by Esther Faith Lew | October 01, 2015

For Belinda Doery, regional director, APAC of American Express Meetings & Events, it was just another day at work - and a beautiful one at that. Going to work in a helicopter and gazing out at the gorgeous visage of clear waters, coral reefs, shoals and islets top one of those defining moments in life for her.


"My career has taken me to some of the most unique places in the world; I remember serving roasted camel to Middle Eastern royalty at the Qatari Palace...that was for an event to launch Pearl Project, a man-made island off the coast of Doha. These experiences are so rare that I don't think they can be topped," she shares.

Being on the move is a state of equilibrium for Belinda, who believes that life is a constantly moving target. This philosophy of expecting and embracing change gels perfectly with a career that is forward-looking and full of adrenaline-pumping moments.

"I love developing customised concepts and solutions for meetings and events that use innovative thinking - I think that is why unique destination events and experiences have always appealed to me," shares this self-professed futuristic big thinker.

The industry has paid attention. She was named one of the "Top 25 most influential people in the industry" by Successful Meetings. She also received the '3 under 33' global award by the Association for Corporate Travel Executives. Such recognition boldly affirms Belinda's vision and innovative mindset in meetings strategies.

Even before she graduated with her business degree, Belinda had already gotten a head start in chalking up experience in events, food and beverage and hotel operations at cafes, hotels and zoos. Her talents were eventually spotted by a large pharmaceutical company, and she took on a lead role that allowed her to design an Asia Pacific Strategic Meetings Management plan for the company. It was a dynamic role that catapulted her towards American Express.

Globetrotting in the name of business is no swim in the ocean. Belinda oversees operations across seven countries and manages teams in sales, account management and operations. This leaves her with little time on her hands for leisure, but it is a colourful lifestyle that invigorates her. "There is definitely a significant part of me that is driven by the satisfaction gained from achieving success in my work, whether that is delivering a successful event, or mentoring my team members," she shares.

M&C Asia chats with Belinda to find out what moves her on the ground.

What is your favourite city for business travel? Why?
I have to say it's Tokyo at the moment. The city has a perfect balance of qualities: clean, safe and easy to navigate. It offers a modern charm without losing its cultural identity.
 
What advice do you have for business travellers going there?
My top tips: If you can, try and go in April to see the beautiful cherry blossoms, and set aside leisure time for exploring the streets and eating amazing Japanese cuisine.

In your globetrotting, what are the places that have struck you as unique meetings and events venues? Why?
Each M&E has a different purpose or goal, so there is never a 'one size fits all'. For me, the venues that are highly unique are the best. For example, I love to discover a venue or accommodation offering five-star luxury in the middle of nowhere.

In our 2015 American Express Meetings & Events Forecast, we predicted the top Asia Pacific cities for M&E activity throughout this year to be Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Sydney. These locations continue to be popular as they are considered very safe, interesting and fun, and have good business facilities. Within these top cities, we're starting to see more events being held outside of traditional hotels. People are seeking unique experiences at venues such as theme parks, islands, gardens and zoos.

What qualities do you look for in a meetings venue?
When our team considers venues for specific client events, there are fundamentals that must be met, such as ease of access, compliance, safety, and appropriate business facilities. Beyond this, the key quality that a meetings venue is required to possess is that which will serve the specific needs of any individual meeting. Each meeting is different depending on the client brief, with different priorities and needs, so venue requirements vary accordingly.

What is the trend that you observe in clients' demands for creating memorable events and meetings? 
As the leader in strategic meetings management in the region, we work with many of our clients around financial efficiency, legal risk mitigation, transparency and compliance Beyond that, we continue to see a growing demand from clients to think outside the box. People are looking for innovative and creative ideas, particularly when it comes to venue selection. Your standard meeting room and a common hotel chain just isn't cutting it for all meetings.

What is that one perfect event you have always envisioned and would love to organise?
I've always dreamt of being involved in a tour that focuses on unique experiences and immerses attendees in unsurpassed luxury but showcases sustainable tourism and Mother Nature at her finest.

What is the most important takeaway that you would want to remember of an event?
For any event, I think the most important takeaway an attendee can have is to leave thinking "that event really met my needs". Regardless of whether that means the attendee learnt something new, felt rewarded, successfully networked or identified a new business opportunity, it doesn't matter. What matters is that the individual felt there was a tangible benefit from attending the event.