Finding fresh focus

Edward Liu, group managing director of Singapore-headquartered Conference & Exhibition Management Services (CEMS), relates how the company stayed on top of disruptions brought about by Covid-19 and shares its strategies moving forward

CEMS organises a number of events in Singapore. How did you react when the DORSCON (Disease Outbreak Response System) alert level was raised from yellow to orange in early-February?
With the onset of Covid-19, the entire industry was put on hold and no physical exhibitions took place after DORSCON orange. We decided to move all our exhibitions to 4Q2020, taking a chance that the situation would stabilise by then and mass exhibitions would be allowed.

We decided to launch a new Christmas Edition of the 15-year old Singapore International Jewelry Expo (SIJE), which usually takes place in July. It would not be easy for exhibitors to come and it would not be easy to attract buyers. I hope they will come in December. The government cannot lock down the economy until next year although business has to reopen with all the necessary precautions, safe distancing measures, common sense, etc not to jeopardise anyone.

In partnership with the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF), we are curating a new event to help members conduct business transactions as they need to clear stock and more importantly generate cash flow.

So SIJE Christmas Edition and the SMF Buyers Market will be co-located and take place at Marina Bay Sand’s Sands Expo and Convention Centre from December 11-13, 2020. I would be elated if each exhibition can feature 100-plus exhibitors occupying 4,000m2 of Hall C.

How did CEMS make of use event technology during this period?
We launched our first virtual tradeshow – Future Tea and Coffee Summit and Expo from June 24-26, 2020 with a small group of 26 predominantly Indonesian suppliers listed on the online platform. There were 3,111 ‘visitation’ logins connecting with the exhibitors, and about 100 qualified attendees took part in webinars featuring prominent F&B, café, coffee and tea players.

Our partner Tea Pasar and its associate could offer product ‘profile printing’ like fingerprinting of tea leaves and ingredients to provide product analysis certify the grade and enhance transparency. This is a totally new unique selling point.

We are planning a second virtual edition between November 11-13, 2020, and hope to double the number of exhibitors to between 40 and 50.

Overall, how has Covid-19 impacted the way you do business?
Covid-19 has pushed us to think out of the box and we have been talking to IoT (Internet of Things) partners to curate virtual tradeshows alongside physical ones. The success of the first Future Tea and Coffee Summit and Expo has given me the confidence to make it a bigger event and if the second edition is successful, we may consider a hybrid setting.

It is important for us to work closely with industry partners and to help industry associations and their members who need help to compete. We need to support one another and I have reached out to a couple of associations to explore synergies and collaboration on key and sustainable events that bring not only win-win opportunities, but multiple-wins to help SMEs and PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) in the events ecosystem affected by Covid-19.

Could you share what is the status of overseas CEMS events for this year?
The 18th edition of Glasstech Asia 2020 is scheduled to take place in Bangkok from November 17-19, 2020.

We are now watching the Thai situation closely where the government has opened up much more compared to Singapore. We think the situation in Bangkok will be much better in November but the issue is aviation, where the event is targeting some 200 exhibitors from 15 to 20 countries and up to 5,000 trade show business registrations. This event (which rotates around South-east Asia) has been running for the past 30 years in partnership with the Singapore Glass Association.

Next up is the 8th Chengdu International Tourism Expo, scheduled to take place from November 26 to 28.

Looking ahead to 2021, what is CEMS up to?
Our first cluster next year is Architecture and Building Services 2021, where we have curated and are launching a new event Design Asia, a congress of about 300 Asia-Pacific delegates and a board meeting.

The cluster comprises six shows looking at areas such as facility management, lighting, safety and security, fire and disaster and workplace safety and is taking place from March 30 to April 1 at Marina Bay Sand’s Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

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