The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had immediate repercussions for Singapore’s MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) sector.
Speaking about the impact that the pandemic first had on the MICE industry, Veemal Gungadin, CEO of GlobalSign.in, a technology provider for events quipped: “In a matter of just a few weeks, we had all our physical events either cancelled or postponed until further notice.”
For a sector that caters to a decidedly international audience – many events aim at bringing in an audience from top global markets – the pandemic has forced companies to quickly adapt and even re-think their business model.
“While the logical immediate step was to start pivoting projects to the virtual space, we soon realised that it was not so easy,” noted Don Tsai, project director at First Wave Agency. With First Wave Agency specialising in events production, Tsai found that the entire customer experience was evolving to something very different, and the team was initially not familiar with virtual tools.
Realising that it had to adapt quickly, First Wave encouraged team members to familiarise themselves with new virtual tools by participating in virtual product demonstrations. Employees also picked up new digital skills by taking short courses on topics like live streaming and cybersecurity, while a newly formed innovation team started working on potential fresh ideas for a situation where everyone had to live with the virus amidst the “new normal.”
GlobalSign.in chose to focus on educating their customers and the industry on the paradigm shift by creating a Digital Events Academy. They leveraged their technology expertise to provide event organisers with a solution to move their events online. The result – GEVME Live, an all-in-one platform for running online events – has generated interest in countries like the United States.
Reflecting on the increasing digitalisation of the sector, Aloysius Arlando – president of the Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) – shares a few observations he has made thus far.
“The age of your company and team members does not matter; what is important is how you capitalise on digital platforms. Crucially, knowing your customers’ needs and how you can address them will allow companies to stay profitable,” he quips.
Hybrid events from October
From 1 October, organisers can begin applying to pilot MICE events in Singapore, subject to attendance caps and the necessary approvals from the authorities.
The Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) 2020, scheduled to run from 26 to 30 October, will be one of the pilot events taking place as the MICE industry gradually resumes. SIEW is slated to take place in a hybrid format that mixes physical events (for up to 250 people) with online participation.
Robust Safe Management Measures (SMM) devised by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), which event organisers are expected to strictly implement and enforce, will be in place for the upcoming pilot events.
The specially developed SMMs under the Safe Business Events framework are meant to achieve outcomes aimed at keeping attendees and organisers safe. They include:
For infectious disease consultant Professor Dale Fisher, the pilot events will test how social opportunities – a key attraction of business conferences and meetings – can be integrated while adhering to the SMMs.
Looking ahead, ensuring our healthcare protocols are maintained at the highest standard possible will be a comparative advantage for Singapore’s MICE sector, noted Arlando.
Message to those interested in joining the sector
According to a MICE Economic Impact Assessment commissioned by STB in 2019, the industry supported more than 34,000 jobs.
The transition to new and hybrid event formats has created a need for more talent with new skills, passionate and well-trained individuals whom Gungadin calls “digital events managers.” These managers combine technical expertise with their event management experience to create engaging experiences for event attendees (both physical and digital).
Both Gungadin and Arlando urge those interested in the sector to assess what skills they currently lack and explore opportunities like training programmes to fill those gaps.
You need to “know your platforms, animations and chatbots”, mused Arlando, and be agile to shifting trends. “As long as you keep your mind open, you will have a good shot at not just getting a job but also creating genuine value.”
New opportunities in the MICE sector
Fuelled by growth areas such as hybrid events and domestic tours, over 2,400 MICE jobs, traineeships and attachments have been created.
PMET roles include conference planners and systems analysts, while non-PMET jobs such as opportunities for IT consultants are available.
To find out more about the skills mentioned, head to go.gov.sg/tourismmice