Leading the future

PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) set a positive tone of recovery with Convening Leaders 2021, one of Singapore’s largest hybrid MICE events since the city's gradual reopening.

Event brief
Kicking off 2021 with Singapore’s biggest hybrid event since reopening, PCMA’s Convening Leaders was an ambitious undertaking in unprecedented times. Split into physical and virtual platforms across five days, the event had a roster of Safe Management Measures (SMM) and testing procedures to implement, on top of keeping its online programming seamless.

Event highlights
Convening Leaders employed the tried-and-true cohort system for on-site events, where attendees were assigned to separate zones of 50 and allocated registration time slots to prevent a bottleneck.

Unlike previous post-Covid events ­– which restricted attendance to locals or ran Antigen Rapid Tests (ART) only on international delegates – Convening Leaders conducted swab tests for all physical attendees, on every day of the conference. As its name suggests, the ART process was pleasantly quick, with minimal discomfort. Speeding from event registration to receiving the test results took only 20 minutes, the bulk of which was spent in a dedicated waiting zone.

The zonal system was employed throughout the event, with even smaller sub-groups of five implemented during meal breaks to prevent intermingling. In the plenary hall ­– where all the physical sessions were conducted – delegates were seated in our sub-groups, but cross-interactions within our zones were permitted.

Throughout the venue, Safe Distancing Ambassadors were dispatched by Singapore Tourism Board to ensure we kept to our zones and maintained social distancing during breaks. For this, co-organiser George P. Johnson provided a manager in charge of implementing the SMM plan, as well as coordinated communications and badging for each zone.

PCMA’s associate director, development, Patricia Cheong, shared: “Planning for Convening Leaders 2021 started back in September 2020, between PCMA, Singapore Tourism Board and Marina Bay Sands. Changes were taking place until the week of (the event), including the total number of participants. We have a strong partnership with both (partners) who helped us execute the event.”

Arguably the star of the show was the mixed-reality technology afforded by Marina Bay Sands’ new Global Broadcast Centre – a concept that was formulated at a PCMA meeting in 2020, before Covid-19 hit. In Hybrid Broadcast Studio 2, the plenary hall for Convening Leaders, delegates were treated to an interesting mix of ‘live’ broadcasts.

While some keynote speakers tuned in from overseas, some guests made a special appearance via mixed reality broadcasts that beamed them onto the stage, allowing them to converse with other speakers and panellists. Besides garnering much fanfare and raising engagement on-site, this feature elevated the virtual aspect of this omnichannel event, even for the physical audience.

“When we first proposed the idea of the Global Broadcast Centre, it seemed like a far-fetched concept as the physical event (using this technology) is traditionally held in the US. Launching it from a remote location was never thought of. Together with our strategic partners, we pushed the boundaries even further. We conceptualised and executed the industry’s first omnichannel event of its kind – combining digital with face-to-face partner and chapter events around the world,” described Ong Wee Min, vice president of conventions and exhibitions, Marina Bay Sands.

While the zoning system has proven effective for Singapore’s hybrid ventures thus far, it is not without its shortcomings. Some delegates found themselves to be the only attendee of their sub-group, which heavily reduced the potential for networking in an already limited setting.

Delegates could also have benefited from indicating the demographic of attendees we would like to be grouped with. In an era of controlled registration timings and arranged seating, any morsel of customisation afforded to the hungry delegate could elevate an event’s potential.

The flexibility to embrace different solutions was crucial in planning a key event such as Convening Leaders, remarked Tonya Almond, vice president, knowledge and experience design, PCMA.

She explained: “It was important to be flexible in planning. We needed to work through various scheduling changes due to speaker availability in Singapore, which then created changes to the digital event schedule. Luckily, the team worked together to find the best solutions to make the experience work best for the participants both at Marina Bay Sands and online. Designing a global omnichannel experience during a pandemic represents a variety of challenges, however, working with great partners certainly makes a big difference.”

Cheong added that having buffers also helped in execution.

“The safety measures implemented can and will change depending on the situation. It’s important to embrace the limitations of these safety measures, and come up with fresh and creative solutions that can enhance the delivery of an engaging omnichannel experience,” she concluded.

Event PCMA Convening Leaders 2021
Organiser PCMA
Venue Marina Bay Sands
Date January 11-15, 2021
Attendance 300 (physical), 3,500 (virtual)

Sponsored Post