It’s no secret that many amazing events in Malaysia are organised from the grounds up by deeply passionate people. They love what they do, and have a strong desire to create an impact in their industries and society. What has been somewhat less clear though is the ideation process behind their events and how they have managed to grow them successfully.
In the lead up to Merdeka and Malaysia Day 2015, five amazing event organisers who have grown their events from the grounds up have come together to share with the community exactly that–their inspiration behind their events and their “secret sauce to success” in this #HomegrownMY edition of Backstage Pass KL, held on 10 September at the spanky new The Co KL, Bangsar.
As the speakers presented their Pecha Kucha style presentations, a few common themes appeared, summing up the basic ingredients that ground these events:
1. Focus on the purpose. For Daniel Cerventus Lim, who was fresh off organising the third biggest TEDx in the world right here in Kuala Lumpur, the objective of TEDxKL was to make TED talks accessible to Malaysians (the main TED event in Canada cost too much), and to establish a discovery platform for amazing Malaysians doing amazing things. And so when they started off with just 54 people in the audience in the first year, they remained focused on the purpose of making it accessible and kept going. One of the speeches close to the community’s’ heart was one that was delivered by filmmaker Ms Yasmin Ahmad; probably one of the last public speeches before she passed away, she is remembered by the community for sharing from the heart and with humor.
Similarly, Fikri Fadzil, who founded the The Wknd Sessions, felt that to focus on profits was to detract from their objective of supporting local indie musicians, who needed more exposure before they became commercially established. Hence their team looked at breaking even (instead of making profits) for their events to be able to continue their mission.
2. Engaging the audience with good content. Hardesh Singh, the founder of PopDigital, shared that the recently held The Cooler Lumpur Festival was aimed at creating an experience where the audience was more than consumers. Their strategy was to pivot from a literary festival to an “ideas festival” to enable attendees to actively participate and learn. Hardesh also demonstrated how they have successfully integrated sponsors’ content into the festival, citing the example of BMW that had returned every year as a sponsor although they were not from the literary industry.
Wee Kiat, one of the founders of myBurgerLab, was inspired by the talks and war stories shared by entrepreneurs in Startup Grind and founded Smartly Seasoned to get F&B entrepreneurs to share lessons that would have prevented costly mistakes when opening restaurants and cafes. He felt that building relationships in the F&B industry is an integral part of experience sharing and in turn reinforce good content.
3. Grow the team. All the organisers stressed on the importance of a good team. For Curry Khoo from TE4P, building the tech ecosystem in Penang is a team effort, and his playbook has been to start an event (from Bar Camp to GDays and DevFest Georgetown to Startup Weekend) and then passing it on to a team who has been groomed to take over.
Other great tips:
Fikri: Experiment and collaborate (citing his collaboration with Kakiseni to present film plus live band)
Daniel: Be willing to be scrappy as people are willing to forgive you. Bootstrap, be frugal (TEDxKL has 10% of the budget of TEDxAmsterdam)
Hardesh: Be inclusive and give back (they created a writing residency to support local writers)
Curry: Be consistent even if your events are small
Wee Kiat: Put customers first
Each speaker closed the session by reinforcing the impact they hope to make and their wish for Malaysia this Malaysia Day
“I want to be able to showcase Malaysians doing amazing things, and hope that more Malaysians will aim for the moon.” – Daniel
“Hope to see entrepreneurs in F&B break the cycle of opening and closing restaurants, and hope to see higher level of quality and service in the F&B industry in Malaysia.” – Wee Kiat
“I hope to discover the next Yuna, to give local musicians confidence in their ability and the music that they produce.” – Fikri
“I want to provide the space for Malaysians to debate, including controversial ideas, and to invest in the potential of what Malaysians can be.” – Hardesh
“I want to grow the tech ecosystem in Penang, and to demonstrate that a “non-main city” can be successful, to inspire movements in other smaller cities.” – Curry
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