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El Kwang: Cautious optimism in the events industry

Brighter days are ahead for the events industry. Larger exhibitions and conferences with up to 250 participants are expected to resume in Singapore in the next few months.

The industry is a buzz, especially after the Singapore Tourism Board and the Ministry for Trade and Industry started accepting proposals for MICE events from Oct 1. 

In light of these recent developments, we spoke to El Kwang, Founder and CEO of Untangled, a content and business strategy agency for the business events industry, to find out how the sector is gearing up for both the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. 

1.The events sector is slowly beginning to open up. What are some of your observations from the ground?

Without being geographically specific, I find that event organisers are very mindful of keeping business going and feel a strong duty of care towards in-person attendees. They are working closely with the respective destination bureaus and industry associations on safety and hygiene policies.

Until an effective vaccine is easily accessible, the conversations are about event contractual terms, especially around payments, postponements and cancellations. The cost of managing hybrid events operationally, cybersecurity, and event ROI will drive event experience design and outcomes.

Business event professionals are keen to work again. However, they are very mindful of how fast governments can lock a destination down should there be an influx of COVID cases, and the cost associated in managing unexpected outbreaks.

2. If there is one area that event organisers should be channelling their focus or resources towards over the next six months, what should it be?

Having substantial cash flow is paramount. Having payment terms and operating policies that protect that cash flow should be the focus. 

3. How important is content strategy and content marketing for event organisers?

Content is king. However, COVID gave the perception that content is free. Free events are great for supporting the industry through difficult times over the past few months, but the time has come for us to place a value on our work again. Content strategy is so important, as long as one can protect their intellectual property and ensure that the content drives revenue. Our industry is not great at investing in content development because the billable lines during pre-COVID were around tangible items like workforce, set building, food & beverage, travel and logistics requirements etc.

 4.What are some key technology trends that you expect to see from the events sector?

Touchless and efficient tracking technology that protects privacy yet promotes business connections.

 5. Are hybrid events truly the format of the future? Why?

Until an effective vaccine is easily accessible, it is the only format that allows events to proceed as planned and at the same time, manage attendance scalability and unexpected outbreaks. 

6. A big draw of live events is in-person networking. How will this evolve in this new landscape of virtual and hybrid events?

In-person networking works better for extroverts, and it will continue to be vital because it allows private offline conversations that mint business deals. If large-scale in-person networking session is not a viable option, determined connectors will always find a way to connect with their target audience in other settings.

Virtual and hybrid events give opportunities to introverts and people who are not into ‘small chats’ to network effectively. Now that we understand that people have a much shorter attention span on virtual events, they are motivated to invest more time in researching and strategically planning their approach if they want to gain greater connections.  

A smart connector is one that thrives in any format, especially now that we have more options.

7.Your wish-list for the events industry in 2021

I wish for our industry to put unprofitable and unkind business practices to bed. I also hope that we respect each other’s creative intellectual property and invest appropriately in content development and event management. Those who can have the financial means to create jobs should clearly define their expectations and those who provide a service should demonstrate responsibility through communications. COVID served us a massive humble pie, and hopefully, we can continue to focus on treating each other fairly. 

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