CMW hears from Jason Yeh, CEO of Taipei conference organiser GIS Group, on the convergence of conferences and exhibitions
The GIS Group was founded in 1991. It operates three major businesses. The first is a turnkey project business unit, which means it provides a professional conference organiser service. It also provides a destination management company service.
The second is to provide the audio-visual solution for meetings. It is one of the largest interpreting agencies in Taiwan. Thirdly, it manages convention venues in Taiwan. Today it has four and plans to open a fifth in Kaohsiung.
Jason Yeh, the company’s CEO, does a lot but considers himself first and foremost a PCO. Here, he explains the convergence.
“If you ask people why they come to a conference or a meeting, probably people will say they come for networking. They want to build the relationship with people. They will probably say they want to know something, some new innovation in the industry, the advance of the industry, they want to have more knowledge sharing.
“As a PCO when we organise an event, we care more about the number of participants we’ve got. It’s very important for us. Our main focus is more on hospitality and logistics.
“Of course, normally we don’t own the brand of the event, the brand belongs to our clients. Compared with the exhibition industry, we have less investment up front when we organise an event.
“When you ask most people why they come to exhibitions, many of them say they are coming to buy or sell, and maybe people want to know about some new products, and services. You care more about how many booths and how much space you sell for the show. Your energy focus is on marketing and sales.
“You have a big initial investment up front. As a PCO, I always think the convention industry is more like a dolphin. The conventions and meetings rotate in different cities, so the competition in our industry is fine.
“But for PEOs – Professional Exhibition Organisers – are more like a whale, big in size, so the competition is more fierce.
“PEOs create a marketplace. If you close your eyes and think about an exhibition, you probably have this scenario in mind. All the sellers waiting in their booths, all the buyers waiting outside the door. The door opens and the buyers flow in like sardines. They move in different directions and to different appointments at the same time. When the buyers visits the booths of the seller, the seller wants to bite them at first sight.
“For the PCO it is is more like creating a theatre. Close you eyes again and think about meetings. The door is open and people find their meeting space. It’s waiting for something to happen on the stage so the speaker starts to talk. The speaker wants to entertain the audience as
much as they can like an actor. So we seem to be quite different.
“In fact, we have many things in common. If we look at our business from a client perspective, you see both convention and exhibitions, meetings and tradeshow, we are all our clients’ marketing tools. Both PCO and PEO we want to facilitate people’s exchange of information and business. Both of us want to create experiences for our clients.
“We are all experience architects. We are not creating a trade show or a meeting, but an experience for our clients.
“Nowadays, more professional conference organisers are doing professional exhibition organisers’ jobs. The reason behind this is very simple – because the exhibition in a convention has become a very important revenue stream for many convention nowadays.
“The PCO tries to create a small or medium sized trade show, along with their convention, and also the PEO doing the same thing. The PEO and PCO are doing each others’ job. Exhibition and conferences are converging.
“Both are looking for more participants and more quality participants. We want them to stay longer. Our clients are looking for their return on investment.
“I think there should be more value for meetings, not just filling in time with sales talk. Because good meetings add value to exhibitions. Good meetings can add more reason for people to travel. Good meetings can gather the right people and can get people to stay for longer.
“However it is getting harder and harder, even in our convention business. Because there is much competition from advancing technology. People can interact through the internet, they can source from online resources and more and more organisations create similar events in our industry so that we are tackling the same group of people. Nowadays, the attendee demands more and more.
“What do they demand? Fresh content, and organised information – they want to hear some interesting topics, multi-dimensional interaction, they want fun activity in the networking, they want to learn more and they want to learn more quickly. People expect more now. The bar of the event return on investment has been raised higher and higher.
“The key word in the solution is ‘design’. It’s what we are thinking in our industry.
“So face-to face communication never dies. It is still crucial in today’s business world. However, most importantly, you have to design your meeting. With those three pillars you can design your meetings and satisfy attendees growing expectation.
“You can create good meetings that help track more good meetings with visitors that stay longer. This is a common goal for both PCOs and PEO, for both exhibitions and convention industry professionals.
“Because we are all experience architects for both meeting and tradeshows.”