2021 IAEE International Excellence Award Winner
By Mary Tucker, IAEE Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Simon Wang, President & CEO of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), has been involved, front and center, in government projects related to promoting the MICE industry entrusted to TAITRA. He acts as the Project Director of Taiwan’s MICE Promotion Program – MEET TAIWAN – which was awarded The Best Convention & Exhibition Bureau of TTG Travel Awards in 2019 and Most Innovative Destination Marketing of M&C Asia’s Stella Awards. He also supervises Taiwan’s Strengthening the Competitiveness of Taiwan Professional Exhibition Project, and Taiwan Industry Image Enhancement Project, widely known as TAIWAN EXCELLENCE.
Simon supervises and coordinates 30 international trade shows annually as well as directing the operation of major convention halls in Taiwan, which earned the Safe Travel Stamp awarded by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) for the venues, allowing travelers and other travel and tourism stakeholders to recognize destination authorities and companies around the world that have implemented health and hygiene protocols that are aligned with WTTC’s Global Safe Travels Protocols.
Simon was instrumental in TAITRA’s joining of the Asia Convention Alliance as a founding member, initiated by Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) and The Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA). The Alliance aims to restore the region’s convention industry, strengthen relations, and facilitate knowledge exchange between member countries through collaborative ventures. An experienced and devoted promoter, Simon is one of the opinion leaders in Taiwan’s MICE industry.
To help the industry weather the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerate the digital transformation of the industry, TAITRA was entrusted by the Bureau of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs, to develop an interactive virtual show platform open for trade show organizers to enhance the online service of their trade shows and, most importantly, to assist enterprises in expanding their global reach. In 2020, Taiwan Excellence organized 167 marketing events, with over 4,500 press reports for events held in 11 targeted markets. In order to showcase award-winning products in markets during the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan Excellence implemented a digital transformation to help Taiwan Excellence Award-winning enterprises accelerate their business prospects for the future. Simon’s international influence in the industry is also reflected as a Board member of The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) and a Member of the Advisory Council of Asian Federation of Exhibition & Convention Associations (AFECA).
Simon also runs IAEE’s CEM program in Taiwan and promotes IAEE’s education offering and presence in the region. His contributions to the MICE industry and IAEE earned him the IAEE International Excellence Award last year, for which he was recognized this past December during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA (watch Simon’s acceptance speech here).
Here, Simon shares with IAEE how he developed his career in the MICE industry, strategies for successfully executing shows in Taiwan, and why he makes sure the CEM Learning Program is available to exhibitions and events professional in Taiwan.
IAEE: How did you get involved in exhibitions and events, and what do you find most satisfying about working in this industry?
Simon: After graduating from university, I was privileged to have the opportunity to work for TAITRA, the most significant organization in Taiwan for trade promotion, for which I helped Taiwanese companies and industries explore and promote their products in new global markets. The best and most efficient way to achieve that goal is to participate in and organize MICE events, which match buyers and suppliers. TAITRA is the leading organization in Taiwan’s MICE industry; in addition to organizing more than 30 business-to-business (B2B) shows, which are the most important shows in their industries, TAITRA also operates four MICE venues in Taipei (and is opening a new venue in Taichung in 2024). I have worked in TAITRA for 37 years and hence have been deeply involved in the exhibition industry in Taiwan and abroad.
As for the most satisfying aspect of working in MICE industry, I believe it is being able to contribute to Taiwan’s export and economic growth. After years of hard work, the scale of Taiwan’s exhibition industry is continuously expanding, and Taiwan is increasingly noticed by international MICE communities and MICE organizations such as IAEE, UFI, and ICCA. It is extremely satisfying to see more and more international buyers come to Taiwan to participate in our tradeshows and hence facilitating the growth of economics and exports.
IAEE: Your colleagues praised your work with Taiwan Excellence. How did this initiative come about and what does the future hold for this program?
Simon: Taiwan Excellence is a symbol that honors Taiwan’s most innovative products, and the Taiwan Excellence Awards were established by the Ministry of Economic Affairs in 1993.
This award aims to recognize outstanding MIT products based on the criteria of R&D, design, quality, marketing, and Taiwanese spirit of innovation. Products that have been selected for the Taiwan Excellence Awards serve as examples of the domestic industries and are promoted by the government in the international market in an effort to shape the creative image of Taiwanese businesses.
Taiwan Excellence will continue to present the creative and professional images of Taiwanese brands and products by inviting top industrial professionals to the events and discover hidden champions in Taiwan. In addition, the program will help high-performance SMEs reach their potential and seize opportunities from the international market through international publicity. Highlighting Taiwanese brands and products in the global market has always been Taiwan Excellence’s top priority.
IAEE: One of the challenges Taiwan Excellence faced during the pandemic was accelerating the digital transformation of exhibitions and events. What were some of the key strategies you found most helpful in this process and how will these strategies enhance the show experience as the industry returns to in-person events?
Simon: Eight strategies have been utilized by the Taiwan Excellence project in response to the digital demands during the pandemic. Among them, organizing online press conferences and international media advertising and promotion have been the most helpful strategies for elevating Taiwan’s industrial image. According to the statistics in 2020, a total of 30 online press conferences were implemented, and around 145 Taiwan Excellence Award–winning enterprises participated the events. To attract global attention, Taiwan Excellence has issued 4,502 press releases and forged closer collaboration with global media outlets such as the BBC, CNBC, The New York Times, and Bloomberg. It has reached more than 174 million people worldwide.
Virtual events have taken the industry by storm since early in the pandemic, but many enterprises are eager to get back to face-to-face events. As in-person events are eventually returning to the mainstream post-COVID, in-person gatherings will become a more regular occurrence. Therefore, hybrid events are predicted to be widely adopted in the near future to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. The strategies mentioned above can be implemented physically and virtually at the same time to increase media exposure for the exhibitions and in-person events. This year, Taiwan Excellence press conferences are being held in physical exhibitions and broadcast simultaneously on YouTube. Cooperation with global media outlets will help showcase Taiwanese brands in print magazines and online editions during the most well-known and influential exhibitions. This reflects the goal of Taiwan Excellence enhancing Taiwan’s industrial image globally.
IAEE: What would your advice be to a show organizer who is considering breaking new ground in Taiwan’s MICE industry?
Simon: I would advise every exhibition organizer to try their best to achieve the following:
- Embrace technologies. MICE events have changed due to the impact of the pandemic, and technologies have played an increasingly important role in this industry. Online and hybrid exhibitions will be the trend in the future, with other value-adding services being derived and based on the development of new technologies such as AR/VR, online matchmaking, and customized promotion. I believe every event organizer should embrace new technology and grow with it.
- Understand your clients more. It is extremely crucial to know what your clients hope to gain from participating in exhibitions. Questionnaires may not be enough; thus, organizers have to constantly communicate and manage the customers’ relationships via different platforms, such as social media and other online tools. It is advised to define and sort your customers into different categories and manage your precise marketing and promotion strategies to different targets.
- Show and perform. With the impacts of new technology and post-pandemic effects, exhibition is not simply a business event anymore. Younger generations are more attracted to the “fun” factor, and hence it is crucial to make your event a fun place to not just do business, but to also hang out with old and new friends, network, learn about industry trends, and relax. Therefore, despite the core function of matchmaking for buyers and suppliers, I would advise event organizers to bring in more fun and cool factors in their shows to make the event more interesting and attractive.
IAEE: You are also very active in facilitating the CEM Learning Program in Taiwan. What do you consider the most beneficial aspect of earning the CEM designation and how do you think it enhances Taiwan’s MICE industry?
Simon: Among the responses and feedback I have received from CEM recipients in Taiwan, concept and networking are the two major benefits that the CEM program has brought. The program teaches both broad scopes and critical details of organizing a trade show, enabling learners to grasp the key points quickly. In addition, the CEM community brings continuous networking opportunities for professionals in the industry to exchange thoughts, trends, and experiences.
Being the largest exhibition organization in Taiwan, TAITRA has always paid close attention to improving the professional skills of exhibitors and enhancing Taiwan’s MICE industry. We introduced the CEM learning program to Taiwan in 2012, and after 10 years, 298 people in Taiwan have obtained this certificate. Additionally, we are the first country to introduce the CEM-AP (Advanced Professional) after the United States in 2020. Both the CEM and CEM-AP learning programs help Taiwanese companies keep pace with international standards, not only to obtain the latest information about the MICE industry but also to enable their professional capabilities to be recognized by the global industry.
The Call for Nominations for this year’s IAEE Awards is now open! Check out all of the award categories here and be sure to submit your nominations by 31 August!