PCMA Convening Leaders 2021 was promoted as a community design lab for what business events will look like in a post-pandemic world, with streaming broadcasts and a host of accelerated trends at the forefront of its sessions. Attending the four-day event in early January was Destination Asia Singapore general manager Matthew Smith. Here’s what Matthew had to say about the event that took place in Marina Bay Sands.
There must have been many new regulations in place to enter Marina Bay Sands where the conference was held, what were the main differences?
PCMA did a great job of communicating all the changes and setting the expectations before the event so there were no surprises on the day. The main differences on arrival to the venue were that attendees had to sign in or register in using their TraceTogether App on their phone to both the venue and the conference itself. After following the signage a quick registration where the main difference was experienced which involved taking an Antigen Rapid Test before entering the main space. With this rapid test results are sent within 30 minutes – it was a simple rapid test so nothing too invasive! There were signs directing you exactly where to go with social distance markers in place. Of course, a mask must also be worn at all times
With social distancing in place, did you get the opportunity to interact with others during the event?
In my first attendance confirmation email from PCMA, I was informed of the zone I would be in, this determined where I would be sat at the event along with 50 other people in my zone. The zones were sectioned off into groups of 50 (10 tables of five). You could mix and talk to others in your zone but were asked to only take a seat at your designated table. Even with these restrictions, it was great to be able to interact and take the opportunity to talk to others from my industry face-to-face again.
PCMA mentioned streaming broadcasts and a host of accelerated trends, what new developments were on show and how were they received?
Technology played a huge part during the event and it was impressive to see how quickly the organizer and venue had adapted to the situation. A 6×21 metre LED curved screen made for an impressive backdrop, with 4 huge moveable profile dropdown screens (roughly 1.5m x 2.5m) supported on wires allowing them to be positioned next to live speakers. A hologram screen was also used to beam in guest speakers while six relay screens around the room ensured you never missed a thing. A smaller hybrid broadcast studio suitable for a crowd of 50 people was a primary focus for the audience watching from home (though also with the ability to cast into the main conference room). Its virtual background allowed for a vast range of settings throughout the day. The range and quality of visual technology on display were extremely impressive.
Lunches and break times always involve a lot of movement, how were they managed?
Break stations were sectioned off with assigned seating and timetabled according to your zone, helping maintain social distancing but allowing interaction with others from your zone. There was no buffet but coffee and tea were served in takeaway cups and snacks provided in covered bonito boxes. A plated lunch was table served (covered in a closh). Lunch took place in a designated room with table places pre-assigned of 5 people per table. Ushers called through each table one at a time.
Do you believe it was a successful event, and that such measures will remain in place post-COVID-19?
There was a lot of excitement to see a fully scaled event come to life. The people I spoke to were all energized to see this take shape and be part of the recovery journey. The support and guidance of the Singapore Tourism Bureau (STB) helped the event run smoothly. At no point did I feel unsafe which was great, and one of the key lessons learned is that managing and planning the delegate foot traffic is key to avoid build-ups. It was a real boost to see an event of this scale executed while showing that only 30-60 minutes of additional time is needed to allow for the safety checks and social distancing requirements. Such measures must be adaptable, and while they are necessary now, they may not be in the future, so a venue or destinations ability to adjust quickly will be vital to their success.
All credit to PCMA, STB and MBS for creating and pulling off such a great event!