micenet ASIA spends a day with an Australia-based events specialist and finds out why Singapore is the ideal destination for her 700-pax conference and how she works with her team to ensure her delegates will get the most out of the experience.
ABOUT THE EVENT
Name: Asia Pacific User Conference (APUC)
Date: November 2013
Where: Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre
Expected number of delegates: 700
Singapore has won itself the status as Asia’s Top Convention City for more than a decade in the global rankings of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). Along with being one of the safest countries in the world, its staggering skyline boasting superior infrastructure and seamless logistics allows event organisers to host top-notch events with few concerns.
Despite rumours of the city having reached its prime, Singapore continues to impress with additions in the form of integrated complex Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay and an efficient delivery ethic only expected of the best convention city.
Through a day of site inspections and meetings spent with an events manager from Geographic Information Systems (GIS) solutions company Esri Australia, micenet ASIA publisher El Kwang learns of the steadfast confidence event bookers have in the garden state.
Nothing gives a publisher more pleasure than to network with a pool of professional event specialists and understand what drives their passion. At a recent tradeshow, Josie Sinni, a supporter of micenet magazines for years, invited me to spend a day with her. When I heard that our rendezvous was going to be in Singapore, the answer was an immediate yes!
Our itinerary started at 9:15 in the morning with a briefing conducted with Esri Australia’s communication team, followed by a site inspection of the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre and a few hotels within the precinct.
Why was Singapore chosen as the destination for the conference? Josie explained that Singapore is home to many businesses and government agencies that value the usage of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. It holds the status as a truly global city and boasts one of the world’s largest airports – which offer convenience for attendees travelling from all over the world. The colour and vibrancy of Singapore as a city is hard to beat; its rich and unique cultural flavour coupled with its reputation for being a “high-tech” city makes it a desirable destination for one of the world’s leading technology conferences. Singapore has a vast range of activities to offer – from commercial to leisure – it really is the perfect hybrid of a business centre and a relaxing getaway. Cleanliness and the common use of the English language are also appealing to Esri’s conference delegates, Josie told me, adding that the team “looks for state-of-the-art venues which are impeccable in appearance – but also provide functionality in terms of offering a range of AV features, catering to a high-tech set-up”.
“It’s important to select a venue that is a drawcard in itself – we look for venues which will inspire our GIS gurus, and will stimulate our attendees to get excited about technology and GIS solutions. Our chosen venue, Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, has been closed for eight months for a major refurbishment, so we are confident the venue will be looking its very best on the day of the event. Many attendees will be intrigued to see the new venue – and what better opportunity to ‘unveil’ it to them than at APUC.”
15 minutes into the briefing, the team spirit exuded between Josie, her communications team and Singapore-based Samantha Liew was dynamic and organically cohesive. They had a common goal and the confidence that APUC 2013 delegates would experience the unexpected and that they would return in 2014 for more. Here I was thinking: “Wow! The end result is truly where one should start when planning an event!”
To Josie, hard work forms part of the success fabric and wasn’t viewed as something to be feared. Passion was what bounded the team together. During the briefing, I heard comments such as “Everyone in Esri knows the importance of APUC and the impact it has on our business”, and “Nothing happens by chance, everything is calculated from start to go”. The team also expressed knowledge that Josie was clearly in charge of the event and they were instrumental in supporting the communication of key messages to the audience. From the conversations, I found out that Josie found time to manage all kinds of requests – from a chicken mayonnaise sandwich dietary preference to helicopter transportation – despite having to manage the process and budgets of the event.
Most impressively, I got from the briefing that Josie clearly knew what she set out to do and that the management respected her work. I understood that Josie was responsible for four main areas of work at Esri, but she remained humble and shied away from praise from her colleagues despite the amount of responsibility, expectations and achievements.
On that note, we embarked on the site inspections and meetings planned for the day. What I observed from the first site inspection was exactly what I was told – that Josie was in charge and would lead the way. I observed Josie’s eyes intensely sweeping the venues from left to right. She asked specific questions and was highly focused on getting answers, yet her communication style was very open and polite. She had a vision and was confident in making changes to her plans to logically suit the objective. She consulted with her colleagues and suppliers throughout the day, making sure everyone was on the same page.
Josie commented: “Esri’s APUC 2013 is always a world-class event – it’s my job to ensure this year’s event not only reflects the high standard of previous conferences, but also raises the bar again. Our suppliers play a key role in making this happen – they help ensure Esri’s passion for GIS and professionalism is brought to life through the rollout of the event.” Throughout the day, the suppliers were professional, hospitable, accommodating and displayed a “can do” attitude; most of all, they were very proud of their product.
Josie ensured we had private chat moments throughout the day to speak about her experience. She said her close working relationship with Samantha and the Esri Singapore team was a massive advantage when facing difficulties planning the event. Among the challenges faced, the team was dealing with different currencies and different taxes (which in Singapore includes GST and services taxes) on the financial side of international event management.
Josie commented: “In Australia, the majority of our venues have in-house audio suppliers – where everything audio visual is ‘built-in’ to the venue – or arranged by them. In Singapore, most venues require you to always work with an external audio visual supplier to set up any capability – which requires a lot more logistical effort on our behalf.”
When I asked Josie what advice she had for her industry colleagues when planning an international event, she said: “Be very prepared. Be very clear on what you want and certainly what you don’t want. Communication transparency and honesty are crucial and seek sound advice”.
When asked what she was most impressed with throughout the day, Josie responded, “Pan Pacific and its beautiful Pacific Club!”
I have learnt, after spending a day in the life of Josie Sinni, that managing events is a professional skill set. It takes true partnership, passion and discipline to deliver on business objectives. It certainly takes time and proper training to accumulate sufficient experience to know, at one glance, what will and will not work for the target audience – the delegates and exhibitors.