Staff Reporters
Jul 10, 2019

Rising Stars: 2019's class of upcoming talent in events and experiential marketing

Presenting our first-ever list of promising talent in events and experiential marketing, as chosen by the editorial team of Campaign Asia-Pacific.

Michelle Ono | Event manager, Belle Laide Events | Australia: Like many in the events industry, Michelle Ono came to it via an unconventional route – though not many can say they started in veterinary science. Part-time hospitality and corporate event work while at university opened up the industry to her, and a change in her studies to event management led to an internship at Belle Laide Events (BLE), where she was snapped up upon graduation in 2017 and has since been twice promoted. 
Ono has also taken on a key role evolving BLE’s sustainability practices, from sourcing ethically made giveaway bags to negotiating a deal with Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre to return any unused ingredients from a pop-up juice bar during a Telstra activation. Ono is also passionate about training the next generation of event professionals. She helped develop BLE’s vocational programme by ensuring the experience was of real value to the students. For example, during an Adobe Symposium, she assisted in training 150 students – creating the content and delivery for these workshops as well as an online training portal. Some of Ono’s highlights this year have included assisting in BLE’s successful pitch for the Microsoft event account (from a field of 77 agencies) and helping to build BLE’s Microsoft on-boarding training document.

Michelle Ono | Event manager, Belle Laide Events | Australia: Like many in the events industry, Michelle Ono came to it via an unconventional route – though not many can say they started in veterinary science. Part-time hospitality and corporate event work while at university opened up the industry to her, and a change in her studies to event management led to an internship at Belle Laide Events (BLE), where she was snapped up upon graduation in 2017 and has since been twice promoted. Ono has also taken on a key role evolving BLE’s sustainability practices, from sourcing ethically made giveaway bags to negotiating a deal with Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre to return any unused ingredients from a pop-up juice bar during a Telstra activation. Ono is also passionate about training the next generation of event professionals. She helped develop BLE’s vocational programme by ensuring the experience was of real value to the students. For example, during an Adobe Symposium, she assisted in training 150 students – creating the content and delivery for these workshops as well as an online training portal. Some of Ono’s highlights this year have included assisting in BLE’s successful pitch for the Microsoft event account (from a field of 77 agencies) and helping to build BLE’s Microsoft on-boarding training document.

Amanda Li | Senior event planner, Riviera Events | China: She may be a fairly new entrant to the events world, but already, Amanda Li is making waves at Riviera Events where she’s an expert in the luxury travel portfolio. Through her client events, Li has demonstrated a penchant for utilising technology to innovate, allowing guests to travel to different “locations” that aim to transcend time and space. An example of this was Ctrip’s 8.0 app launch where she created a series of interactive and visually exciting photo opportunities that guests could engage with via social media. Without a tangible product, the challenge was bringing together digital elements into the real world and creating an event environment reflecting the innovative nature of the brand. The event turned out to be a roaring success and for it, the agency bagged the 2019 APAC Stevie Award for Innovation for Consumer Events. It’s no wonder her individual sales target was exceeded by 40% in 2018. Subsequently, she won a big pitch for the agency – a roadshow for Wine Australia China which the client praised as one of its most successful marketing campaigns of 2018. On top of that, she leads the planning of Riviera’s in-house charity event, Fizz & Baozi, which gathers the F&B industry to raise funds for Shanghai Healing Home.

Amanda Li | Senior event planner, Riviera Events | China: She may be a fairly new entrant to the events world, but already, Amanda Li is making waves at Riviera Events where she’s an expert in the luxury travel portfolio. Through her client events, Li has demonstrated a penchant for utilising technology to innovate, allowing guests to travel to different “locations” that aim to transcend time and space. An example of this was Ctrip’s 8.0 app launch where she created a series of interactive and visually exciting photo opportunities that guests could engage with via social media. Without a tangible product, the challenge was bringing together digital elements into the real world and creating an event environment reflecting the innovative nature of the brand. The event turned out to be a roaring success and for it, the agency bagged the 2019 APAC Stevie Award for Innovation for Consumer Events. It’s no wonder her individual sales target was exceeded by 40% in 2018. Subsequently, she won a big pitch for the agency – a roadshow for Wine Australia China which the client praised as one of its most successful marketing campaigns of 2018. On top of that, she leads the planning of Riviera’s in-house charity event, Fizz & Baozi, which gathers the F&B industry to raise funds for Shanghai Healing Home.

Andrew Churchill | Regional account director, George P. Johnson Singapore | Singapore: Having only been at George P. Johnson Singapore for a year, Andrew Churchill has managed to demonstrate persistence in the pursuit of the agency’s global, regional, 
and local account goals for 2018. Proof is in his ownership of the agency’s entire Google business. When he joined, the agency made a decision to spend resources and time learning the client business for Google. During this project, he spent six months connecting with global colleagues, learning the Asian business, client products and opportunities for Asia, as well as developing a 200-page playbook for his colleagues. He also mentors both the production and creative teams. 
One of Churchill’s strengths is opening up new business opportunities across various streams and encouraging cross-functional working groups. One way he’s done that is by opening up opportunities for sister agencies where their skill-sets better suit client requirements, as well as combining the network breadth of the agency’s marketing skill-sets with his own team’s brand knowledge. It’s no wonder that Churchill was asked to join the agency’s Regional Leadership Summit ‘Ideate’ as its own Rising Star in late 2018.

Andrew Churchill | Regional account director, George P. Johnson Singapore | Singapore: Having only been at George P. Johnson Singapore for a year, Andrew Churchill has managed to demonstrate persistence in the pursuit of the agency’s global, regional, and local account goals for 2018. Proof is in his ownership of the agency’s entire Google business. When he joined, the agency made a decision to spend resources and time learning the client business for Google. During this project, he spent six months connecting with global colleagues, learning the Asian business, client products and opportunities for Asia, as well as developing a 200-page playbook for his colleagues. He also mentors both the production and creative teams. One of Churchill’s strengths is opening up new business opportunities across various streams and encouraging cross-functional working groups. One way he’s done that is by opening up opportunities for sister agencies where their skill-sets better suit client requirements, as well as combining the network breadth of the agency’s marketing skill-sets with his own team’s brand knowledge. It’s no wonder that Churchill was asked to join the agency’s Regional Leadership Summit ‘Ideate’ as its own Rising Star in late 2018.

Anna Lim | Senior events project manager, BI Worldwide Singapore | Singapore: Anna Lim is described by her boss, head of events Marine Debatte, as “a true industry advocate in the making”. The fact that Lim regularly sits on panels for tourism boards, comments as a thought leader in the media, and is an active PCMA member, makes it difficult to dispute Debatte’s praise. 
Lim’s past experience at George P. Johnson prepped her for project-based work with a production angle and strengthened her local network with qualified suppliers, skills which she brought with her to BI Worldwide three years ago. In recent years, she’s proven herself as a detail-orientated planner, setting new benchmarks for rundowns and budget breakdowns. 
If the industry is about building connections, Lim’s sparkling personality has allowed her to forge relationships that have brought in business not only for the APAC office, but also for the China and Latin America businesses. According to Debatte, “none of them consider running a programme without Lim onboard”. Debatte isn’t the only one who sings Lim’s praises – clients and suppliers are on the same page. One client wrote to say that Lim demonstrated star qualities for a customer event in Siem Reap by “anticipating [the client’s] needs the way no other event planner had ever done”.

Anna Lim | Senior events project manager, BI Worldwide Singapore | Singapore: Anna Lim is described by her boss, head of events Marine Debatte, as “a true industry advocate in the making”. The fact that Lim regularly sits on panels for tourism boards, comments as a thought leader in the media, and is an active PCMA member, makes it difficult to dispute Debatte’s praise. Lim’s past experience at George P. Johnson prepped her for project-based work with a production angle and strengthened her local network with qualified suppliers, skills which she brought with her to BI Worldwide three years ago. In recent years, she’s proven herself as a detail-orientated planner, setting new benchmarks for rundowns and budget breakdowns. If the industry is about building connections, Lim’s sparkling personality has allowed her to forge relationships that have brought in business not only for the APAC office, but also for the China and Latin America businesses. According to Debatte, “none of them consider running a programme without Lim onboard”. Debatte isn’t the only one who sings Lim’s praises – clients and suppliers are on the same page. One client wrote to say that Lim demonstrated star qualities for a customer event in Siem Reap by “anticipating [the client’s] needs the way no other event planner had ever done”.

Celia Chan | Assistant director, events services, Sheraton Grand Macao and the St Regis Macao | Macau: Celia Chan joined the industry in 2006 as a catering and events executive at MGM Macau. In 2012, she joined Sheraton Grand Macao as assistant manager, events services, and has since been promoted twice. 
As part of the pre-opening team, Chan’s passion and hard work has been instrumental in forming the foundations of a successful, outcome-oriented team that delivers hundreds of events each year. Despite having targets for two separate hotels, she managed to exceed both in 2018. For Sheraton Grand Macao, Chan achieved 116.61% against target, while for The St. Regis Macao, she achieved a phenomenal 140.39% against her target. Also in 2018, Chan drove the streamlining of contractual processes to reduce delay in contract timeframes and allow the sales team to focus on attracting new business. The team has achieved 100% compliance with the new procedure.

Celia Chan | Assistant director, events services, Sheraton Grand Macao and the St Regis Macao | Macau: Celia Chan joined the industry in 2006 as a catering and events executive at MGM Macau. In 2012, she joined Sheraton Grand Macao as assistant manager, events services, and has since been promoted twice. As part of the pre-opening team, Chan’s passion and hard work has been instrumental in forming the foundations of a successful, outcome-oriented team that delivers hundreds of events each year. Despite having targets for two separate hotels, she managed to exceed both in 2018. For Sheraton Grand Macao, Chan achieved 116.61% against target, while for The St. Regis Macao, she achieved a phenomenal 140.39% against her target. Also in 2018, Chan drove the streamlining of contractual processes to reduce delay in contract timeframes and allow the sales team to focus on attracting new business. The team has achieved 100% compliance with the new procedure.

Devanthi Ambuldeniya | Manager, business development, reservations & events, Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall | Sri Lanka: BMICH is one of the major exhibition and conference venues in Colombo, and heading the reservations and events team is the capable Devanthi Ambuldeniya. Having started her career as a guest relations executive in tourism, she’s swiftly worked her way up to manage events and reservations at the centre where she’s already demonstrated a track record of converting business from competitor centres after just two years. Some events that she played a vital role in winning and managing were the World Wildlife Congress, the IWA Water and Development Congress, the upcoming World Conference on Drowning Prevention in 2021, and the FAPA Congress in 2020. Though some of these events have since been postponed or moved following the tragic Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, 2017 and 2018 marked an increase in revenue for the centre due to her diligence. Not one to leave her colleagues behind, Ambuldeniya has been praised as being a good communicator and continually engaging her team in big decisions. On top of that, she’s also passionate about positioning Sri Lanka as an attractive events destination in South Asia – a noble task.

Devanthi Ambuldeniya | Manager, business development, reservations & events, Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall | Sri Lanka: BMICH is one of the major exhibition and conference venues in Colombo, and heading the reservations and events team is the capable Devanthi Ambuldeniya. Having started her career as a guest relations executive in tourism, she’s swiftly worked her way up to manage events and reservations at the centre where she’s already demonstrated a track record of converting business from competitor centres after just two years. Some events that she played a vital role in winning and managing were the World Wildlife Congress, the IWA Water and Development Congress, the upcoming World Conference on Drowning Prevention in 2021, and the FAPA Congress in 2020. Though some of these events have since been postponed or moved following the tragic Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, 2017 and 2018 marked an increase in revenue for the centre due to her diligence. Not one to leave her colleagues behind, Ambuldeniya has been praised as being a good communicator and continually engaging her team in big decisions. On top of that, she’s also passionate about positioning Sri Lanka as an attractive events destination in South Asia – a noble task.

Flavia Lins | Associate director of event sales & planning, Hyatt Regency Sydney | Australia: Flavia Lins has always had a passion for hospitality and events, commencing her university studies in Brazil before transferring to Sydney to finish. She began her career as a banquets attendant running major events at hotels before moving to Sydney Festival in the role of hospitality coordinator looking after backstage catering, artist parties, entertainment, launches and after-parties. Following this, she returned to hotels, and spent eight years working her way from catering to managing events, VIPs and in-house entertainment including Justin Bieber and Oprah Winfrey. 
Lins now plays an integral role at Hyatt Regency Sydney, as a senior leader in a team of 20 event salespeople and planners. In 2018, she secured an event that had been held at a rival hotel for the previous three years, and was valued at US$120,000 in revenue. In 2019, she confirmed an event for February 2020 with an expected revenue of US$90,000. She also secured a number of major repeat events including the New South Wales Rotary Police Awards, the Australian Radio Network (ARN) Annual Dinner, and HubSpot, a one-day event for 1,000 people.

Flavia Lins | Associate director of event sales & planning, Hyatt Regency Sydney | Australia: Flavia Lins has always had a passion for hospitality and events, commencing her university studies in Brazil before transferring to Sydney to finish. She began her career as a banquets attendant running major events at hotels before moving to Sydney Festival in the role of hospitality coordinator looking after backstage catering, artist parties, entertainment, launches and after-parties. Following this, she returned to hotels, and spent eight years working her way from catering to managing events, VIPs and in-house entertainment including Justin Bieber and Oprah Winfrey. Lins now plays an integral role at Hyatt Regency Sydney, as a senior leader in a team of 20 event salespeople and planners. In 2018, she secured an event that had been held at a rival hotel for the previous three years, and was valued at US$120,000 in revenue. In 2019, she confirmed an event for February 2020 with an expected revenue of US$90,000. She also secured a number of major repeat events including the New South Wales Rotary Police Awards, the Australian Radio Network (ARN) Annual Dinner, and HubSpot, a one-day event for 1,000 people.

Irene Ngai | Head of events team, MedComms Operations HK, MIMS | Hong Kong: Pharmaceutical resource MIMS continually puts on medical events and learning sessions that perfectly showcase the power of events as a platform for education and empowerment. A key driver in the Hong Kong events team is Irene Ngai, an accomplished, level-headed leader with a string of successful medical meetings under her belt.
A particular strength of Ngai is the ability to problem-solve with grace and composure. At one particular client event where the logistics needed to be precise and the workshops required flexibility, she consulted with the KOL in charge to map out the sequence of speakers and content to align with logistical considerations. By working simultaneously with the different parties involved, she managed to develop an easily dismantled stage set-up within the budget. Her ability to adapt to complex situations and propose practical alternatives to clients has worked well on both the logistics and scientific or content fronts – and it’s this quality that brings clients back, according to Victor Wright, chief client officer, pharma marketing, MIMS. Ngai has also managed to train up a new and inexperienced team and instilled a strong team spirit.

Irene Ngai | Head of events team, MedComms Operations HK, MIMS | Hong Kong: Pharmaceutical resource MIMS continually puts on medical events and learning sessions that perfectly showcase the power of events as a platform for education and empowerment. A key driver in the Hong Kong events team is Irene Ngai, an accomplished, level-headed leader with a string of successful medical meetings under her belt. A particular strength of Ngai is the ability to problem-solve with grace and composure. At one particular client event where the logistics needed to be precise and the workshops required flexibility, she consulted with the KOL in charge to map out the sequence of speakers and content to align with logistical considerations. By working simultaneously with the different parties involved, she managed to develop an easily dismantled stage set-up within the budget. Her ability to adapt to complex situations and propose practical alternatives to clients has worked well on both the logistics and scientific or content fronts – and it’s this quality that brings clients back, according to Victor Wright, chief client officer, pharma marketing, MIMS. Ngai has also managed to train up a new and inexperienced team and instilled a strong team spirit.

Qixin Liow | Senior account manager, experiential events, Pacific World Singapore | Singapore: Qixin Liow started with Pacific World as a part-time, on-site employee while studying. Her potential in the events industry was clearly recognisable, and she was offered a full-time position in 2012 at the age of just 22. Part of servicing the M&E industry is providing a constant flow of new ideas and Liow is prized for her creative approach, ideas for new venues, experiences and event technology applications – regardless of whether she’s been briefed. This approach inspires her colleagues to scratch below a destination’s surface to develop new products. It has also led to significant wins for Pacific World. Liow has worked on 21 opportunities and won an impressive 10 of them, including the Global Youth Sciences Summit valued at over S$3,000,000 (US$2.2mil) – one of the company’s most important bids for the financial year. As the events industry combats stress and overwork, Liow, with her approach to efficiency in her work days, is proof that maintaining  a healthy work-life balance is important.

Qixin Liow | Senior account manager, experiential events, Pacific World Singapore | Singapore: Qixin Liow started with Pacific World as a part-time, on-site employee while studying. Her potential in the events industry was clearly recognisable, and she was offered a full-time position in 2012 at the age of just 22. Part of servicing the M&E industry is providing a constant flow of new ideas and Liow is prized for her creative approach, ideas for new venues, experiences and event technology applications – regardless of whether she’s been briefed. This approach inspires her colleagues to scratch below a destination’s surface to develop new products. It has also led to significant wins for Pacific World. Liow has worked on 21 opportunities and won an impressive 10 of them, including the Global Youth Sciences Summit valued at over S$3,000,000 (US$2.2mil) – one of the company’s most important bids for the financial year. As the events industry combats stress and overwork, Liow, with her approach to efficiency in her work days, is proof that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is important.

Ryhan Shaik | Senior sales manager – meetings & events, Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford | Singapore: Ryhan Shaik started her career in Germany before returning to her native Singapore Accor as corporate sales & MICE manager at Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy before progressing to her current role at Fairmont Singapore & Swissôtel The Stamford after just nine months. Since taking on the senior sales manager role, Shaik has proven herself a self-starter. Over the past year, she has spearheaded growth in the MICE segment and through her natural flair for building connections, expanded the client base from 20 to 800 qualified contacts. She’s also firmly established relationships with top-volume accounts and new accounts under her care. HSBC recorded the highest production at Fairmont in the last 10 years, and she has acquired new RFP accounts such as Schroders and Deloitte. On top of that, she’s successfully revived dormant accounts such as Rabobank, which confirmed a US$60,000 VIP event. Because of her good work, she’s been given the additional portfolio of the entertainment and media industry to tap into and quickly brought in a number of international acts to drive a new market for the hotel.

Ryhan Shaik | Senior sales manager – meetings & events, Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford | Singapore: Ryhan Shaik started her career in Germany before returning to her native Singapore Accor as corporate sales & MICE manager at Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy before progressing to her current role at Fairmont Singapore & Swissôtel The Stamford after just nine months. Since taking on the senior sales manager role, Shaik has proven herself a self-starter. Over the past year, she has spearheaded growth in the MICE segment and through her natural flair for building connections, expanded the client base from 20 to 800 qualified contacts. She’s also firmly established relationships with top-volume accounts and new accounts under her care. HSBC recorded the highest production at Fairmont in the last 10 years, and she has acquired new RFP accounts such as Schroders and Deloitte. On top of that, she’s successfully revived dormant accounts such as Rabobank, which confirmed a US$60,000 VIP event. Because of her good work, she’s been given the additional portfolio of the entertainment and media industry to tap into and quickly brought in a number of international acts to drive a new market for the hotel.

Rising Stars: 2019's class ...
Michelle Ono | Event ...
Amanda Li | Senior event ...
Andrew Churchill | ...
Anna Lim | Senior events ...
Celia Chan | Assistant ...
Devanthi Ambuldeniya | ...
Flavia Lins | Associate ...
Irene Ngai | Head of ...
Qixin Liow | Senior ...
Ryhan Shaik | Senior sales ...

Our inaugural Rising Stars list aims to shine a spotlight on Asia-Pacific’s best and brightest in events, brand experience, and experiential marketing. These are individuals who are delivering great work, practicing model working habits within their companies and/or with their clients, and helping to push the industry forward.

In April, we put out a call for entries for, and from there, our in-house judging team consisting of members of Campaign Asia-Pacific's senior editorial staff collectively agreed that these 10 candidates stand out as people championing change and progress in the region. Whether it's going above and beyond for clients, championing the fight against overwork, or nurturing team members, these superstars have what it takes to prosper in the competitive world of events.

We congratulate all these impressive high achievers and wish them all the best on their way forwards. We hope this nomination will encourage them to continue to succeed.

Here is a complete (unranked) list of the winners:

  • Anna Lim, senior events project manager, BI Worldwide Singapore
  • Andrew Churchill, regional account director, George P. Johnson Singapore
  • Celia Chan, assistant director, events services, Sheraton Grand Macao and the St Regis Macao
  • Amanda Li, senior event planner, Riviera Events
  • Michelle Ono, event manager, Belle Laide Events
  • Ryhan Shaik, senior sales manager – meetings & events, Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford
  • Flavia Lins, associate director of event sales & planning, Hyatt Regency Sydney
  • Irene Ngai, head of events team, MedComms Operations HK, MIMS
  • Qixin Liow, senior account manager, experiential events, Pacific World Singapore
  • Devanthi Ambuldeniya, manager, business development, reservations & events, Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall 

(Desktop users: Hover mouse to expand captions on above pictures; move mouse away to collapse. Mobile users: Swipe right to advance.)

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