The Fun Issue


Corporate end-users dream up an event they would do should there be no budget limitations or space restrictions

Culzean castle, Ayrshire, Scotland

“I would love to do an event in a castle in Europe. I want a unconventional and personalised event tailored specifically to the needs of my group that can really engage my participants. If agents can cater to leisure travellers this way, so can event planners for corporates. – Daisy Widiari, regional travel buyer Asia Pacific, Dupont Agricultural Products Indonesia



Vacationers enjoying the sun on Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach

“An event in Finland feels like a dream for us. We will be able to carry out product launches and events in exotic and creative settings such as in a life-size snow globe and even get Santa Claus to be our special guest. – Amor Gilos, manager of global procurement, Convergys





Santa Claus office in The Santa Park, Finland

“I always wonder what we can do better to please these souls who work their guts out for the company and rejoice in everything it achieves.

If I had a magic wand in hand, I would have our hardworking and fun-loving folks be rewarded with overseas incentive trips instead of domestic ones.

I would love for Australia to be the next destination. (Attractions), airlines and events teams would entertain them and ensure they have the best.
– Geetha Arekal, regional travel head, APAC, Unilever Industries


“The Swiss Alps provides such a memorable and scenic background for any event. We can execute luxurious gala dinners and events, and pamper our staff to make them feel like VIPs. – Shekhar Gupta, regional manager, indirect procurement, NXP Semiconductors





Our panelists in this editorial roundtable sweep away the misconception that business events are staid and boring, and offer examples of what can be done to bring business and fun together effectively. By Karen Yue

TTG Should business events be fun?

DC Having fun is a critical component of all the programmes we deliver. We define fun as a build-up of emotional and intellectual engagements that allow people to let their guard down, allow humour through the chinks of their corporate armour, and ultimately allow genuine relationships and trust to be formed.

In fact, beyond the intellectual input of every successful event, what people remember most are the emotions engendered during that event.

MB Absolutely! By creating a dynamic atmosphere, you can automatically encourage creativity, collaboration and engagement. Bringing a sense of fun to an event is, I think, the perfect way to foster better networking, new ideas and great memories.

AD Yes. Mood, ambience and the ‘fun factor’ play important roles in setting the right tone, so that the event and its core messages become memorable.

MO It has to! With the world evolving so rapidly, the way business events are (executed) three, five, 10 years ago is obsolete. More events are starting to get innovative in their approach. Clients have come to realise that one of the key ways to drive idea generation is by approaching the same core business in a different manner.

TTG How can serious business content and fun co-exist?

DC Serious messages can be worked into fun activities. For instance, popping balloons with negative messages written on them help remind people that the power to dispel that negativity or overcome that challenge lies literally at their fingertips.

MB The key is to make sure the topic of discussion and/or event objective is firmly at the heart of all activities.

A great example of this is at AIPC’s 2014 International Conference of Convention Centres in Berlin, attended by the general managers and CEOs of over 180 convention centres globally.

After learning about the latest trends in convention centre designs, the speakers (a group of architects) encouraged us to put what we had learnt into practice, and took us through an activity which saw a wide mix of attendees grouped together to design their own convention centres.

It was a highly entertaining activity that helped cement key objectives and trends in our minds as we tried to incorporate them into our designs.

DT We’ve had very effective business events in partnership with SmallWorld, a Macau-based DMC which introduced us to Corporate Drumming from Human Rhythms. Corporate Drumming is fun and energising, and the perfect ice-breaker to open a conference with. Adding fun to a business event, particularly at the start, can get delegates to loosen up…and set the tone for the event.

AD The line drawn between business and play must be clear. To create fun in an event, you usually plan a teambuilding and a closing function or gala dinner with an after-party. These events are separate from the core meetings.

TTG What factors are driving this need for content at business events to be delivered in a more creative and fun manner? 

MB The expectations of delegates are high and technology advancements mean clients are continually looking to improve their events and make an impact. Growing competition between meetings for attendees, changes in client demographics, availability of resources to create fresh and stimulating events, and new methodologies are all creating an environment of change and innovative thinking.

AD There is a greater demand for a more creative and fun event delivery even at traditionally solemn events. Most large conferences conduct surveys that rate a participant’s experience. Imagine running a high profile meeting or an influential incentive programme that garners only a mediocre rating. This may impact the company’s image negatively. No prominent company can afford this in our highly competitive world.

MO The mix of different generations of participants in a single meeting means mindset, expectations and experience (preferences) are all different. There is a need to adjust and engage every attendee in unique and creative ways.

TTG How do you think this growing demand for fun and creative events will impact event players?

MB It’s a great opportunity to increase diversification and collaboration between event agencies, planners and suppliers. By working more closely together with a shared goal, we can ensure we, as a host destination, provide a more efficient service for the client. This in turn will help foster loyalty and ongoing business from planners.

DT The more creative we are, the more business we will drive to our venues. The demand also encourages us to think differently and push our boundaries. It ensures we stay relevant in the marketplace and keep up with the trends.

AD The core services of a hotel will remain, but more services will be outsourced due to specific client requests. This means more coordination is required as more stakeholders are involved. However, working with many providers presents a variety of options for our clients (and that in turn creates) visual references for future, potential clients.

MO Event agencies and hotels must stay ahead of trends and realign their mindset with savvy clients.

TTG And how are you responding to this growing demand?

DC Aonia’s success in meeting client needs is derived from not having pre-conceived notions in solutioning, understanding the profile of our clients in customising the most suitable programmes, and then working with specialists worldwide to fulfil the activities and fantasies that ultimately lead to fun.

MB The unique integrated precinct and our service model at ICC Sydney means we can cater for all kinds of events, utilising world leading technical and production facilities that are all underpinned by a powerful 10Gbps optical fibre backbone.

The exceptional flexibility of the venue and its spaces also allow us to develop bespoke solutions, both big and small. From the set-up and branding to F&B, we can deliver a fully customised and immersive experience.

Alongside this, ICC Sydney has a great pool of original and inventive minds from diverse backgrounds, allowing us to collaboratively draw on different experiences…to enhance our clients’ experience. Our customer-focused team then brings these creative ideas to clients, working shoulder to shoulder with them every step of the way to ensure we cater to their specific needs.

DT Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel and The St. Regis Macao are constantly exploring new opportunities to design experiences that stand out. Macao may be small, but it is diverse. The heritage sites on the Macau peninsula set the perfect stage for events and for an entirely different experience.

One of our corporate groups recently split into teams and competed in an outdoor adventure quiz. After that, they enjoyed a Portuguese dinner by the beach.

On-site, we feel that technology plays a big part and we are constantly exploring ways to utilise our digital channels as well as mobile and wireless solutions to provide a differentiated experience for our guests.

AD We are developing a variety of options for teambuilding programmes that can be conducted indoors and out. We are also expanding our database of special service providers (for events).

MO We have incorporated (W Singapore’s) passion points – Fashion, Music, Design and Fuel (healthy living) – into events held here. For example, a meeting can start with a morning Strala Yoga class and end with a cocktail session at Woobar. We can arrange for a two-hour yacht cruise out to the Southern Islands, coupled with curated cocktails and canapés, for more intimate groups. It helps that we are the only hotel that offers a marina view and groups can brainstorm under a cosy ‘thinking tree’ (a tree-like table structure in Studio 1 and 2).

TTG Does hosting a creative, fun and effective business event always mean a pricey undertaking?

DC The wow factor can sometimes come with a price tag. However, there are certainly affordable means.

MB What’s enjoyable is not necessarily expensive. It’s about finding a solution given budget parameters. At ICC Sydney we appreciate that each client has different requirements, and we work hard to deliver creative options within all budgets.

DT No. One case in point is the Guinness World Records attempt by Nuskin in 2013 in the Kashgar Ballroom at Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel. The group broke the world record at that time for having 5,000 people sit on a single chair.

AD Budgets are definitely important but we can unleash our creativity to maximise our resources.

MO At times, creative events require set-up and equipment that are not common and these may need additional sourcing and procurement, driving up costs. Having said that, the team at W Singapore is adaptable and can adjust costs according to clients’ needs.

TTG What is your one top tip on bringing the right level of creativity and fun into a business event?

MB Establish ‘Clarity of Vision’ for every event by knowing what needs to be achieved from both the client side and the venue, and work collaboratively to create a different world – or at least, a concept that brings people together in an inspiring destination and helps them step away from their everyday environment. This is key to sparking that creativity and engagement factor that all business event planners are looking for.

DT Know your audience and tailor fun to the right age, gender and business topic. There are many ways to add a bright spark to meetings without losing sight of business objectives. You just have to keep an open mind and think out of the box!

AD Visualise the experience from a guest’s perspective from arrival to departure. If it looks and feels great, we are definitely on the right track.

MO Think from outside of the box instead of out of the box.


Event organisers reveal the most creative business event idea they had this year and how they were executed to leave a lasting impression

Francis Chong
Managing director,
Apxara Travel & Events, Malaysia

Francis Chong

The main attraction was a custom-built children’s treehouse that we constructed using reclaimed wood. Children were allowed to play in the treehouse during the day. When night fell, it was transformed into a canvas for projection mapping that relayed a story on Mother Earth.When EcoWorld Development asked us to pitch for their World Environmental Day event as part of their marketing efforts, we jumped at the opportunity. We developed an event concept that combined visual elements using light, projection and art. To elevate the message of Mother Earth’s call for action, we made sure we practiced what we preached by adopting elements of reusing and recycling in everything that we built.

Other interactive activities during the event included an upcycled playground and an electric playground that used human energy to generate power and light.Students from the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology Cyberjaya and The One Academy Penang also participated by designing art pieces for an art exhibition that celebrated upcycling.

Love-Mother-Earth workshops were a part of the educational efforts as well and participants took home a gift to remind them of their role in conserving the environment.

The event was run across eight locations in three states simultaneously over two weekends. This made it the largest-scale projection mapping operation in Malaysia thus far.


Jarrod Stenhouse
Managing director,
Destination Asia, Japan

Spectacular robot performances brought to live in Hilton Tokyo

An Australian financial company wanted an event that was different but still uniquely Japanese for around 400 people. We suggested the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. However, it had a capacity of just 172.

Hence, we arranged the Robot Restaurant’s first-ever off-site robot event at the Hilton Tokyo in Shinjuku in June, with five-metre tall robots dancing and performing, with lights, music and everything else that made the show so spectacular.

The challenge was to recreate the original in a completely different venue which we did, and the client absolutely loved it. We have been proposing it to larger groups ever since that first event, although cost can be a factor.


Angel Ramos Bognot
President and ultra business event creator,
Afro-Asian World Events, Philippines

Angel Ramos Bognot

The Tourism Business Exchange Pilipinas 2016 held in Clark in November used decor, food, programmes and activities for that feel-good experience, positive vibes, might, power and strength to attract good business.

The stage was designed like a runway, patterned after the Congress of America so that motivational speakers could better interact with the audience.

An afternoon tea entertainment included Pokemon catching people instead of the usual phone user trying to catch Pokemon.

Afterwards, the gala dinner, themed Blue Angels, featured all things blue. Every participant was given a pair of blue wings to wear; the live band sang angel-themed songs; and there was even a Victoria Secret-esque fashion show where male and female models strutted down the runway with wire wings on their backs.


Peter King
Chief executive, Melbourne
Convention and Exhibition Centre

In June, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre hosted the Hair Expo Australia 2016 for 5,000 delegates, with the challenge to create a closing reception and gala dinner that was both decadent and opulent – a luxurious theme for a luxurious industry.

The Great Gatsby theme was chosen and the F&B offering was the centrepiece that came complete with ice sculptures and carvings, champagne towers and an edible dessert forest. The menu alone took three months of development and over 60 hours of preparation.


 Lawrence Chan
General manager,
Red Antz Event, Malaysia

As part of an incentive initiative to appreciate and reward team members and trade partners, multinational chemicals manufacturing corporation BASF held a red carpet event in January 2016 at the JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur.

Themed Ring of Glory to signify pride, triumph and victory, the main highlight of the event was a raised boxing ring, positioned at the very tip of the stage runway.

Actual boxing matches took place while 600 guests partook in an eight-course banquet.

Fringe activities included street mentalists performing tricks and illusions, and there were photo opportunities with walkabout boxers.


Marisa Nallana
Philippine Exhibits and Themeparks Corp

The month-long nationwide gastronomic festival Flavors of the Philippines, organised in April by the Department of Tourism, Tourism Promotions Board, challenged our creativity due to its length, breadth, and components such as the Madrid Fusion Manila, food-related cultural activities, gourmet markets and bazaars, roving food trucks, and bar crawls.

These components, in terms of visual appeal, themes and diversity of Philippines’ flavours took pains to uncover traditional and modern cooking techniques, common and unusual food ingredients and the variety of regional gustatory experiences in the country.

For the second year of Madrid Fusion Manila, we invited chefs from around the world and its component, International Gastronomy Congress, was creative in tackling the history of Filipino food, including the impact of the Galleon trade and the influence of the West.


James Kent
Sales and marketing manager,
The J Team DMC, Japan

Robot football match for a tech event

We had an MNC client in the technology sector who asking for something that was very Japanese, very different and a little techy for an event. (To fulfil that) we arranged a competition in which the group was divided into two teams and tasked with putting a robot together.

We upped the challenge by getting the teams to take part in a football match to see who could score the most penalty goals against their rival’s robot.

We arranged for the half-day event to take place in Tokyo’s Akihabara district – famous for technology and gadget shops – but it was tricky to find the right space to hold the event.

The other issue was that it was expensive as these robot kits are very advanced and expensive. For that reason, we won’t be able to do something like this very often, but the client said it was just what they had hoped for.


Rob Nelson
General manager,
Brisbane Convention Bureau

Colour was the theme for Brisbane Convention Bureau’s business events showcase this year, Brisbane Pop-Up, to inspire planners to “add some colour to their events”.

Executed by the bureau and The Styled Group, colour infiltrated each event element including a kaleidoscope that was projected onto the dome of Brisbane City Hall by Staging Connections and the major prize drawn by air cannons. Suppliers stands featured their own interpretation of the theme, with Stamford Plaza Hotel Brisbane winning Best Hotel Stand for its two staff members dressed in colourful inflatable suits.


Olinto Oliveira
Director, business development & events,
MCI Macau

The most creative event we did in 2016 was an event for Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel, Cotai Central, themed Macau Fiesta. It was a casual dinner but the food booths were elaborate recreations of famous Macau icons. We had wine barrel cocktail tables and Portuguese weather rooster table centrepieces which added to the ambience.

Macau landmarks recreated as food booths at MCI Macau’s Macau Fiesta event


Andrew Koh
Managing director,
Events Architects, Singapore

We executed a Dining by Design – Expect the Unexpected themed party for the launch of a new corporate identity & 2.0 roadmap for Lavish, a dining and catering company based in Singapore. Guests were welcomed with a “pop” of the Singapore Sling. Instead of it being served in a tall glass, it was presented as a sphere with mint granite. Guests were also treated to a sensory overload as the sphere expelled vapour like a dragon through their nostrils once they consumed the mythical pearl, taking them beyond the typical catering experience of chaffing trays, canapé and food stations.


Linda Low
Manager of strategic partnership and product marketing,
Pacific World Singapore

Our most creative project recently was for the Unilever Investor Relations Conference, during which we had to create four concepts for a few product categories – Refreshment, Food, Haircare and Homecare. The concepts had to offer an immersive experience. For the Food category, we created a lively farmer’s market stocked high with fresh produce and had park benches with yellow cushions placed all around to add to the sustainable-themed atmosphere.



For these chiefs, tis’ the season to be with loved ones, discover new destinations, retreat into solitary comforts or relish the joy of giving



Team TTG looks back on a fulfiling year and pick out their favourite trade event

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