When Aonia's Daniel Chua is not playing events specialist and business owner, he devotes his time to speaking with and motivating fellow industry players and new blood. He wishes the industry was less fragmented and would, instead, stand stronger together
Have you ever thought youâ€™d be in conference and event management when you were younger? What brought you into the business?
As someone who had no mentor in this industry, I felt drawn to the human interaction and exchanges that events facilitate. My initial focus was on corporate celebrations.
It was upon deeper involvement with clients that they started to entrust me with further intricacies of their global meetings and conferences, many of which have details that are bound by non-disclosure agreement to ensure confidentiality. Itâ€™s great to be treated as a trusted auxiliary by clients!
What do you love most about being in conference and event management?
In this business thereâ€™s a cycle that repeats itself â€“ pitching, planning, delivery and closure. However, the details are always different although the framework may be similar.
It is never a dull day in meeting and conference management. Plus, always being able to end an event on a high note so far is highly motivating. Not every client is effusive, but their kind words when received, are always encouraging to my team and I.
Do you have a pet peeve about the business though? What is it and why?
One of these is the corporate process of calling for pitches on a project basis rather than multiple projects on a longer term horizon. This makes for uncertainty for the event specialist. Peaks and troughs are less seen in other industries. This is especially challenging for boutique event firms, affecting their ability to attract and retain the best and brightest bloods for business growth.
At the same time, we will encounter that minority of clients with high demands within tight deadlines, multiple changes to their orders and who fail to pay deposits up until the event date, claiming organisation policy and that an organisation as large as theirs must be trusted. Some even go silent when payment is sought after the event, even if the completed event has won the praises of organisation bosses and attendees.
We see the best and worst of human decency in our business, which reminds us to always treat our partners with the respect we seek ourselves. Having staff undergoing this does not help with the retention rate unfortunately.
Another thing that gets to me is how firms (event agencies) still see each other as competitors rather than collaborators. In our business, when it rains, it can pour and it seems logical for us to collaborate.
You are actively involved in Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS), playing the role of vice president, meetings & incentives. Why is it important for you to do this for the business events community?
Iâ€™m as active as time allows, with the belief that every little drop makes the mighty ocean.
SACEOS is also actively evolving to meet industry needs, and Iâ€™m now vice president for digital innovation to support a current theme that affects the entire business events industry.
I love this industry despite its challenges, and it is incumbent upon people with a passion to make a difference. If not industry members for the industry, by whom then? Having a proper forum through established national associations like SACEOS to collaborate on a global level is essential.
Conversely, there are still many industry players who are not members yet. If we do not work together more closely to improve the industry status quo, the issues of fragmentation will always plague us, and as much as the numbers may show industry growth, being fragmented means we will always be at the mercy of clients instead of enjoying a more level playing field.
What do you wish you could do more for the business events community?
I wish I had more time to begin with. A dear client and friend recently reminded me again of the importance of working on the business, and not only on projects. As much as the success of my business consists of successful projects, he certainly made sense.
I hope to be able to find staff that will stick it through to partner level. This is especially challenging as I do not have the finances of larger corporations that can better absorb human resource-related time and money losses. Given the need for continuity especially with longer projects, finding reliable contract staff is critical.
Once my team is self-sustainable, I will have more time to develop and promote innovations and collaborations that have industry-wide benefits, especially the use of technology that allows more positive human experiences.
Lastly, when you are not busy with conferences and events, what do you do to pass time?
Family time is essential and my familyâ€™s happiness is a key motivator for me at work. Staying fit mentally, physically and spiritually is also essential for me to stay keen in this industry, so I have to make sure to invest at least some time there.