Event Planners on Tech: Melvin Byres, Hong Kong Rugby Union

People in Hong Kong are crazy about Rugby, especially in spring when the Hong Kong stadium in China’s commerce capital turns into a battleground for glory. Event manager Melvin Byres is one of the champions behind the big tournament.

During the Sevens, Melvin considers himself a firefighter. In his words, “On event day it’s largely about being able to react quickly to problems which arise.” Melvin is a passionate event veteran and he has seen a lot, but the Sevens are a special challenge every year. Fans are crazy about the series. The stadium opens at 7am and fills up right away, “so we normally arrive around 6am and won’t leave until close to midnight.”

As the Head of Sponsorship, Events & Strategy at the Hong Kong Rugby Union, Melvin works hard all year to make the 120,000 visitors of the Sevens happy. Melvin’s team handles events and VIP operations in the stadium and across the city.

Head of Sponsorship, Events & Strategy at the Hong Kong Rugby Union: Melvin Byres

His biggest challenge? It’s three very long days so managing staff, suppliers, and volunteers so they don’t burn out is an important part of the planning. Some people can keep going with event adrenalin but some of the team are in roles where you need to take proper breaks or mistakes start getting made. When asked about his personal schedule Melvin added: “I don’t get a lot of sleep during the Sevens. Typically 5 hours per night.” Despite it all, Melvin loves good planning that leads to a perfect event.

What do you love about your job?

It’s a privilege working with a great team delivering some of the biggest and most successful events in Hong Kong and working for an organization that does so much for the local community. As a not-for-profit, all profits from the Hong Kong Sevens and all of the HKRU’s other commercial activities are pumped back into the sport of rugby and the local community.

What is your biggest event nightmare?

We had an incident in 2015 where there was so much torrential rain that it caused the pitch and the spectator areas to flood. This was the heaviest rain Hong Kong had experienced in a generation and the worst of the downpour came at the exact time that the match was kicking off. The match had to be abandoned which meant a lot of wasted effort; the visiting team had travelled to Hong Kong for nothing, the event staff had put a lot of effort into planning the event and the loyal spectators had come out and got soaked all for nothing!

In 2016, how important is technology to plan great events?

The use of technology is crucial and an expectation for events of all sizes. Ranging from use of social media and CRM systems for promoting events to the use of guest registration systems and electronic ticketing for controlling access, not to mention use of technology to enhance the spectators experience with the use of apps and the like, event technology is here to stay and will only become more ingrained in modern-day events.

Are you an Android or an iPhone person?

Android as I’m more of a PC person.

What websites, applications or services are you using to find event venues and what do you like about them?

When we’re doing rugby matches, we know all of the venues already as we have a strong working relationship and there are very few of these in Hong Kong. For other events such as cocktail functions, our go-to website for finding venues is VenueHub; a Hong Kong start-up that specializes in finding unique venues and always offers a few options that match our criteria.

What’s your favorite application or service for marketing your events and why?

We’ve recently invested in the CRM system Salesforce; we hope this will help us to communicate more effectively sending the right message to the right person at the right time. We also make good use of social media for promoting events, with Facebook and Instagram being the most successful for us.

What applications are you using to engage your event attendees and why?

This is an area that is relatively new to us; for the Hong Kong Sevens 2016 we worked with Accenture to develop a Hong Kong Sevens mobile app; this received about 20,000 downloads in the first month and in our event survey rated highly as one of the best new features at the event.

How have you used technology to add a special or unique touch to your event?

Migrating guest list management to zkipster has been a god-send for us as the days of clipboards and printed guest lists which instantly become out of date are now a thing of the past. Being able to update the guest list through the cloud, as well as being able to remotely monitor who has arrived, is very useful in staying on top of everything.

Now for the rapid fire round! Tell us which application or service you’re using for…

• Event Registration: zkipster
• Ticketing: If we go digital, then we use Ticketflap
• Check-in: zkipster
• Meeting and scheduling: Outlook
• Presentations: PowerPoint

What applications or services are you using after your event to help you evaluate its success or gather feedback from attendees?

This is very important to use so have several approaches to this; we engage with Cimigo to do on site surveys, and then send personalised SurveyMonkey survey’s post event to various stakeholders, as well as asking participating teams for their own feedback.

Finally, what piece of event tech can’t you live without?

Strictly it’s not event tech, but I’m becoming more reliant on Evernote as running events is often a series of to-do lists, which thankfully Evernote helps to manage.