Opinions Vietnam

Lost in translation

To attract young talent, Pacific World Vietnam’s Trang Pham says event professionals need to become better storytellers.

When I first joined the business events industry in Vietnam, I didn’t know what to expect. I had studied hospitality and worked previously in hotel operations, which I enjoyed, but found rather monotonous. So, events seemed like a natural progression — but I really wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be selling. When I asked this question, the response I received was: “Everything about your country”. Now that’s an exciting proposition… 

Eight years on, I still love coming in to work every day. Designing an event experience for conference or incentive delegates is so rewarding — I get to showcase the best of Vietnam and share our culture with visitors. Many of our international clients are first-time visitors to Vietnam, and when we unveil a ‘wow-factor’ moment in an incentive programme — like dining in a cave in the middle of Ha Long Bay — witnessing their reaction and feeling their excitement really drives my passion. 

I’ve also had the opportunity to travel and meet so many interesting people — from overseas agents and inspiring speakers, to celebrities and CEOs — and have learnt so much from this industry. As an event professional, I have to be creative, but also be able to solve problems, and I’ve developed so many new skills. This has helped me become a better professional, and a better person. 

This feeling can be difficult to explain, but it’s really important that we do. We need to tell our stories — yes, planning events can be exhausting, but our work really does spark joy. We must communicate this effectively if we want to attract young professionals to the industry. 

In Vietnam, the meetings and events industry is very new and, while policy-makers are realising the potential and appeal of our industry, more work needs to be done to engage young talent and raise professional standards. 

First, we need to be more active with universities and schools. As an industry, we should be represented at university career days, volunteer to be guest speakers, and host workshops so students can hear ‘from the horse’s mouth’ what it’s really like to work in events. 

Beyond training and college, I also believe we need to send our young professionals abroad, to neighbouring countries like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, where the business events industry is more established. Here they can really ‘experience’ event management, interact with industry peers, and improve their English language skills. 

A few months ago, we sent an account manager to the Pacific World Asia HQ in Singapore to work alongside our regional teams. He returned very confident and recently ran a week-long conference in Hanoi for 400 people. He is also the first Vietnamese event professional with a CMP certification. 

We also need to raise awareness and get the industry, however small, involved. An increase in international hotel brands like JW Marriott, Sofitel and InterContinental is helping to raise standards, but many suppliers are still not service-minded. In addition to this, many Vietnamese suppliers are not ‘Westernised’ and do not understand the needs of international delegates. 

This is an ongoing educational journey. We must continue to work with government to attract more business, more professionals and more storytellers. 

Trang Pham is MICE senior account manager at Pacific World Vietnam.