Over the last three decades, Mr Lloyd Tan, General Manager of Experia Events, has witnessed his fair share of the ups and downs of the business events scene. From setbacks such as the SARS outbreak to experiencing the joy of growing trade shows like the World Cities Summit, he shares his journey in the industry so far.
What has been some of the more satisfying moments of your career?
My greatest satisfaction comes from seeing trade shows under my wing grow from strength to strength, notably, Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) and World Cities Summit (WCS). At one point in my career, I was tasked to develop so many new trade events that I was dubbed the “new show man”. I was convinced that forming alliances or joint ventures with foreign show organisers to transplant their trade shows to Singapore was the way forward.
It delights me that this approach is still being practised today. The new trade shows that I conceptualised saw some successes, and one of them was even sold to a major exhibition industry player headquartered in the US. Most recently, I have shifted my focus to identifying, grooming and nurturing young talents.
What were some of the tougher challenges you have faced during your career?
The most challenging times were during the outbreaks of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and H1N1 in 2009. During SARS, cancellations and postponement of trade shows and conferences rocked the Singapore MICE industry. To restore confidence in the local industry, I worked together with the then president of the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers (SACEOs). We endeavoured to strengthen Singapore’s mindshare in the global business arena and restore Singapore’s position as the region’s leading MICE destination with an aggressive publicity campaign.
In collaboration with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau (SECB) and key industry players, we embarked on a US$5.7 million campaign aimed at attracting exhibitors and trade visitors to return to Singapore.
The Singapore MICE industry has certainly come a long way in the past few decades. What do you think we can improve on?
The MICE landscape here has changed greatly in the last few decades. The attendee has also evolved, both in expectations and behaviour. Back then, a well-attended event could be organised by setting up booths and executing simple marketing and promotional campaigns.
Today, more effort needs to be invested through integrated marketing campaigns to create the best delegate experience. Innovation is crucial for attracting attendees to trade shows. Mobile applications and social media engagement campaigns are now important, if not essential, platforms to engage not only the masses, but also MICE attendees. We are also seeing more organisers incorporating sustainable measures in their trade shows with the growing movement for environmental sustainability.
How can Singapore maintain its leading position in the industry?
I feel that Singapore’s MICE players must work on transformation; we must redefine the convention experience. The content and format of shows have to constantly evolve and value creation has to be part of the DNA in staging a trade show. We also have to better understand the demographics and behaviours of exhibitors and trade visitors, and implement innovative solutions to excite them. In today’s context, if you innovate, they will be keen to find out more and attend the show.