MEDIA & MARKETING | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong
Lawrence Chia

Navigating the New Normal of the Event Industry in Hong Kong


The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed changes to our daily lives to an unprecedented scale in just a few months. In Hong Kong, trade shows, conferences, concerts and many other events are being postponed, rescheduled or even cancelled. We have been hearing people talk about the “new normal”, meaning a new way of living and disruptions in our habits and tradition relating to the way we live, work and interact with others. We cannot define what exactly the new normal will become. Things will just never be the same as they were before. Our new normal will continue to change, and it will change very quickly.

New normal will affect day-to-day activities as well as business operations. From an everyday life perspective, healthcare experts are discussing the possibilities of having people worn face masks for a longer period of time, wherever we go in the future. Just like the Japanese wearing face masks in public transport and in the metropolitan, as a habit and a practice for reasons such as defence against spring allergy triggers like dust mites and pollen.

In the US, a growing number of companies have announced that they will permit employees to work remotely on a permanent basis. More employers will implement work from home policy and do virtual meetings a lot more than before. There will be fewer or smaller physical offices.

Schools may reduce the size of their classes whilst restaurants may lessen the number of tables and seats and offer a lot more take-away and delivery services. Cinemas, karaoke bars, beauty salons and spas all need to re-design layout, floor plans and the way they serve their clients.

E-businesses like online food ordering, online shopping and video on demand, and private tutorial class will thrive. Public transport like buses and trains need to avoid being too crowded, in addition to maintaining a higher standard of hygiene.

These adaptations and changes are considered examples of our “new normal”. The first thing many event planners believe is that large-scale face-to-face conferences and gatherings will tend to be replaced by smaller ones on a local or regional scale. Many events will be going virtual and face-to-face events will be taking different format under the new normal.

Today, the marketing field is overwhelmed by webinars and online and virtual events. Many virtual event platforms are offered off-the-shelf and even for free. Whilst selecting a suitable platform or service provider is not easy, the most challenging part is to launch a sound strategy, not about the platform alone. You need to define the strategy around going virtual, what you want to achieve, and whom you want to reach.

Fresh content, perspectives and the packaging to be delivered via any of these tools is also important. With a large number of webinars available, people tend not to gravitate towards those which are not addressing to their needs. Whilst marketers are trying to keep their brands relevant by offering virtual content to members and customers, content should not be too hard-selling. Marketers should also avoid fatiguing their prospects with generic or unengaging topics; otherwise, the approach will lose the value to generate leads for selling products and services.

Events are for connecting with customers, whether virtually or through other off-screen media. When you look for a virtual event planner for your brand or business, look for those who master the skills in setting clear goals for your event which answer your business objectives and who understand your audience. Only by doing so could you curate your event content to align with those goals and tell your brand story which could immerse and engage your audience. No one should expect to capture an audience’ undivided attention during the entire event. Professional event planners will help you cherry-pick the platforms or tools for communicating your content. Effective conversation and networking are always the key in a successful event. Your event planners should be able to help you design solutions to achieve these objectives, rather than just offering audience a chat channel.

Beyond any doubt, hybrid event, as a combination of face-to-face and virtual events, is the way of the future. Under the new normal, marketing and brand activation should embrace both virtual and face-to-face communications channels to engage target audiences. 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Lawrence Chia

Lawrence Chia

Lawrence Chia is the Group Chairman and CEO of the Hong Kong-listed Pico Far East Holdings Limited (752.HK). Founded in Singapore in 1969, Pico is a global total brand activation company specialising in engaging people, creating experiences and activating brands. Today it employs some 2,400 permanent staff with sales networks and production facilities in 34 major cities worldwide. In the 2019 financial year, Pico Far East Holdings Limited reported revenue of over USD 640 million and a market capitalisation of nearly US$422m.

Chia was educated in the United States, graduating from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with highest honours. In 2006, he received the International Executive in Sport and Entertainment Award from the University of South Carolina in the United States. In 2016, Chia received the University of Tennessee Outstanding International Alumni Award.

Before assuming the Chairmanship of Pico Far East Holdings Limited, he was the Managing Director of the Pico Group of companies in Europe and North America, and was based in London for six years. With more than three decades of experience in the event marketing industry, Mr Chia embodies a forward-looking vision to continuously drive the growth of the company – particularly in the areas of business process innovation and digital transformation.

In 2020, the Pico Group won a Gold award for Event Agency of the Year in Hong Kong. In 2019, the Group won InnoESG Prize in recognition of its making a positive impact in the areas of environmental, social and governance.

Chia is currently Chairman of the Singapore Chamber of Commerce (Hong Kong).  

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