Restrictions, uncertainty hinder Singapore’s in-person meetings recovery

  • Lacklustre response to in-person meetings even with increase in limit
  • F&B an important catalyst for networking and social mingling
  • Future events will harness more tech aspects
Virtual events are currently the preferred mode of meeting during this pandemic, due to the number of backup plans that needs to be created and hoops planners have to jump through for an in-person event

The Singapore government has raised business events in-person limits to 1,000 as it takes a step towards an endemic Covid future, but companies here are sticking to virtual sessions, preferring to keep in-person meetings short and intimate.

In fact, events specialists here told TTGmice that demand for in-person meetings is weak, as companies are shying away from organising such events for now.

Events technology company Delegate’s co-founder Jacqueline Ye said: “A lot of enquiries are coming through our platform for both virtual and physical events but they are scheduled for the later part of the year”.

While Alexis Lhoyer CEO and co-founder Chab Events, has seen clients starting to plan for award ceremonies, launches and gala dinners for December 2021 and 1Q2022, he said interest in in-person events is low “as F&B and social mingling are absent”.

Lhoyer hopes that social events will be able to restart before the end of the year.

“The population is already 80 per cent vaccinated. If that isn’t enough to bring back confidence about reopening our society like what we are seeing in Europe since June, I’m not sure what will,” he lamented.

Conrad Centennial Singapore had a recent business summit hosted by a renowned telecommunication organisation, with 100 people in attendance. Business events are “trickling in” but director of sales for group, conference and events, Lolita Kuek, said demand for smaller meetings remains “weak”, as companies have chosen to hold them in their own facilities or moved online.

Lack of confidence and restrictions
Fear of changing event restrictions and the hassle such occurrences would bring are the biggest hurdles in reviving local meetings.

Ye’s clients “prefer to host an in-person meeting or event” but are concerned that “restrictions might change”. They are also “afraid to commit” as economic recovery is still ongoing.

Kuek concurred: “Meetings and events are not happening mainly due to the fact that the level of confidence (in holding a successful in-person meeting during Covid-19) has not been attained.”

Lhoyer noticed that the cessation of F&B services – such as coffee breaks – is one of the major factors in stopping most companies from going ahead with physical events, as this severely restricts networking.

Marcus Hanna, managing director at Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford, shares the observation. Currently, the hotel predominantly hosts small meetings for around 20 people, while trainings have yet to resume due to prevailing F&B service restrictions.

Hanna said: “The changing restrictions that have been adapted as the pandemic situation evolves, over a short and quick span of time, can be confusing for some clients who then find it too much of a hassle to coordinate and see through the event process.”

All is not bleak, however, as Petrina Goh, director at CWT Meetings & Events, told TTGmice that in-person event projects for her company are returning “very steadily”, made possible by a growing number of people who have become accustomed to dealing with the changing regulations around meeting management.

CWT clients are favouring small in-person and hybrid meetings with shorter durations and which do not require F&B service.

Goh pointed out that the local events market could use some form of event insurance that allows for compensation should an event be postponed or cancelled due to Covid-19 regulation changes or outbreaks. Such coverage is common for UK meetings, she shared.

Hybrid reliance remains
Events specialists unanimously agree that virtual events cannot replace physical events, especially in the areas of networking. However, they also agree that there will be more hybrid events in the future, as well as events that harness technology to enhance the overall experience.

Lhoyer expects more “immersive experiences involving mixed reality and avatars”, beyond the current “overused 2D platforms”, as well as the emergence of “new concepts that incorporate both physical and virtual elements seamlessly”.

“Organisers now have acquired the experience and seen the added revenue or solid ROI that digital components can bring, so they will plan to have an event format that incorporates both,” he elaborated.

Goh sees hybrid meetings as the way of the future, “at least for some time because they allow customers to have a fallback”.

She added: “Should regulations change nearer to a meeting, a virtual platform allows them to still proceed with the event and scale down the physical aspect, while not losing audience numbers.”

For Ye, most clients are “keen to integrate a virtual element in their events” as they have been exposed to the “benefits of virtual events – such as larger and global audience reach, more sponsorship revenue, and data extraction opportunities on attendees”.

She added that event owners are now more “pressured to engage their communities throughout the year”, which will result in year-round content creation, establishment of community engagement platforms, and more frequent activation events that culminate in a major conference.

Sponsored Post