. It all comes down to people | Meetings & Conventions Asia

It all comes down to people

MCI Hong Kong & Macau, general manager, Olinto Oliveira, on how to "pivot properly" and leading a team through crisis.

Like most in the events business, global engagement and marketing agency, MCI, has had to make a few tweaks to its business model in the last few months.

Last August, the agency launched D.I.V.E, a proprietary methodology to help clients create user-focused experiences. And last month, the 34-year-old company completely overhauled its brand to reflect the extent to which the industry has changed as a result of Covid-19.

It hasn't been an easy journey, but one that MCI Hong Kong & Macau general manager, Olinto Oliveira, says has allowed the agency to take on a more consultative role, rather than "simply being a production or execution partner".

This is a critical shift that is taking place across all segments of the business events industry, especially as our engagement channels become increasingly hybrid — fusing physical meetings and live activation with virtual/digital interaction.

Here's what Oliveira shared with M&C Asia during a recent interview:

How have your clients’ needs changed as a result of Covid-19? And how do you expect these to change in the future?

It’s no secret that the pandemic has had a huge impact on the industry. Very early on, we saw a complete shift from live to virtual in a matter of weeks. This shift to virtual has pushed brands to explore different formats, mediums and platforms to engage with their audience in a more personalised way and these are likely here to stay.

Clients are looking for more flexibility in operational avenues, being able to have multiple contingency plans, depending on the fluidity of current health guidelines. This means offering solutions with different strategies, formats and locations. 

MCI new Logo
MCI's new logo, which features two infinity loops that resemble its previous flower logo, now represents the infinite potential of collaboration.

Your new brand was designed to reflect MCI’s “human-centric solutions”. In a digital and hybrid age, what do human-centric solutions look like?

It’s all about coming back to people first, and how can we tell stories and create experiences that are real, authentic and resonate with the audience, regardless of the medium. We spend a lot of time profiling our clients' brands and their target audiences, so, as we design campaigns and experiences, there is a holistic view of the challenges we are solving and how their audience wants to be communicated to.

A great example is when we worked with a major integrated resort in Macau to revamp their HR communications. Traditionally, the focus of the campaign would be on the company itself, the corporate accolades and culture.

After a series of surveys, we flipped the idea on its head and created a campaign that focused on the individuals, how they uniquely fit into the company's culture, and highlighted how their journey can take shape at on much more personal level. The campaign was very well received and was a huge success. In fact, it was so successful that the client has asked to partner with us for the coming years.

MCI Macau HK Leadership
Oliveira (top left) and his leadership team are embracing a consultative and collaborative approach "to deliver value, and not just work" to clients.

Last year, MCI launched D.I.V.E, a design-thinking methodology to co-create engagement solutions with clients. How can event professionals in Asia adopt a design-thinking approach? 

I believe that as an industry, it is an essential shift. Nowadays, simply being a production or execution partner delivers very little added value to our clients. What is needed more than ever is a consultative and collaborative approach where a client's knowledge of their brand and audience is coupled with our insights and skills to deliver truly impactful experiences — especially with the tight turnarounds and pace of the Asian market. But it all starts with trust, especially from the agency's side, and a true passion to deliver value, and not just work, to our clients. 

Reflecting on the last 12 months, what would you say is the secret to a successful business pivot? Is there a way to “pivot properly” to ensure the change permeates the entire business?

It all comes down to the people. Transparency is key and so is being able to communicate what "pivoting" means. We need to ask ourselves: “Does my current team have the skillset to pivot? Can we re-skill our existing team, or is restructuring and reshaping required? Is the pivot really addressing the needs of our clients or will we need to go out and hunt new ones and what do our existing clients really need?  

Far too often these questions are not asked, and many companies jump blindly into a transformation. At the end of the day, the pivot will only work if your teams buy into the idea and are prepared for the changes ahead. 

At MCI, we often emphasise that the transformation will inevitably change the way we work — the way we deliver projects may look different, but the "why" of it remains the same.

What has Covid-19 (and its ongoing implications) taught you about leadership?

At the end of the day, it’s about transparency, communication and just simply being human. For our team, this means, providing our employees with flexible working arrangements and clear communication to ensure the health and safety of our employees.

From a business perspective, we’re taking on a more collaborative approach with clients and working partners. Agencies have long been seen as execution vendors for brands, but we’re starting to see a shift, especially during the pandemic.

We're seeing more and more brands coming to us asking for new ways to engage with their audience virtually. This collaborative approach has allowed us to create some of the most engaging experiences for our clients to date.


Olinto Oliveira is general manager at MCI Hong Kong & Macau

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