Shining the spotlight on female MICE professionals this March

This March, we shine a spotlight on five female MICE Team Members who have contributed to the success of events held at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, and the role they play in the New Normal.


1. As a certified Digital Event Strategist, why do think it is important for MICE professionals to continue upgrading and upskilling especially in the new normal?

Olympia Chang, Senior Sales Manager: Since we launched the industry’s first state-of-the art Hybrid Broadcast Studio in August 2020, we have been receiving overwhelming response and enquiries on it. In the new normal, where everything is evolving rapidly, I found myself on a steep learning curve to understand what the new meeting norms are. Before the pandemic, we never quite understood or grasped the concept of virtual events as our key performance indicators were based on live, face-to-face physical events.

Now, the conversations I have with my clients are centered around “How can we do our events differently? With all the Covid-19 related restrictions, how do I continue to engage my target audience?”. Going through the Digital Event Strategist accreditation has allowed me to gain a greater insight on running meetings of the future – one that combines physical conferences with virtual components. Though there is still much that I need to pick up on, this is the very first step to engaging my clients in a different conversation and brainstorming with them on more creative ideas to conduct their events. This is the value add that clients appreciate.

Working in a dynamic industry, especially in the post-pandemic times, it is even more important for professionals like us to continue upgrading and upskilling now more than ever. I am a firm believer that if we are stuck in our old ways of selling and conducting physical events, we will not be able to keep up with our clients who are either ahead of the curve or would require some form of guidance.




2. What’s your role in the Sales Operations department, and how do you motivate the team as the Sales department trainer?

Khoo Bee Bee, Sales Operations Manager: As the Sales Operations Manager, I manage internal events, such as our Annual Sales Kickoff and Mid-Year Review, tradeshow participation including ILTM Asia PacificITB Asia and more recently TravelRevive. Operating in a highly regulated industry, one of my key responsibilities is to ensure that the appropriate legal and compliance approvals are sought prior to any external global sales engagements or for corporate membership applications and renewals.

Having been with the integrated resort for the past 10 years, I can say that there’s never a dull day at Marina Bay Sands. The company’s spirit of innovation sees us constantly identifying ways to improve our operational efficiency and service levels. I was privileged to be appointed as one of the two department Sales Trainers late last year. Together with my colleague, we conducted one-on-one interviews with the entire team comprising over 30 Team Members, from the senior management right down to administrative support, to identify the good practices, knowledge and skills gaps in the department. It was through these one-on-one conversations that made me realise that I’m not alone when faced with some specific challenges at work. While keeping a team motivated is never an easy task, it is possible if we establish some commonalities and work towards the bigger end goal as a team. To further motivate the team, periodic and short training sessions delivered through gamifications will hopefully help my colleagues retain what they’ve learned and put into practice in a fun, engaging manner.




3. Operating in the new normal, how has your role as a conference and catering manager evolved?

Mandy Yao, Senior Catering & Conference Manager: As a Catering & Conference Manager, I have extensive experience in selling venue spaces and running the conventional events in formats that we are all familiar with. Covid-19 changed everything – clients’ expectations altered significantly as event organisers were trying to adapt and navigate their way through the digital realm. Clients are now looking to partner venues that have the knowledge and infrastructure to help them creatively drive content virtually to a wider audience. The launch of our state-of-the-art Hybrid Broadcast Studio also compelled the team to get out of our comfort zone, immerse ourselves in the digital world and learn new skill sets as well as technology so that we can engage in deeper and more meaningful conversations with our clients.  

When I was going through the Digital Event Strategist (DES) certification, I was surprised by the vast amount of content, value and resources that were shared during the course that would aid me greatly in my role. As an accredited DES MICE professional now, I’m more confident in providing innovative solutions and ideas for both digital and hybrid events that allow my clients to reach new audiences through the technology platforms we offer. Leveraging on my vast experience in running events, I am also able to advise and guide my clients in designing the entire event experiences that are Safe Management Measures (SMM) compliant – from zoning, delegate journey, to F&B service. Since the gradual resumption of the Singapore MICE industry last October, I’ve handled six hybrid events. With every hybrid event that I handle, I glean valuable lessons on the dos and donts. As with any events, dealing with last minute changes or trouble shooting on event days are a normal occurrence. But the crucial link is how do we recover and continue to run the event with confidence without impacting the overall event experience. It is even more apparent now with the hybrid event format – precision and accuracy are critical so that we can deliver a unified experience to both the virtual and physical audiences. 




4. As one of the few female team members who is trained in video production, how do you apply your expertise to the successful building of the Hybrid Broadcast Studio?

Tan Si Yen, Video Specialist: I’ve always been rather tech-savvy and I developed an interest in the technical engineering aspects of audio-visual technology during my secondary school days. That led me to pursue a Diploma in Audio-visual Technology. I interned at Sands Expo and Convention Centre with the MICE Technical Services team and decided to join the team full time upon graduation. As one of the youngest and rare few female team members in our MICE AV team, I am really glad that the company gave me the opportunity to be involved in the building of the Hybrid Broadcast Studio last year. My teammates and I came together to brainstorm and share our inputs as well as technical knowledge on how to make the studio an industry-leading offering. The team looked into every single detail – from the lighting, choice of projectors and LED screens to be used, audio, rigging points to precision mapping of imagery on screen to ensure the highest quality projection during show days. Repeated — almost obsessive — testing, mapping out how the meeting will pan out, and catering for contingencies is even more important for a hybrid event as it involves virtual and live participants.

The on-the-job training that I got in a short span of two months was something that I treasure a lot. In the quest to constantly improve our offerings to the clients, we had to challenge ourselves and learn about new technologies, such as Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality, in the shortest possible time. The team also attempted to try out new platforms, different camera applications, equipment, and through the process learn about the operational intricacies of running live hybrid events.

I definitely enjoy the challenge of working at the Hybrid Broadcast Studio as I have to constantly think on my feet and try to troubleshoot any audio or visual issues that may arise during event day. The adrenaline rush I get with each event is a constant reminder of my passion and the very reason why I joined this industry. The sense of satisfaction of being able to contribute towards one of the industry’s “first” and be part of the team has been an absolute highlight of my career thus far. Team camaraderie and a good support system definitely make a difference in our line of work.  




5. F&B has always been an important component of any MICE events, what are some of the changes that need to be made to the F&B service to ensure that it is SMM (Safe Management Measures) compliant?

Tom Goh, Banquet Operations Manager: With every event/banquet held at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, we begin by submitting an event proposal to Singapore Tourism Board (STB) detailing the recommended Safe Management Measures (SMM) that will be implemented for the event. During Singapore’s Circuit Breaker (mandatory closure of all non-essential services) last April, the time came for us to get together to brainstorm and propose the most feasible F&B service delivery method. Gathering the team via online meeting platform was not an easy task at the start. Food and beverage have always played a very important role at any event, hence the ideas proposed had to meet two important criteria – firstly, the final presentation has to be visually appealing and secondly, we need to prevent cross-contamination of food during service. We also worked closely with our chefs on curating the menus and the wares that are being used. We have re-modified our F&B services – from buffet style to either bento sets or individual plating with each meal course that is covered individually as well. Cutleries are also wrapped and placed individually for each guest.  With a smaller group size in each designated zone, we have also increased the number of servers from one to two for every 10 guests. 

All service staff will also have to adhere to strict hygiene practices – we sanitise our hands before wearing our gloves; during set-up, gloves and masks are always on; and we refrain from talking to one another as well. All F&B equipment are cleaned and sanitised after each use. Each table and seat are cleaned thoroughly with disinfecting agents after each guest vacates.

As I wear a second hat as one of the integrated resort’s Safe Management Officers (SMO), my role is to also remind our guests to adhere to the SMM during events. Guests often forget that they can only remove their masks when eating or drinking and it is our job to remind them that. My colleagues do come to me for assistance, explaining to frustrated guests who do not understand why they are not able to interact with their peers in the other zones.

While it has been challenging to get everyone in the same event to be SMM compliant, it has also been fun for my team and I as we find various ways to navigate around the challenges. Safeguarding the safety and health of our guests are an utmost priority to us, hence the team takes it upon ourselves to always uphold the highest standard of service and hygiene levels. We hold the belief that if everyone plays their part, together we will emerge stronger from this pandemic.




6. Any inspiring tips or advice for females who are considering a career in MICE especially during these extraordinary times?

Olympia: For anyone who is looking to start or grow their career in the event industry, these are the best time to do so! Though challenging, these are also exciting times for the industry. Digitalisation will change the functions of the industry radically, so as salespeople, we need to continuously upgrade our skillsets.

For ladies who are just about to step into the workforce, I’d say better days are coming and, in the meantime, be patient and practice positive affirmation. Use the time at home to work on your résumé, research on your career path and it pays to network as well! While you find ways to stay busy, you should take some time and give yourself a break and recharge mentally.

An evergreen tip – find a mentor! A mentor will impart valuable knowledge and life experiences that are not textbook based. Good mentors will help you further uncover your strength and abilities. As mentorship is built on trust and transparency, it is important to choose someone you respect and admire.

Bee Bee: Don’t be afraid to start small and be patient as you learn on the job. Never stop learning and when the opportunity comes, you will be more than prepared to take on new challenges. Continue to stay open-minded. Even if the dream role is not available, try out other related job roles that can help you to gain new perspectives of the company and equip yourself with diverse skillsets.

Mandy: 2020 has showed us how we can turn challenges into opportunities and our Hybrid Broadcast Studio is a testament to that as we have created a new vision of meetings in the future.

Si Yen: As long as you are keen to learn or have a passion for learning, there are abundant opportunities for anyone in the MICE industry. In fact, I’ve seen many part-timers, who joined us with no prior knowledge of the industry, picking up technical knowledge and skills from the on-the-job training that Marina Bay Sands provides.

Tom: For ladies, I’d say spread your wings and soar as high as you want in this industry! While there is no gender division in the MICE industry, don’t be limited by your own perception of what a female can or cannot achieve. Everyone is treated equally and there are equal opportunities for all.

Every event might be similar in terms of the programme structure, but the event execution is always done differently. No event is ever the same and that makes our job so interesting! Although this brings about more complexity to our role, it definitely keeps things fun, fresh at work and us on our toes as well! I’ve seen our team come together as one for every event at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, and I’m always in awe of our teamwork and collaborative effort to create unforgettable memories for our guests.