Last week, I had the pleasure of Zooming with Yeoh Siew Hoon, Founder of WiT and all-round wonderful human.
Siew Hoon has been running WiT (or Web in Travel) since 2005; a community for anyone passionate about travel technology, distribution and marketing. They provide news through their website and social feeds, and run events that are strong in content and different in style and delivery.
Fresh off hosting Singapore’s first hybrid event since C*vid upended our lives, Siew Hoon said something that stuck with me: “We cannot, absolutely cannot, squander this opportunity”.
‘This opportunity’ being the moment us ‘events people’ find ourselves in – where participants’ tolerance for sub-par, passive, experiences is at a historical low, whilst a willingness to explore new and innovative ways of connecting is at an all-time high.
Banu Kannu: Hi, Siew Hoon – so lovely to meet you, thank you for making the time.
Yeoh Siew Hoon: Nice to meet you too – I really like your company name, it’s clever 😊
BK: Thank you! We wanted it to say what it does ‘on the tin’. I thoroughly enjoyed the PCMA piece on your recent WiT Experience Week and just had to get in touch. I’d love to hear about the evolution you’ve experienced over the past year.
YSH: Our whole lifecycle was reliant on physical events – which we didn’t think of as events that we organised, but events that we produced. I always approach events with my journalist hat on, and keep the content front and centre. Our physical events were outcome-driven affairs with attitude – they were creative, and different. We had this channel or platform we’d mastered, and knew how to execute. And then almost overnight, everything changed.
BK: I hear you. And it must feel like some of those changes aren’t going anywhere.
YSH: One of the first things we woke up to was the limitations of event tech and tech platforms. You simply can’t replace human creativity with the most advanced or exciting platform in the world. So here again our ‘production’ vs. ‘organising’ approach really helped. We quickly realised that we now had different desired outcomes to the ones we’re used to – our community needed a virtual ‘campfire’ around which they could gather to commiserate, congratulate and simply communicate. We went from hosting zero virtual events to nearly 30 over the past year, keeping our community engaged and united during a very difficult time. And difficult is probably an understatement when we’re talking about the travel industry.
BK: Have there been any pleasant surprises?
YSH: Absolutely, one of the benefits of the virtual environment is that we can go very micro on the issues and hyper local on the geography of our community. We’ve also added people to the community during this time who might not otherwise have heard of us or saw the need for WiT.
BK: That’s so encouraging; and a testament to your efforts to keep the focus on your community, the content and the desired outcomes of each and every touchpoint. Any closing words? What do you see in the future of business events?
YSH: As producers of experiences and gatherers of communities, we’re at such a unique and defining moment; we cannot, absolutely cannot, squander this opportunity. Let’s use it to do away with sub-par events, instead raising the bar for ourselves – virtual or in-person, it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter.
BK: YES! Thank you for saying that – I’m confident there are others out there who share these views – starting to think this is a community ripe for gathering!
YSH: Count me in 😊
PS: When she wasn’t busy overhauling WiT’s events during the past year, Siew Hoon found time to write Pawrantine, which you can purchase to support Singapore’s Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter (OSCAS). Pawrantine: A Dog’s Perspective is a fun look at the Covid-19 lockdown through the eyes of a dog. I just got my copy in the mail - it's sure to make your day!