ever.
"Last year was incredibly tough for the travel and M&E sector. But as I look around me, I am constantly reminded of the tenacity and resilience of our industry and the people in it," she said.
"It’s easy to be distracted by the constant pressure to perform, let alone grow, in this difficult and competitive climate. We are in the business of bringing people together, and it is important that we remember that this also applies to our own teams. Unless we support each other, we won’t be able to overcome and emerge stronger from adversity."
This is her daily mantra as she aspires to be both a compassionate and strong leader, looking up to the likes of NZ Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden.
Leading a team isn't too dissimilar to leading a nation. And just as countries around the world prepare to embark upon the road to post-Covid recovery, Goh is readying her team for the future of meetings and events.
She shared her thoughts with us in a recent interview:
How would you describe the road to recovery for the events industry?
While the deployment of vaccines around the world is certainly welcome news, the general consensus seems to be that the road to recovery for our industry will be a long one.
Companies and their employees who travel and attend meetings and events need to feel confident that it is safe to do so. And for that to happen, I think all stakeholders involved — including travel management companies, event agencies, corporate travel managers and event planners, airlines, airports, hotels and governments — will need to work closely together. At the moment, we see players are working in silos, each implementing their own set of measures — the development of digital health passports is a great example of this. I believe we need to be taking a more coordinated approach.
While the word “pivot” has become a bit of a cliché these days, I think it’s incredibly apt. Given how fluid the situation with the pandemic remains, we have to be a lot more agile and flexible in the way we organise meetings and events, so we can meet the needs of our customers while adhering to regulations and restrictions which are constantly changing.
What does the term “hybrid events” mean to you?
To me, hybrid events used to simply mean a marriage or a combination of face-to-face and virtual events. While this is by no means a new concept, it is suddenly attracting a lot of interest given the environment in which we currently find ourselves.
Recently however, I’ve come to realise that hybrid event planning has a taken on a new meaning for me in terms of having a “hybrid mindset”, where planners combine their foundational skillset of event planning that they have always readily fallen back on, with a certain tenacity to find solutions in the face of continuous change at short notice.
For example, planning a hybrid event would have been much easier in the past as regulations and requirements were pretty static. Now, as face-to-face meetings gradually resume, how prepared are planners to make changes to an event the day before it’s scheduled to take place, if travel and spaces have already been booked for the physical portion of their hybrid event?
How would you describe your feelings about 2021 (and beyond)?
In a word: Onward. A female leader that I greatly admire and look up to once taught me that “there’s a reason cars have a big windshield and a small rear-view mirror”. It serves as an important reminder to me to continue to look forward.
My personal motto is “pursue greatness anyway”, despite any personal or professional challenges that may come my way, and it has helped me not to dwell on unfortunate circumstances and negativity, but to stay focused on my goals.
As an industry, what can we do to “build back better” to ensure greater equality and inclusion?
I’ve mentioned earlier that our industry is in the business of bringing people together, but it’s also about lifting people up. In 2020, it was heartening to see the industry come together as one collective voice across the globe, to talk about the importance of the meetings industry to economies and businesses. In the future, it’s important that we continue to use that voice to bring about the change and growth we’d like to see.
I believe that travel and M&E would be counted among the industries that have strong female representation in leadership roles, and we have also been very successful in attracting young talent. However, it is also one of the toughest industries for women and those starting young families as it requires a big investment of our time and frequent travelling.
Where we find ourselves today, I think it’s extremely important that we focus on attracting, retaining and mentoring the next generation of young women to lead our industry, I’m proud to be part of an organization that prioritises this.
Petrina Goh is director, Singapore at CWT Meetings & Events.