by Naomi Neoh | May 22, 2020
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Tea tasting in a box: MPC Events has worked with Monogram Teas to deliver a tea tasting session to clients of AIA Prestige Club. Credit: AIA Prestige Club

SINGAPORE - Tenacity is a quality deeply hardwired in the events business. When crisis hit, MPC Events' boss, Ms Crystal Chua, leaned into its strengths in lifestyle events to deliver top-notch culinary experiences right in the homes of her clients' customers.

The Singapore-based events agency, which serves a high-net worth client base in the insurance and banking sectors, has sent out customised packages ranging from tea, wine, whisky, sake, cooking kits to boxes of vitamins and fresh fruit.

Since April, MPC Events has fulfilled a number of such projects, delivering between 30 to 300 of such packages that it calls 'Experience Boxes' each time, shared Ms Crystal Chua, chief experience officer of MPC Events.

Clients unwrap these tasting boxes in their homes in anticipation of the tasting session, which is conducted over video conferencing by an expert, explained Ms Chua.

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MPC Events' chief experience officer, Crystal Chua: "Being an entrepreneur, it's not in me to give up. Events people like us are solution-oriented. If there's not going to be live events for the next six months, I need to do something." Credit: MPC Events

The deliveries have largely been for its Singapore-based clients, and depending on the client's budget, Ms Chua has put together packages that are worth between S$30 and S$250 (US$21 and US$176) per box.

The Experience Boxes have been a way for companies to engage their clients in this current crisis through virtual lifestyle events such as expert-guided culinary tastings.

"If you cannot put your staff on real projects or training, you've got to think of product development. We wanted to create some products that we could launch when things pick up and take the downtime to do the development.  

"Most of our clients are quite creative and embracing the new normal. We have standard packages that can be customised so that no client receives the same idea. So far, we've managed to ensure each client's packages are personal and original," she said.

Feedback from such events has been extremely positive, with clients saying it was "money well spent".

Tips for top-notch virtual events
There are several considerations when transforming what is usually a physical live experience into a virtual one.

For one, she recommends that virtual tasting events should typically last slightly over an hour and not more, taking into consideration that attention tends to wane beyond that. To keep restless participants engaged, programmes should include a hands-on activity for every 10 minutes of theory or sharing - whether it is arranging teas or tasting whisky. Planners should also schedule other interactive elements such as polling, group photo opportunities and question and answer segments.

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MPC Events worked with Monogram Tea's founder, Lim Tian Wee, to offer clients of AIA Prestige Club the finer points of tea appreciation. Credit: Monogram Tea

Bringing subject matter experts on for virtual events also requires detailed preparation that is similar to live events.

This includes scheduling at least two rehearsals with event speakers, such as a sommelier for a wine tasting event, to ensure that they are well-framed and lit from their streaming locations and project the right body language on screen. She has even gone so far as to send plants to a speaker's house to brighten up the backdrop for the event.

The execution of such events was challenging during Singapore's circuit breaker restrictions, which has closed the workplaces of all non-essential businesses, including event agencies.

Without a centralised office location, the agency leaned into its regular suppliers, working with restaurants and F&B providers who remained open, printers to produce bellybands for its packages and a dedicated delivery team who dressed for the occasion.  

Packaging certain items such as wine samples also meant that deliveries needed to be made within eight hours to prevent the wines from oxidising.

"Being an entrepreneur, it's not in me to give up. Events people like us are solution-oriented. If there's not going to be live events for the next six months, I need to do something. Event agencies like us were quick to jump onto the bandwagon to run online events, but we had to navigate around the fact that most of our clients are not able to let a third party do the programming for them because of PDPA (Personal Data Protection Act)."

She has found a camaraderie amongst other event agency peers.

"A few collaborative projects have transpired to innovate and survive this challenging time. We played with a lot of ideas that were ultimately abandoned. I would call up my AV and hotel partners and get working on a crazy idea."

Her parting advice for event agency peers: "You need to be very clear about your unique value proposition and focus delivering what you're known for, especially now as companies are slashing marketing budgets."