Super-connected, festival-style conferences are the 'future of MICE'

Co-founder of Millennial 20/20 in Singapore, Simon Berger, says rows of chairs and delegates in suits will be a thing of the past.

Marina Bay Sands and the ArtScience Museum (right)
Marina Bay Sands and the ArtScience Museum (right)

This high tech conference, Millennial 20/20, was not staged in an expected space, with rows of chairs in a conference hall. Rather this was a gallery in a building shaped like a lotus flower - Singapore's striking ArtScience Museum.

Delegates were whisked around the stages, including past a Facebook ‘stand’ which was hosting a trackbot, where delegates could get a free coffee if they downloaded an app.

There were non-linear spaces, with slanted walls, unexpected acoustics  - and the leading lights of future business and commerce were all in attendance, including Facebook’s head of marketing for Australia and New Zealand, Vogue’s editor in chief, two staffers from AirBNB, as well as representatives from Microsoft, Ebay and Expedia.

Co-founder Simon Berger spoke with machine-gun rapidity about how he pulled them all to his event, as he enthused about the cutting edge technology of the MICE business. 

He passionately dismisses the idea of millennials attending conferences where there are rows of chairs and delegates in suits. Berger says his 'summit' is more loosely modelled on the UK’s Glastonbury music festival – a series of happenings on stages around the art gallery, where attendees can pick and choose what they want to see.

There’s a 100mbp internet connection - so the whole conference is super-connected in a way that could allow delegates to transfer an entire feature film’s worth of streaming HD video in seconds - or live.

He talks projectors, unusual spaces, non-flat walls, flexible and bespoke AV set-ups and "funky" LED chair lighting that can be tailored made for clients. "It’s a great canvas for you to do whatever you want," Berger says before describing how he transformed his own business.

"I’d been organising exhibitions for about 30 years. Up until about 10 years ago, I did it like everyone else. And then I decided - well the whole world is disrupting in lots of different ways - why don’t we try to change the methodology of events - B2B shows that is.

"The idea was to try to get the right people to come. To curate from the visitor backwards. Rather than take the venue, fill it with content, exhibition stands, speakers, whatever it was. It was finding out [what they want] and then going out and selling it to our visitors. Go and ask the visitors, the delegates and the business people who want to go to these events, and say ‘What would you like to see?’

"Very simply we turned it 180 degrees."

The Millennial 20/20 Summit in Singapore is an event dedicated to next generation commerce. It considers everything from The Internet of Things, the Consumer Electronics Show and World Cities Summit. But the attendees were not just millennials; GenX'ers and Baby Boomers were gate-crashing the event too.

Berger says that because of the nature of the packages he offers to the big hitters, he’s able to secure 300 tickets for the headline sponsors.

He added: "So they then bring 300 of the world’s biggest brands and retailers to the event. So before I even decide the venue, or what I am doing, I can say, 'I’ve got thousands of people coming to the show, do you want to be there?' So they dictate it.

"In my experience, an event that doesn't have visitors coming back is an event that will never grow its asset value. If we please the visitors, it’s easier to get sponsors, and the speakers want to be there.

"I’ve never paid for a speaker in this series of events because we are getting the right people, and the right level of people."

The Millennial 20/20 Summit was held at ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands.

 

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