Francis Cheong is huge on story-telling. The chatty Group CEO of Aavii Worldwide will freely share stories of how he started his first events company 16 years ago at home in his pyjamas with just a laptop before growing it into an international brand experience agency; and of how he lost several kilograms a dozen years ago through a complete lifestyle change.
Two rather different stories, but a common theme courses through it: A gumption to embrace change and the grit to see it through. It is this same philosophy that Mr Cheong takes to the business events industry with much success.
"Our business is not just about events, it's about changing the way people meet," Mr Cheong told M&C Asia. "For any business to be successful and to remain relevant for the people and the industry it serves, it must go beyond the conventional and embrace change."
Today, from the humble beginnings of Apxara Events which he started in his Kuala Lumpur home those years ago, the Malaysian entrepreneur is now the founder and group CEO of Aavii Worldwide, a brand experience agency that connects interactive technology and content development through its subsidiaries Apxara Travel & Events and Accucap MSC.
The Kuala Lumpur-based firm now has 50 full-time staff and manages almost 200 local and international conferences and incentives events a year.
Combining cutting-edge technology, creative story-telling and seamless execution of business events, Aavii has worked with clients from all over the world to deliver mind-blowing event experiences in diverse industries, including pharmaceuticals, finance, electronics, construction, oil and gas, and beauty.
Its clients include heavyweights such as pharmaceutical giants Merck, F&B conglomerate Nestle, world's biggest cosmetics company Loreal, renowned dental equipment suppliers Straumann, and financial services firm Great Eastern.
Aavii Worldwide combines cutting-edge technology, creative story-telling and seamless execution to deliver mind-blowing event experiences.
For many of these clients, Aavii will plan the entire event experience - from events strategy, graphic design, 3D animation, conference technology, events app, and lighting to scripting, story boarding, and gathering and engaging the audience. The company also helps with hotels, logistics, onsite staffing, budget management and pricing, and food and beverage offerings.
"At Aavii Worldwide, our appetite for creativity and storytelling feeds our passion to startle and provoke our audience. And we believe this sets us apart," said Mr Cheong, a graduate from Hawaii Pacific University with a major in Travel Industry Management.
Full of the latest gadgets, Aavii's warehouse is heaven for audio-visual geeks. The giant high-definition 20K HD screens - all fully-owned by the company - are the stars of the show, capable of presenting the most vivid of floor-to-ceiling digital multi-media content at any event.
And such innovation, said Mr Cheong, is crucial for Aavii to stay relevant and keep up with the demands of the industry.
"This allows us to offer our clients value-added services that they would not be able to duplicate on their own," he added.
The demand of technology integration in all forms of business events has been rising in recent years and Mr Cheong believes Aavii is in the right business at the right time.
"Facial Recognition Technology for check-ins are gaining popularity. Real-time interactivity between organisers and their audiences are almost always a necessity via mobile event apps," said Mr Cheong.
"Businesses are also beginning to embrace sustainability in the way they operate. In their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, companies are reducing the use of paper and plastics. This move would lead towards the use of digital platforms to replace traditional forms of event collaterals."
And Mr Cheong's advice is for the business events industry to keep up with the technological times.
"The use of technology in business events will only grow and technology will become more accessible and affordable with the growth of technology solution providers," he said.
"Skill sets in event planners will need to be broadened and those who do not embrace technology will fall behind the rest who are quick in adapting to the change.
"We are constantly on the look-out for new talents, fresh ideas and innovative technologies that would challenge us and take us to the next level. Growth for us is constant, not just in size and business, but also in wisdom and strength."