Wings of constant change

Given the extended period of this new reality, Florence Chua, PCMA's managing director APAC, shares her thoughts on how the pandemic has fundamentally impacted the way business events professionals engage with their audiences, and how the association is preparing to tackle the challenges that lie ahead

Congratulations on your appointment Florence! How do you feel about joining Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA)?
Thank you, I am so thrilled to be part of the PCMA community. I’m thankful to Karen Bolinger for guiding PCMA APAC through the early disruption brought by the pandemic, her astute leadership brought our audiences together to share, learn and provide support to each other during this period.

Unfortunately, around the world we are seeing new surges that continue to undermine our ability to gain stability and visibility for the industry. We are still in the eye of the storm; our work is not done. PCMA APAC will continue to focus on preparing our audiences for a different tomorrow, where business events play an even greater role in economic and social transformation and, where end users are going and how we can help solve problems for them.

What will be some of your immediate to-dos?
My foremost focus is to further the advancement of PCMA’s growth and engagement with our key stakeholders and audiences in the APAC region. This includes the pursuit of new collaborative partners and deepening existing relationships to better connect and support the industry.

PCMA’s brand is burgeoning in the region, however many of our potential audiences do not fully know us or what we do. On the other hand, PCMA APAC has much more to learn about our audience’s needs and how we can meet them with a stronger PCMA perspective in wider global trends and shaping of the industry.

What are some of the forms of support members are looking for and how is PCMA supporting that?
During the height of the pandemic when events flipped online, we knew the need for training in digital events would be critical to help our members adapt, so we created the Digital Event Strategist Certification and adapted it specifically for the APAC region.

Across the industry, as everyone was looking to stay up to date, we delivered the Covid-19 recovery dashboards, and the Business Events Compass. In January 2021, we took the plunge to experiment and broadcasted Convening Leaders from Singapore as the global broadcast centre to audiences around the world. Every step of the way we listen to our members and audiences, and we showed courage among the untested to serve our community.

What do you envision APAC’s business events industry will look like moving forward?
The significant impacts brought by the pandemic are here to stay; there is no returning to what was. The current pandemic situation curtails our ability to be together physically – however, the role of events to connect people with purpose to ideas and opportunities is still strong; we all crave human connections.

Connecting virtually is challenging. However, it’s by understanding our audiences and embracing new technology that we have been able to adapt and still deliver the best outcomes, engagement and ROI. The future is a balance of face-to-face and digital events to deliver the best outcomes for audiences.

Whether that means embracing smaller-sized events with deeper engagement to satiate the human need to meet and allow us to manage risks reasonably; or holding a hybrid conference, it will depend on the vaccination rollout and stability of the Covid-19 situation in each country within the region, there could be more bilateral exchanges before multilateralism returns.

What are some of the business events trends you foresee?
As we return to face-to-face events in the near to mid-term, it’s important to rethink how to provide personalised experiences to enhance engagement but reduce high touch interactions for hygiene and safety needs.

Another notable trend we will see more of is the heightened consciousness of healthy eating and wellness. These desires will continue into the post-pandemic world whereby customers are going to want more healthy food options and wellness activities built into their event programmes.

We also recently launched a joint research project with the Singapore Tourism Board and UFI (The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry) on Reimaging Business Events Through Covid-19 and Beyond that outlines trends including new business models and value propositions, different delegate experiences made possible by digital tools and techniques and its integration with face-to-face events, and the evolution of talent and capabilities.

This industry has always been very competitive. Do you expect more competition in the new environment or will there be more collaboration?
The industry was already fairly fragmented, and the pandemic has accelerated the development and utilisation of technology in our space creating more opportunities, which also means further fragmentation.

However, there will be more collaboration as organisations seek alliances to gain strength and momentum for there is so much unknown and the situation is evolving too quickly for a single entity to muscle alone.

What keeps you awake at night?
I share the same frustration and anxiety with all businesses and individuals – we are now 20 months into the pandemic, and we are still weaving in and out of lockdowns all around the world. Due to the lack of stability, businesses cannot plan with confidence.

Individuals are weary of all the restrictions, screen fatigued and spoilt with digital and online options. Digitalisation has in many instances across other industries disrupted buying behaviours and business models.

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