National Geographic - Hong Kong Strong

Time for MICE trade shows to get wise

TRADE shows, exhibitions, pop-up expos or experiential marketing platforms – call them what you will. What makes or breaks them these days is not necessarily boots on the floor, but sponsors.

Another word increasingly used as speakers heap praise on those sponsors is the description of them as partners. As Melbourne events legend Peter Jones points out in the Spotlight feature of our August-September issue, the new relationship is akin to a marriage – evaluation, plenty give and take if you go ahead or, as we term it “for better, not worse”.

I’m not long back from Sydney where the mini-extravaganza known as Get Global seemed to be a success before co-founders Gary Bender and Donna Kessler even opened the doors to the show’s second edition. The stats will be rippling through the MICE media as we go to print. But behind stories about the rise in registered buyers, the sold-out exhibition space and how Get Global is disrupting the standard trade-show format, simmers a sponsorship-stroke-partnership formula that works.

The result is an event that’s going to get organisers from Sydney to Shanghai and Melbourne to Moganshan thinking about how they can up their game. Australia’s already talking about it, but long-suffering buyers in Asia will still have to endure the whip crackers at the big shows in Bangkok and Beijing, if they so choose to attend. How long those tired formats – with show crews in Beijing occupying exhibitor booths to take a mid-day nap – may last depends on how long it takes for buyers and Asia’s docile MICE media to get wise.

Some partnerships are more daunting. Take for instance working with bureaucracies in the region and convincing them of taking an enlightened approach when it comes to open-air event spaces. That is what Maureen Earls, who is the subject of our Eventist profile in the Aug-Sept issue, and her team did when helping bring some magnificent public and corporate events to Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront.

Maureen and the success of Central Venue Management was no simple hatching of a sponsorship-style deal. Her links with the Hong Kong government stretch back to the heady days prior to Britain handing sovereignty of Hong Kong back to China, and Maureen’s crucial role in organising the UK’s Farewell Ceremony in 1997. It’s a fascinating story – and our rivals usually follow up.  

Elsewhere, changes continue for the better, or ideas are simply dusted down and thrown to the market. Those with a penchant for K-pop will be happy that Korea is channelling its hallyu culture with exclusive packages for MICE groups. Vicki Williams gives her take on this based on KTO’s recent showcase.

For sponsors seeking that amazing spot for brand placement, take a loom at what modular backdrops have to offer in The Trend. If you need to discuss any partnership over a cocktail, try a rooftop bar in Thailand, or at venues in Shanghai (Explore), with an egg tart in Macau (Event Bites) or even over the potent Chinese spirit moutai in Sydney (Examine I).
Martin Donovan is the Editor of MIX. He was among the hosted media attending Get Global at ICC Sydney


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