This week on the XLIVE Interview Series we sat down with Stephanie Selesnick, the US Representative of SNIEC – The Shanghai New International Expo Centre located in the Pudong section of Shanghai, China. It hosts many expos, including CES Asia and the Shanghai Motor Show, and is the only Western owned and run venue in China. We spoke with Stephanie on several topics including why event organizers should consider hosting their events at the SNIEC, and her goals for the convention center. Read her answers below!
Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us, Stephanie. For those who don’t already know, can you give us a brief overview of the SNIEC, how long the exhibition center has been holding events, and some of the events which are held there?
Thanks for speaking with me! The SNIEC is the only western run and owned exhibition venue in China. It has 2 million+ square feet of ground level inside space spread over 17 column-free buildings, with another 1 million square feet of outside space. There are three entry points, and some of the expos have more than 250,000 visitors.
We’ve been in business for 17 years, and host everything from large scale exhibitions to private corporate events to public shows. Some of our clients include Music China (the NAMM for China), CES Asia and the Shanghai Motor Show.
It’s a very flexible space. We’re located in the Pudong region of Shanghai, which is the newer area of the city. There are many hotels, restaurants and shops nearby, including two five-star hotels – one adjacent and one across the street – and we are only 25 minutes away from the Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
Shanghai is the most Westernized city in China. It has a great public transportation system (metros and buses), plentiful taxis and the Chinese version of Uber, Didi, which makes it very easy for event attendees to get to and from the venue. We also have on-site parking for over 8000 cars.
How, if at all, has the venue changed over the years with regards to size, technology available, and the venue’s goals?
The venue originally opened with a few less buildings. Regarding change, we are always trying to streamline and optimize our operations. Our customer service representatives speak English, and they have experience working with Westerners. These are important considerations when taking an event to China, as there are plenty of venues all over the country, but they don’t’ have a lot of experience or staff who speak English.
Our GM is Michael Kruppe, who originally hails from Germany. Michael has been in China for 28 years and speaks Chinese fluently. He brings Western sensibilities and a passion for service and quality to the venue.
One of our prime goals for the next couple of years is to diversify our client base. We are one of the most successful tradeshow venues in the world and want to add new kinds of events and reach new audiences.
In Shanghai, there’s nowhere traditional to hold a festival. There’s a very nice arena, but if you wanted to add an additional component such as a fan fair, in conjunction with an esports tournament, there’s nowhere to hold it. SNIEC has the space in the middle of the city to not only safely hold hundreds of thousands of people for an event, but it also has all the infrastructure in place to do it right.
As a private facility, we don’t receive tax dollars. However, the government is open to support other cultural consumer events like esports tourneys and musical festivals.
What types of events are best fit for the SNIEC, both types and size?
With 3 million+ square feet, there is a lot of space. We would love to have at music festival. There’s enough room in the outside area of the venue to hold a good-sized festival. There would be no camping as you’re in the middle of the city, but there are plenty of hotels rooms available at different price points. We’d also like to host an esports tourney or finale with a fan experience. For those who don’t know, esports is absolutely huge in China!
Why should event organizers in North and South America, and Europe consider holding their event at the SNIEC?
SNIEC is the 4th largest venue in China and is the only one that is Western owned and managed. It’s a partnership between three German Messes, and a local well connected Chinese real estate developer.
The campus has all of the ingredients and infrastructure an organizer needs for a successful event – easy transport, a variety of food and beverage outlets, restrooms, etc. In fact, with the growing need for connectivity, sometimes we’ll even bring in satellite trucks if there’s not enough Wi-Fi bandwidth for the expected crowd. We are also open to organizers bringing in their own A/V and staging needs.
In terms of public events in China, people love them. They go! Entertainment is huge. Western performers do well, and we think a music festival with a combination of Eastern and Western talent would be enormously successful here.
The largest trade show companies on the planet regularly hold events at our venue. It’s a great destination.
Why is Shanghai a great destination city for events and music festivals?
Shanghai is one of the great cities in the world. With such a huge local base (24.5 million people), organizers don’t have to worry about attracting attendees from other parts of the country or region, although they will. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants at different price points. If you want to do a high-end VIP experience, it’s easy. Additionally, for the right event, selling tickets is not an issue.
What are some of the largest concerns from event organizers whom you speak to about holding their events at the SNIEC, and how do you help them get past these concerns?
One of the things I’m commonly asked about is safety and security. At each of the three entrance points, there are metal detectors which every entrant walks through to gain entrance into the campus. Bag(s) are X-rayed, and large bags checked.
Also, in China, the private sale and ownership of guns is not allowed.
A second common question is around intellectual property protection. SNIEC has lawyers on the grounds, so in the case of one exhibitor finding another selling counterfeit products or equipment, a complaint may be filed on site, and the disputed items will be promptly removed from the show floor.
What is the largest challenge of your job?
The largest challenge for my job is explaining how China works. They are open for business. They do want to do business. Yes, there is definitely more regulation and government oversight than we are used to here in the US, but it IS doable, and it can be very, very lucrative.
There’s a market for music festivals and for esports tournaments. Someone has got to be the first. It’s a chance to corner the market and establish your event. Stake a claim, if you will. As a venue, SNIEC wants organizers to be successful – the first time. Whatever we can do to help, we will.
With regards to event marketing, how do you help events reach their Chinese audience? And with the government restrictions on different website and social media channels, how can you help an event organizer market their event or festival?
All things Google (including Gmail and Calendar), Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are banned in China. The Great Firewall prevents access over most internet connections. Instead, most social media marketing is done with a social media platform called WeChat. It’s got over 1 billion users monthly and is growing exponentially. Imagine all your social media combined into one place, along with PayPal. That’s WeChat. Some restaurants don’t event accept cash and only take payments through the platform.
So as an esports or festival organizer, your Chinese website is on WeChat, and ticket payments and distribution go through the platform. There are other social media platforms, but WeChat is the biggest.
One advantage to this free platform is that you may have unlimited people in a WeChat group. It enables you to set up a festival group to communicate directly with your goers. Other options are TV and radio. Lastly, we can make introductions to PR companies here in Shanghai to help with marketing your events on and off of WeChat along with production “boots on the ground”.
What’s your goal for the venue in the next 5 years? 10 years?
As mentioned previously, we’d like to bring in music festivals and esports tournaments, and we’d like to make those annual occurrences. Additionally, we’d like to continue to bring in more Western exhibitions and consumer events. Our goal is to remain the gold standard of all of the exhibition centers in China!