Awarded the prestigious Chairman’s Award by the professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the Singapore Tourism Award for Lifetime Achievement last year, Janet Tan-Collis has certainly distinguished herself in the MICE industry. Among the numerous conferences that the seasoned veteran has helped organise, she recalled the one for the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) in 2016 as being the most memorable.

It wasn’t so much that the event was on an uncommonly large scale, or that it was an unusual one. Rather, it was the very precise instructions given by the clients that posed a challenge – something that Tan-Collis and her team eventually overcame.

“The main conference was to be held at Suntec, with the delegates adjourning for dinner after. But the client was firm about not having to transfer over 3,000 delegates by bus, which would have been a logistical nightmare. So, they requested that the walking distance between both venues be no more than a 10 minute-walk,” she said.

Tan-Collis was also tasked to provide a uniquely local experience for the delegates, one that would allow them to enjoy local delicacies and soak up as much local culture as possible.

Through thorough research, the team at East West finally decided that the hawker stalls at Makansutra Gluttons by the Bay ticked all the boxes, before moving on to their next challenge: Event coordination.

“We first had to apply for licences to occupy extra land for the event. We then designed multiple routes and entrances that abided by safety requirements and those of public assembly. We wrote to the mall management to seek their permission for the delegates to proceed from Suntec through the various malls, and later also procured bartenders and restaurants for the dinner,” said Tan-Collis.

The ISMRM conference was a huge success, and acted as a testament to the creativity and care that professional DMCs put into their planning and execution. And for Tan-Collis and her team, their hard work earned them recognition that went beyond the event itself.

She added: “For the conference, we worked with Singapore Polytechnic as part of a school exercise for their hospitality case study and posed the exact same challenge we were given. I was impressed by some of the solutions that the students came up with, considering their inexperience in the industry. The exercise went so well that the client decided to adopt it as a bid model for securing future DMCs.”

Aside from striving to be a role model to others in her industry, Tan-Collis also stressed the importance of learning from experience. One area which she feels the MICE industry can come together to work on a solution is wet weather cover. After all, she said,, “finding event spaces for outdoor events isn’t the problem; rather, it is coming up with a viable backup plan in the event of inclement weather.”

Tan-Collis opined: “Singapore’s outdoor spaces are beautiful and worth showing off to our foreign guests. But the problem with outdoor events is the cost involved in providing cover when it rains. Not many organisers have the budget to accommodate a one-off outdoor event even if they wanted to.”

To illustrate her point, she used the example of the FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX. When organising such a major recurring event, all the lights, railings and grandstands are stored when they’re not in use. However, not all events will take place at such a scale with the opportunity to amortise the cost of investing in equipment and storage over several years. For one-off events, the cost of shelter and storage can thus be  prohibitive.

As such, Tan-Collis’ hope is that her fellow industry professionals come together to resolve this pertinent issue and, in the process, make the MICE industry more robust than it currently is.

“There’s plenty of potential in Singapore to organise events on a more regular basis, and an abundance of opportunity for vendors in the tentage and storage industry to work together with organisers like us.

In time, I hope the industry can come up affordable events solutions for clients that will fit their budget and allow them to explore venue options that would showcase the beauty of Singapore’s outdoor destinations,” she concluded.