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IAEE Spotlight on 2022 IAEE Pinnacle Award Winner Walter M.S. Yeh

 Walter M.S. Yeh gives retirement a whole new meaning as he continues to help the exhibitions and events industry in Taiwan and Asia blaze new trails using the latest technology and innovation. Learn how this IAEE Pinnacle Award winner is making the most of his knowledge and experience, and what he sees as the future of the industry.  

By Mary Tucker, Sr. Communications & Content Manager

Walter M.S. Yeh most recently served as President and CEO of TAITRA, the government agency which promotes trade development and exhibition promotion in Taiwan. He has also been at the helm of other industry associations such as the Taiwan Exhibition & Convention Association (TECA) and the Asian Federation of Convention & Exhibition Associations (AFECA) with distinction. During his tenure, he promoted various programs such as the AFECA Asia MICE Youth Challenge series to groom young leaders for the industry.

Walter also led delegations of Taiwan and Asian MICE leaders to the U.S. for Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition to promote business relations and opportunities amongst members and countries. On the global stage, he also headed the Shanghai World Expo in China in 2010. Even after his retirement, he has enthusiastically assisted dozens of associations and enterprises in their introduction of digital technology in response to the impact of the pandemic.

In addition to his contributions to the exhibitions and events industry on a global scale, Walter’s contributions to IAEE include acting as a conduit for the CEM Learning Program’s success in Taiwan, as well as supporting IAEE’s overall presence in the MICE industry for that region.

Walter’s dedication and service to the industry as well as IAEE earned him the IAEE Pinnacle Award last year, for which he was recognized this past December during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Louisville, KY (watch Walter’s acceptance speech here).

2022 IAEE Awards Chairperson Daniel McKinnon, CEM (left) and IAEE President & CEO David DuBois, CMP-F, CAE, FASAE, CTA (right) present the Pinnacle Award to Walter M.S. Yeh (middle) during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2022 in Louisville, KY.

Here, Walter shares with IAEE his learnings of the impact exhibitions and events have on the overall business environment, the value of mentoring the next generation of industry professionals and engaging in continuous learning, and how today’s technology can be used to enhance the exhibitions and events of tomorrow.

How were you introduced to working in exhibitions and events, and what have you enjoyed most about your career in this industry?

I was first introduced to the world of exhibitions and events through my passion for bringing people together and fostering global connections. Early in my career in TAITRA, I recognized the power of face-to-face interactions in driving business relationships, knowledge exchange, and cultural understanding. This realization led me to immerse myself in the MICE industry, where I worked on organizing and managing exhibitions, conferences, and various events.

Over the years, I’ve also relished the dynamic nature of the industry. Every event presented unique challenges and opportunities, pushing me and my team to think creatively, adapt to changing trends, and deliver exceptional experiences. The sense of accomplishment that comes from successfully orchestrating large-scale events and witnessing the positive outcomes they generate has been the driving force behind my commitment to this field.

In my role as an Honorary President of the Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention Associations (AFECA) and Taiwan Exhibition and Convention Association (TECA), I’ve been able to contribute not only to the success of individual events but also to the development of the broader MICE ecosystem in the region. Collaborating with industry stakeholders, advocating for industry best practices, and promoting the significance of MICE activities as economic drivers have been pivotal aspects of my journey.

You have focused on promoting leadership in the industry to young professionals. Why do you believe mentorship is important?

I have always believed that fostering leadership among young professionals is essential for the continuous growth and innovation of the MICE industry. There are several reasons why I consider mentorship to be of paramount importance:

Passing on Experience and Wisdom: Throughout my career, I’ve accumulated a wealth of knowledge, insights, and lessons from both successes and challenges. By mentoring young professionals, I can share these experiences with them, helping them navigate complex situations and make informed decisions. Accelerating Learning: The MICE industry is dynamic and multifaceted, and young professionals often face a steep learning curve. Mentorship accelerates their learning process by providing them with guidance and insights that would take years to accumulate independently. Personal and Professional Development: Mentorship goes beyond just sharing technical knowledge; it also focuses on personal and professional growth. By offering guidance on skills such as communication, negotiation, and leadership, mentors can help young professionals become well-rounded and effective industry leaders. Building Confidence: The MICE industry can be challenging, and young professionals may sometimes doubt their abilities. A mentor’s encouragement and belief in their potential can boost their confidence, enabling them to take on more significant responsibilities and challenges. Networking Opportunities: Throughout my career, I’ve built a vast network of industry contacts. By connecting young professionals with key players in the field, I can help them expand their professional network, open doors to opportunities, and facilitate collaborations. Driving Innovation: Young professionals bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the table. Through mentorship, I can guide them in channeling their creativity into practical solutions that advance the industry.

I’ve actively advocated for mentorship programs, workshops, and initiatives that bring together experienced professionals and aspiring talents. By fostering mentorship relationships, we empower young professionals to become leaders who are well-equipped to tackle the challenges and opportunities of the ever-evolving MICE landscape.

You have also been a strong advocate and facilitator for the CEM Learning Program in Taiwan. Why do consider earning the CEM designation such a powerful professional asset?

I’m delighted to have been an advocate and facilitator for the Certified in Exhibition Management® (CEM) Learning Program in Taiwan, drawing from my own experiences as both a CEM certificate holder and a qualified CEM courses instructor.

The CEM designation holds professional value due to its industry recognition, providing a mark of excellence that showcases one’s commitment to professionalism and continuous improvement. Through comprehensive knowledge encompassing diverse topics, career advancement opportunities, valuable networking connections, enhanced skills development, a global perspective on industry trends, a focus on continuous learning, and its positive impact on employers’ perceptions, the CEM designation equips individuals with a powerful asset for success within the exhibition industry.

In your acceptance speech, you stressed the importance of digital transformation. What do you consider the most interesting technological advances affecting the industry today?

In my acceptance speech, I emphasized the paramount significance of digital transformation in shaping the future of the industry. Within this context, several technological advances have captured my attention as the most intriguing and influential in the realm of exhibitions and events:

Virtual and Hybrid Events: The rise of virtual and hybrid events has been a game-changer, allowing participants to engage remotely or combine in-person and virtual experiences. This technology enables broader reach, increased accessibility, and more personalized interactions, fundamentally altering the landscape of event engagement.

Immersive Technologies: Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are revolutionizing attendee experiences. From interactive product demonstrations to virtual venue tours, these technologies create engaging and immersive environments that enhance event engagement and leave lasting impressions.

Data Analytics and AI: The integration of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) provides insights into attendee behavior, preferences, and interests. This data-driven approach allows organizers to tailor experiences, optimize event layouts, and make informed decisions that drive participant satisfaction.

Sustainable Innovations: Environmentally conscious technologies, such as digital signage and paperless communication, are reducing the ecological footprint of events. These sustainable practices align with the industry’s increasing focus on corporate social responsibility.

Personalized Experiences: AI-driven personalization technologies enable event organizers to tailor content, recommendations, and experiences to individual attendee preferences, fostering deeper engagement and satisfaction.

It’s time to revolutionize the MICE industry using OMO (Online Merge Offline) strategies. Utilizing advanced interfaces like smart glasses or voice commands, we are poised to engage with contextual, real-time data triggered intuitively through elements like geolocation, computer vision, and voice, gestures, or biometric cues. This integration seamlessly blends the digital and physical realms for users. The emergence of the “Spatial Web” is currently unfolding, poised to dissolve the barriers between current digital content and physical objects. By employing sensors and digital mapping of the physical world, a digital replica of every object and location is in the making. While present access to such digital information relies on screens and dashboards, the future landscape envisions spatial interaction layers as the primary retrieval mode.

These technological advances collectively shape the trajectory of the exhibition and events industry, providing opportunities to enhance attendee experiences, broaden market reach, and drive innovation.

In your retirement, you have continued your dedication to promoting the industry in Taiwan and Asia. What would you like to see in the near future of exhibitions and events in the MICE region?

In my retirement, my dedication to promoting the exhibition and events industry in Taiwan and Asia remains steadfast. Looking toward the near future, there are several key developments and trends that I would eagerly anticipate for the MICE region:

Hybrid Experiences: I envision a seamless integration of in-person and virtual elements, where hybrid events become the norm. This approach would enable broader participation, cater to diverse preferences, and enhance the accessibility of knowledge sharing and networking.

Technological Development: Although the exact timing of the maturation of AR, VR, and Spatial Web technologies and their transformative impact on the MICE industry remains uncertain, the trajectory towards this future has been developing over the course of several decades. Just as past capabilities led to the emergence of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, the current forefront technologies are propelling and shaping the transition to the Spatial Web as they progress through the fundamental layers of IT architecture. Beyond these technological investments lie the synergistic advantages that arise not from their isolated implementation, but rather as components of a comprehensive strategy. This is the path to the evolution into Web 3.0.

Enhanced Engagement: The incorporation of advanced technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and interactive platforms will drive heightened engagement. Attendees will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in immersive experiences that go beyond traditional event formats.

Sustainability and CSR: The MICE industry will continue to prioritize sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Events will adopt eco-friendly practices, reduce waste, and contribute positively to local communities, aligning with global efforts to mitigate environmental impact.

Data-Driven Insights: The utilization of data analytics and artificial intelligence will become more sophisticated, enabling event organizers to gain deeper insights into attendee preferences and behaviors. These insights will guide personalized experiences and event optimization.

Global Collaboration: Cross-border collaboration among industry associations and organizations will intensify, driving the sharing of best practices and resources. This collaboration will contribute to the growth of the MICE sector and the establishment of consistent industry standards.

Lifelong Learning: Continuous education and professional development will be central to the industry’s success. Lifelong learning initiatives, like the Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM) program, will empower professionals to adapt to evolving trends and remain at the forefront of innovation. Ultimately, I aspire to witness the MICE region continue to thrive as a hub of innovation, collaboration, and impactful experiences. By embracing technological advancements, sustainable practices, and a commitment to excellence, the industry will evolve to meet the changing needs and expectations of participants while contributing to the economic growth of the region.

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!

 

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