This time of year is always an occasion for reflection — and in a
year as extraordinary as this one, there’s a lot to think about.
The global business events industry has been met with many great
challenges in 2020. As the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to physical
meetings and events, businesses were forced to re-examine everything
from operating models and health and safety protocols, to capabilities,
talent and future growth plans. Forecasts were thrown out the window and
questions around value and purpose cast doubt on the industry.
But in the face of these hard truths, we’ve also discovered
opportunities to reinvent the way we do things. Nowhere is this more
apparent than in Singapore. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the
city-state has effectively become a ‘living lab’ to test new
technologies and hybrid meeting models alongside enhanced hygiene and
After pre-event antigen testing was successfully trialled at the
Singapore International Energy Week, the city-state hosted TravelRevive in November, a hybrid trade show prototype that saw more than 1,000
in-person attendees — including 60 international visitors. This was the
first international travel trade show in Asia Pacific since the
The industry rallied together to support the experiment, with global
and regional association leaders flying in to experience the event
first-hand and share learnings with policymakers back home. Others
joined virtually, appearing ‘live’ on stage at Marina Bay Sands via
telecast or as holograms beamed in real-time from the other side of the
It was heartening to see so many APAC industry stakeholders come
together to recreate the experience of meeting for a post-Covid context —
combining the physical and virtual worlds to connect a global audience.
Singapore’s status as global business hub, coupled with a calibrated
‘test and learn’ approach to reopening its economy, and the launch of
the Marina Bay Sands Hybrid Broadcast Studio which integrates virtual
reality, augmented reality, mixed reality and holographic telepresence,
has proved vital in rebuilding consumer confidence in meetings.
This readiness to embrace technology — and invest in omnichannel
engagement — is why PCMA has partnered with Singapore Tourism Board and
Marina Bay Sands to create a Global Broadcast Center for our flagship
event Convening Leaders 2021, 11 – 15 January. Convening Leaders is
known in the events world as the platform for connection, risk-taking
and the incubator for new ideas.
This live site based in Singapore will be the first ever regional hub
for Convening Leaders. This exciting addition will enable people in the
Asia Pacific region to come together for half days on 13 and 14 January
to network, watch keynote speakers and expert panels, and celebrate our
resilience in the response to the great changes our industry has faced
Successful test events are a critical part of the industry’s recovery
effort — not only in Singapore, but across Asia Pacific. Even when
borders reopen and travel resumes, we need to be truly prepared for what
the ‘new normal’ will bring. Convening Leaders will focus on the new
business models by being an example of one itself. For, despite positive
news regarding a Covid-19 vaccine, industry and government leaders all
agree we can’t afford to wait. Neither can we expect the business of
events to continue unchanged. Instead, we need to completely rewire the
way we create connections, share knowledge and transact business.
It’s also exciting to think that the Convening Leaders omnichannel
experience in January will lay the groundwork for the World Economic
Forum Annual Meeting 2021, which will also take place in Singapore in
May – marking only the second time the global leadership has been held
outside of Davos, Switzerland.
So, where to from here?
We are in the business of creating connections – not events. Recovery
is not about returning to status quo but creating a whole new
experience. We will be an entirely different business events industry in
years to come.
We are no longer confined by time and space. Instead, we can (and
must) build engagement along a digital axis to create anticipation and
demand for hybrid meetings. In combining creativity and technology, we
now have endless possibility to create omnichannel experiences.
We won’t simply recover. We will build back better.
Together with the PCMA team, I look forward to welcoming you to Convening Leaders 2021.
Karen Bolinger is Managing Director, PCMA Asia Pacific