HOW IT WORKS: IPHC Global Assembly 2015

By Stephanie Davis Smith, March 23, 2015

The chief of staff for International Pentecostal Holiness Church Ministries—and bona fide Okie—Terry Fowler travels to Hong Kong to orchestrate the upcoming quadrennial leadership conference halfway around the world in May 2015. Tiny hotel beds, lack of meeting space and train shoving won’t stop his grand plans. He explains the experience, thus far, in his own words.

Wing Kwong Church in Hong Kong

On the location…
We received an invitation from the 7,000-member Wing Kwong Pentecostal Holiness Church and its compelling pastor, Donavan Ng, to hold our global assembly in Hong Kong back in 2011. This is the first big conference I’ve planned outside the U.S. in my 35 years of meeting planning, and we’re expecting between 450 and 500 Pentecostal leaders. Hong Kong is an expensive venue so our focus is on connecting leadership from around the world. An Oklahoma City guy in downtown Hong Kong definitely stands out. Fortunately, I’ve had three trips there since we started planning and I’ve had a guide each time from the local church. Language isn’t really an issue because it’s a former British colony and the Chinese are taught English from preschool age.

On the venue…
I looked at 11 spots. Royal Plaza Hotel is a luxury hotel in the heart of Kowloon, and I picked it for its bedding. It’s one of very few hotels there that has true queen-size beds. Most have twin beds. We like to have everything under one roof if we can, so we’re meeting in the hotel. Everything is a la carte, and meeting space is expensive. For instance, space for a small group of 45 people costs around $3,500. For this reason, we scheduled some of our meetings at Wing Kwong Church, including the evening services. You don’t get any break for bulk room buys. The room rate we got translates into $206 per night and room upgrades are difficult to negotiate. I was only able to get five upgrades at the standard rate.

On negotiating…
In my experience in this aspect of planning, I normally ask for the moon, but quickly learned the Chinese are not as flexible with prices as Americans. They take pride in their facilities and demand premium prices. For example, you pay 90 percent prior to the event, which would not fly in the United States. We have to cut our estimate of attendees very close, which could create some problems for us in the end. We could come up short for rooms and end up having to pay more for last-minute reservations, but at the same time we don’t want to pay for 50 rooms we won’t use.

On conference space…
Meeting space is at a premium and extremely expensive. Everything in Hong Kong is vertical and they don’t have a lot of meetings that exceed  200 people. Even your chain hotels like Hilton don’t have big ballrooms—they only accommodate 500 people. I didn’t even check the prices at the convention center because my guide told
me I didn’t want to know.

On getting around…
We’re keeping the assembly in a small footprint, so no one has to wander off at all unless they choose to do so. Where we’re staying is connected to a large mall, which has multiple restaurants in addition to a train station they call MTR. The church is only two stops from the hotel. The MTR is the best way of getting around Hong Kong because the city has a population of over 7 million people and it is the most economical means of transportation. Pushing their way onto the train is a way of life for the people in Hong Kong and they do not think of it as being rude. For that reason, we arranged transportation bus service from the hotel to the church because we were afraid U.S. attendees wouldn’t be accustomed to that. We don’t want to risk them getting pushed down or lost.

On catering…
Catering is expensive in Hong Kong, and you can get Western food if you ask for it, but the banquet food at the hotel is primarily Chinese. It’s not American Chinese, but it’s still very good. They don’t cook their food nearly as much as we do. Hot tea is huge there and provided for everyone. Another unique thing is that where we would sit 10 at a table in America, they’re squeezing in 12. It is extremely tight. We like to spread out and they don’t.

On good advice…
I found it helpful to talk with the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s American office in Los Angeles, who paved the way for me to connect with the Tourism Board in Hong Kong. They help Americans understand the Chinese culture and perspective.

 

 

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