Expert Speak

In an interview with Destination MICE, Mr Leck Chet Lam, MD Experia Events, brings the convention and exhibition facilities at Singapore to the limelight.

What motivated you to be a part of the Industry?

The MICE industry both in Singapore and in the region is growing at a rapid pace. Participants and delegates come to each show expecting to be updated and enriched. Exhibitors sign up trusting that your show is the ideal platform to showcase their best, most cutting edge technologies. This means that the industry has to be evolving and at the forefront of change, adapting to the needs of each particular market.

I am thrilled to be part of this industry, creating platforms to bring various stakeholders together to forge partnerships, network, tap into emerging markets and be updated on the latest products and technologies.

How long have you been in the Industry and what changes have you seen in the MICE sector during the years of your experience?

I took over the reins at Experia in March 2014. Before joining Experia Events, I was working in the aviation industry for more than 20 years. Prior to my previous role as Senior Vice President of Fleet Management & Marketing, I was involved in a few other roles at SIA Engineering, including Senior Vice President (Partnership Management & Business Development), Vice President for Line Maintenance and Vice President for Business Development. Over the years, I have observed, both as an organiser and a participant, at numerous tradeshows, that the industry has evolved from being just about the exhibitions and closing sales to being a platform that encourages thought leadership, sparks dialogue and enhances collaboration amongst industry players, participants and high-level delegates.

The forging of partnerships and the provision of networking opportunities is something Experia prides itself on. More

importantly, we are also constantly looking to bring about a different experience and level of insight. An example of this would be the recently concluded IMDEX Asia 2015, which comprises not just an exhibition, a static and warships display, but also a comprehensive strategic conference programme. This year, as part of our programme, the 15th Asia Pacific Submarine Conference (APSC) was held in conjunction with IMDEX Asia 2015 for the first time. The conference brought together submarine operating nations and organisations with paramount interests in submarine safety to discuss concerns on submarine survivability, escape and interoperability of rescue assets, with a focus this year on how they can proactively minimise the risk of incidents. This widens the breadth and depth of the discussions at the show, and more importantly showcases IMDEX Asia as a key platform for meaningful and solutions-driven dialogue.

According to you, what are growth plans of in terms of the new shows to be launched?

The introduction of new shows is really dependent on market needs and demands. At the moment the market is pretty well covered. I foresee two possible scenarios. One would be where shows grow through horizontal expansion, encompassing more sectors across the value chain. The aim is to deliver a comprehensive market place, creating better value for trade show participants. The other scenario would be the vertical integration of segments within well-established shows. This is where focus is put into growing the depth of selected segments of the exhibition. This would provide the trade show participants with more detailed and in-depth coverage of these selected business segments. These segments could then grow to a point where they may need to spin off into its own track and become a co-located event alongside the original. At Experia, we see ourselves as industry stewards, constantly keeping abreast of trends, understanding marketing needs and creating shows that will meet demands.

On this note, I am pleased to share that Experia Events will be organising the inaugural Rotorcraft Asia from 6 to 8 September 2016 at Changi Exhibition Centre, Singapore. The launch of this show is backed by the increasing global demand for civil helicopter fleets. According to ICF International and Flightglobal Ascend, the Asia Pacific will lead the growth of the global civil helicopter fleet at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 22% with the region expected to have the world’s highest rate of fleet replacement and expansion. Singapore being strategically located in the heart of this thriving region is well poised to establish a strategic global platform for industry players to tap these growth opportunities.

How many shows are organised by you in a year across the world and what according to you is the most popularly emerging destination/s of the world?

Experia Events specialises in organising and managing conferences, exhibitions and trade events of strategic interest, fostering industry development and thought leadership. We have built a strong portfolio in aerospace and defence with the highly successful Singapore Airshow, Asia’s largest aerospace and defence exhibition and IMDEX Asia, the premier international maritime defence exhibition in the Asia Pacific. Our expertise and track record also extends to the government and lifestyle sector, through key events such as the Singapore International Water Week and World Cities Summit.

Currently, all our shows are strategically held in Singapore. The key reason for doing so is to provide companies with a springboard to tap on the burgeoning Asia Pacific market. Companies across the globe are constantly looking for opportunities to take advantage of growth in the region and what better way to do so than by participating in an event located in Singapore – at the heart of the region. Singapore as a MICE Destination also receives strong and continued support from the Singapore government. Many delegates and trade visitors come to Singapore because of our world-class infrastructure ranging from security to airport and seamless WiFi connectivity.

How do you think that the MICE sector is affecting the world economy?

As the world becomes a global market place, people are increasingly traveling to exhibitions and shows around the world to keep abreast of trends and more importantly, seek business opportunities. Since the Singapore Airshow was established in 2010, it has anchored its position as a global strategic platform for companies to tap on to translate opportunities into real and robust ROIs, benefitting the economy. In 2014, the show generated S$319 million for the Singapore economy in 2014. Singapore Airshow’s total contribution to the Singapore economy was supported by a substantial increase in foreign expenditure, with S$284.9 million being accrued from spending by foreign visitors on travel and accommodation, event and exhibition space, as well as other personal expenditure such as food & beverage, leisure, shopping and transport. The MICE sector drives and facilitates these business meetings and I believe will continue to positively impact the world economy in years to come.

Do you think there is enough growth in the number of venues for exhibition and conferences in proportion with the number of shows happening in the world?

What we have observed over the years is as the MICE industry grows, venues are being created to cater to exhibitions and conferences. Venues have to be very versatile in terms of being able to transform the space to suit events of any scale and nature. For example, the Changi Exhibition Centre (CEC) owned by Experia Events is one such multi-dimensional facility. Set against the picturesque backdrop of Singapore’s eastern seafront, its integrated yet open design spanning 40,000sqm of interior space and a vast outdoor display area of 100,000sqm present enormous versatility for events of any scale. The venue is home to our flagship events, the Singapore Airshow and IMDEX Asia, and has played host to a myriad of events from corporate events and driving clinics to large-scale sporting and lifestyle events. Notably when the rock band Metallica came to town, a customisable venue like CEC allowed the concert organisers to transform the place into a mega outdoor concert arena by the coast. Fundamentally, the success factor for any venue and conference location lies in their accessibility and the availability of amenities nearby. These factors have enabled CEC to be in continued demand by event organisers to play host to world-class events.

According to you, how much is it important for the venues to be techno-friendly? What are the necessary requirements form an organiser’s point of view, to make event exceptionally well organised and (meet) requirements.

Visitors to trade shows are getting more “What we have observed over the years is as the MICE industry grows, venues are being created to cater to exhibitions and conferences. Venues have to be very versatile in terms of being able to transform the space to suit events of any scale and nature.” sophisticated. The challenge for organisers is to constantly stay ahead and create new frontiers that provide visitors with a unique experience to give them compelling reasons to come back. At Experia, we always try to deliver better experience for exhibitors and participants. One of the key ways is to create value and deliver better experiences through the use of technology to enhance dialogue at conferences and adding mileage to exhibitors.

Going the extra mile and implementing technology in areas where exhibitors can improve their ROI and delegates can increase their engagement at conferences, enhances the participants’ experience of the event and may provide better returns for the show. Experia is always looking to provide a holistic and valuable experience for both exhibitors and delegates. For example at IMDEX Asia and Singapore Airshow, one way which we have innovated to enhance the experience of our exhibitors is to introduce the ePress Box, a system that allows exhibitors to upload media materials which will then be disseminated to media accredited for the show, and uploaded onto the show’s main website. We also leverage on new technologies through the use of mobile apps, e-trade directories and digital versions of the show daily. At conferences, we are seeing materials being shared to delegates via a tablet. There is also a lot more lively discussion and engagement during conferences as organisers are using phone applications to have real-time interaction between speakers and delegates. This not only minimises the usage of conventional trade-show collaterals, but also increases engagement before and during the show, providing delegates and participants with updated information on the go. We have also taken an extra step and provided mobile device charging ports for our participants. This caters to the needs of the very digitally savvy generation and ensures that there would not be a situation where participants would be unable to access information on their devices. Ultimately, our aim is to streamline the whole experience, to ensure that the right information gets to the right people in the shortest amount of time and this requires the implementation and usage of the right technologies. Aside from that, we also seek to create a positive overall experience for our trade attendees, ensuring that our operational and logistical enhancements – from registration and security clearance to ease of access to the show venue via public and private transport – will make their experience at our shows an enjoyable and memorable one.

Where in the world do you think, the government support for MICE sector is most welcoming for the organisers?

Governments across the world recognise the importance of the MICE sector as that has many economic spin-offs for countries. The Singapore Government is one such example. The governmenthas not only recognised but also put in place the necessary physical and funding infrastructure to ensure events can be rolled out in the most positive way possible. As such, we have seen the industry grow leaps and bounds in recent years.

What changes you expect to see in the industry five years from now?

Companies around the globe are becoming increasingly concerned about their environmental footprint. The MICE industry is no different. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) launched the Sustainability Guidelines for the MICE industry in late 2013. These Guidelines are based on international standards such as the ISO 20121 and the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainability Meeting Standards and are geared towards MICE players who want to adopt sustainable practices1. As organisers, we now have an even greater role to play to highlight the importance of being environmentally conscious and promote sustainability through our practices. As a company, we have also made the conscious decision to work with our clients to ensure that we can meet and surpass these sustainability guidelines.

Sustainability also extends to MICE locations. Businesses are called to be more environmentally aware and this also increases demand for environmentally friendly venues and accommodation and we will likely see an increase in the number of such locations in the next few years. At our shows, we take special care that we carry out sustainable practices. For instances, our phone charging cabinets and seats located in the public rest areas are entirely constructed out of raw materials from the build-up. These pieces are not only environmentally-friendly, but sturdy enough to be reused across all our shows, a testament to our commitment to sustainability.

What message would you like to share with the industry?

What message would you like to share with the industry? The MICE industry is evolving rapidly. As organisers, we are in the unique position to be industry stewards, leveraging on our shows as platforms to inspire change and seek innovation across a whole spectrum of industries. It is therefore, critical that we constantly keep abreast of trends to stay ahead of the curve and look for new ways to add value, creating a vibrant marketplace across industries where exhibitors and visitors can transform opportunities into real and robust ROIs.