Four nights in Bangkok

Apr 16 | 2018

A report on the first ever IMA conference in Bangkok, by Steve Jordan

It was in the sultry heat of Bangkok that 151 members of the mobility industry gathered for the first ever International Mobility Alliance conference.  It was new and so expected to be different. 

Anything new is always something of a risk and starting a new industry event, in the midst of a crowded convention calendar, was bold and gutsy.  But founder Patricia Jade Ooi said that she had a lot of support and inspiration to move forward.   

And that did seem to be so.  When I arrived the day before the conference started, many delegates had already been there for two days.  They had arrived early to take in the delights of one of the world’s most vibrant cities and spend some time together.  The atmosphere was relaxed, friendly, and charged with anticipation.  Everyone expected it to be a success.  They were not to be disappointed. 

Despite her modest style, it was obvious that Pat had worked very hard to get everything ‘just so’ for her inaugural event.  The Partner4Partner Scheduler, sponsored by SIRVA, enabled delegates to book a 30-minute slot to have each-other’s undivided attention and it worked flawlessly with very few, if any, no shows.  The refreshments were a nice touch too and there was plenty of space for people to get away from the crowd if they wanted a quiet moment of reflection or to have an unscheduled meeting.  The food was lavish with many delegates saying they felt lost in the variety of food served. 

Thank goodness there was no roll call!  Instead, Adrian, the vivacious MC, kicked off the proceedings with a warm welcome, there was a brief introduction from Pat and then Craig Somerville representing Operation Smile, the conference’s designated charity, gave a moving presentation of how the funds are used to provide surgery and post-operative care for children with cleft lip and palate.  It was estimated that the sum donated by the IMA2018 community would change (and perhaps save) the lives of six children.   

I was invited to be the keynote speaker followed by Fred Schlomann, Vice President, APAC for Airinc and Calvin Chin, Global Operations Manager from Altair Global.  The common theme of the presentations was the impact of technology and what it takes to stay in and succeed in the business.     

But if there was little difference of proceedings with other industry events, I did detect a different atmosphere all around.  Maybe it was just because it was new.  I don’t know why it felt different, but it did.  When people went out, they tended to go together – no private parties or groups, just friends, connecting and spending quality time together.  Everyone looked out and took care of each other. There were no egos to be massaged.  The entertainment was simple, no lavish dinners and one-upmanship, just a bottle of beer at the Titanium bar down the street from the hotel listening to the all-girl Unicorn Band blasting out Proud Mary.  Exquisite!  

Pat had put in some of her own touches too.  She presented everyone with a personalised gift to thank them for attending.  She kept everyone in touch during and after the event so nobody had a chance to feel left out in the big city.  By staying true to her ‘hostess with the mostest’ title, Pat made sure she looked after and entertained all of us during the Celebration Dinner which fell on Makha Bucha Day, a Buddhist holiday, while the streets outside were eerily quiet. 

The entertainment at the Celebration Dinner was a little unconventional too.  Pat kicked it off with a heartfelt speech.  There was an excellent six-piece band to keep everyone singing along during the meal.  Then, in a complete change of pace, MT Rajah from Kellys Express in Indonesia took to the stage dressed as Gandhi: a remarkable likeness and very funny.  Calvin Chin from Altair did a different and unexpected version of Tai Chi kungfu.  In between performances, there were lucky draws from various delegates who shared a gift from home reflecting their culture.  Gifts included a silver minted Krugerrand, an Egyptian bust of King Tut and an aboriginal boomerang. The Italian delegation - Francesco Argiro from Bliss, Max Ajroldi from Franzosini and Giovanni Moscarello from Bolliger - did a very good Pavarotti rendition of La Donna È Mobile.  Lorena Pau and Stefani Silva from Mudinmar, Spain delighted everyone with an enchanting display of a flamenco dance called the ‘Servillanas’.  And even I borrowed a guitar from the band and braved the critics with a song ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ to end the evening.  One delegate said to me during the dinner, before I picked up the guitar, that it was nice to see people having fun again at a conference.  I hope he felt the same after my performance.  Everyone, however, agreed that it had been a great evening and an excellent conference throughout.    

It would be wrong to pretend that everything was perfect, it wasn’t.  But the failings were trivial and before the conference closed speculation was rife as to the date and location of IMA 2019, with many wanting to sign-up immediately.  Pat, if she knows, is keeping that piece of information very quiet for now.   

On stage at IMA: Three speakers delivered short presentations on different subjects but all with a common thread - technology.

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