Any party planner will tell you that while the food, accommodation and guest speakers are all key to pulling off a successful event, it’s the venue that really counts. Yet securing a site worth its weight in convention dollars can be challenging with budgets and waiting lists to consider. From DMC’s to event planners and beyong, Mix discovers how to cope with the challenge of securing the perfect venue…
THE EVENT PLANNER
Founder, Positive Events
FIND SPACES THAT CAN TOUCH THE HEART
I have managed all scales of events from small niche gatherings for 30 right up to mass events with 30,000 people. I was formerly the assistant director for national events in the Singapore Sports Council where I’d typically oversee more than 20 events a year with attendees numbering in the thousands.
I think the biggest challenge of any large-scale event is the sheer logistics of preparing to host that many people. Issues like transport, safety and the planning for movement of large groups becomes quite a critical task, so much so that other aspects – such as making a venue look special – may be overlooked. Amid all the big-picture planning, there is the tendency of the event becoming a little impersonal due to the preoccupation of simply having a space to contain the masses.
The biggest event I’ve managed to date is Pink Dot, which supports the rights of the LGBT community in Singapore. It’s an annual event that’s held at Speaker’s Corner in Hong Lim Park and was attended by a 21,000 people this year, the largest in its history.
I could see from the faces of the attendees that they really wanted to be there, despite the jostling, lack of conveniences and shortage of parking spaces. It wasn’t just the LGBT community that attended but also their family and friends. There was a community tent housing special interest and support groups while sponsors provided product sampling and freebies. The entire activity culminated in all 21,000 people turning on pink torches at night to form the ‘dot’, which demonstrated that the atmosphere makes a real difference for participants when it comes to large-scale events and it’s not just the about the physical space.
Technology that personalises attendee experience and helps them navigate venues also helps mitigate problems that arise from holding events in large spaces. Make use of smartphone applications that deliver easy access to event details, business matching, real-time information, Twitter feeds, live polling and feedbacks.
THE PR MAVENS
Marina Mathews and Wani Diwarkar
Managing Director and Account Director,
Fulford Public Relations
DON’T ALWAYS SEEK THE OBVIOUS
Mathews: During my time with Gulf Air I had to fly in 1,000 staff members from around the world to Oman for a three-day conference. Working for an airline helped enormously when it came to arranging flights, but at that volume, co-ordinating itineraries and trying to find a hotel that could accommodate 1,000 guests over three nights was a big challenge and required almost a year’s lead time to ensure we could secure the hotel accommodation.
Diwarkar: I was fortunate enough to be part of the pioneering team of one of the two integrated resorts in Singapore. Even before it opened, the whole country knew that this was going to be a major icon for the city and the region. With that sort of expectation and pressure executing world-class events, irrespective of size, was critical.
The fundamentals of any event – be it for 3,000 guests or ten – is the same. It’s about recognising your strengths and sticking to them.
Mathews: One of my most successful projects would have to be the 2006 Bahrain Formula 1 simply due to the sheer number of visitors that attended the three-day event. Holding an event in Bahrain, a country that most people are unfamiliar with, put it on the map and illustrated that it was capable of hosting world-class events. So sometimes, it pays to work with a PR company to showcase less popular destinations rather than always targeting the most popular.Diwarkar: We’re in a very exciting part of the world. Meeting spaces and events are growing exponentially and we know there’s more to come with outstanding new venues on the horizon. Creativity can be a game-changer. While essentials such as the very best in technology, venue and facilities are imperative, they are expected. Delegates will remember and return to an event if the organisers inject a hint of creativity that goes beyond the confines of a cold conference room.
Director of Sales, MICE and
Corporate Events Laguna Phuket
USE A ONE-STOP DESTINATION
I’ve been working in the hotel industry for 21 years and have spent the last 19 in marketing and sales with Laguna Phuket. Large-scale events always involve thorough organisation and a lot of coordination, so selecting a venue provider that also has the ability, experience and contacts to help overcome unforeseen challenges is always a big bonus.
With nine deluxe hotel and villa properties, a spacious Latitude Marquee central function venue, Quest corporate team building facility, dedicated “Laguna Tours” company, an 18-hole resort golf course, five luxury spas and boutique shopping. Latitude, our 1,000 sqm marquee, is capable of accommodating up to 1,000 guests theatre style, 800 for cocktails, and 600 for a banquet and it has even been used for a multi-media exhibition.
We believe that Laguna Phuket is a unique business event destination unlike any other in Thailand. I am responsible for all centralised and large-scale events organised by and hosted at the hotel. Earlier this year we welcomed a record-breaking incentive group from China. With about 4,000 delegates from different parts of China all arriving at the airport on the same day, the congestion at the airport, especially immigration, was one of the biggest challenges for us. As a company in the private sector, requesting additional counter service from the immigration office usually takes several days. Thanks to the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), which has supported us in many business event activities in the past, we managed to speed up this process.
Recently, we organised 21 grand dinners – each catering for around 750 delegates – in a purpose-built marquee at a central venue overlooking a tropical lagoon, where entertainment was staged on a floating platform.
THE SPORT, FASHION & MEDIA AGENT
Vice President, IMG Asia Pacific
FOCUS ENERGY WHERE IT COUNTS
We are in the business of arts, entertainment and sporting events, attracting everyone from large groups from the financial community to members of the public. Some of the events we have hosted include musicals such as Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang plus the large-scale Singapore Fashion Festival.
We have also brought Liverpool Football Club to Singapore, organised the Johnnie Walker Classic, three editions of the Standard Chartered Rugby Sevens, the HSBC Women’s Champions and the Color Run, a fun 5k race where runners are doused in coloured powder. Logistically, we have faced quite a few challenges, such as getting 8,000 people into Sentosa for the Color Run or managing 5,000 fans when footballer Michael Owen came to Singapore. The uncertain tropical weather here has been a particular challenge, especially for outdoor events.
Making events work sometimes means working through the challenges and focusing our energies on a different and more important aspect of the events rather than fixating on the constraints of the venue. For the Lexus Cup, for example, we personalised the experience for all 12 participants by picking everyone up from the airport in a Lexus that played their favourite music. Such a customised approach may not always work on larger scale but I think welcome packages are very important, as is providing delegates with goodie bags, freebies and giveaways.