Charlz Ng is one of the men behind IRIS: Your Escape, Gay Games HK, and Spartan Race HK. An industry veteran, he tells Hive Life his take on the future of events.
Charlz Ng started out organising parties and events at university. As his career took form, he found himself collecting business cards, staying out late, and making connections with people without ever really connecting with many of them. Through those formative experiences, he co-founded an event agency called Hybrid Group in 2012 and continued to ride that wave of nightlife and networking over cocktails for another 4 years – but a lot has happened since Charlz first began his career, especially in the last 12 months.
Now, he’s the man behind Spartan Race Hong Kong, the co-owner of the much talked about boutique high-intensity training studio House of Fitness, and one of the founders of IRIS: Your Escape. As someone who’s made a successful career out of trading late nights out for early-morning yoga, Charlz has had plenty of cause to think outside the box. Off the back of Hong Kong protests and now, the global pandemic, Charlz is no stranger to adapting to uncontrollable circumstances.
With the world on pause as coronavirus continues its devastating spread across cities, the events industry has been under enormous pressure to adapt in order to survive. Turning their focus to content, events companies today are busy churning out virtual workshops, seminars, and wellness sessions in an effort to keep everyone locked down at home plugged in and invested.
“We want to show people that not everything has to stop. There are still things we can do – we just have to be more creative and smarter.
Founded in 2015, IRIS: Your Escape is known as Hong Kong’s largest fitness & wellness festival, and is usually held at Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront against the backdrop of the city’s renowned skyline. From yoga and meditation classes, calorie-burning HIIT workout sessions and vendors displaying an array of goodies for both physical and mental health, to stations that’ll make you feel like a kid in a jungle gym, IRIS: Your Escape is a true manifestation of the collaborative community spirit that exists in Hong Kong’s wellness industry. Now that they’ve taken that spirit online, they’re using their platform to bolster other self-starters in the community. “IRIS has shifted its focus to supporting local teachers and communities via our social media and online campaign IRIS: On Tour. Everyone is doing virtual classes, and instead of hosting our own, we act as a news channel so that these classes can get more exposure,” he explains.
“We want to show people that not everything has to stop. There are still things we can do – we just have to be more creative and smarter. I have been catching up with like-minded industry thought leaders who I previously may not have had the time to meet. Although an actionable solution may not be immediately present, speaking to others will help you gain clarity for yourself, and put you in a better mindset to collaborate with and support fellow community partners in order to achieve more than any one of us could achieve alone. I believe the power of ‘community’ is now more important than ever, and with our shared experiences combined I know we will generate a greater impact.”
When asked if this has been the most difficult phase of his career to date, Charlz responded with, “Definitely. Absolutely. But I have learnt so much in two months, and it may even change how I run my business from now on. In some ways, it’s a blessing in disguise to allow me to step out of my comfort zone to innovate.”
Never one to shy away from an opportunity to do more, Charlz is a proud member of the LGBT community and on the board of directors for Gay Games HK, which is slated to take place in 2022. “Back in 2016, I saw this post online and I got curious, so I looked into the Gay Games. They were looking for volunteers to contribute and try and set this up in Hong Kong, and I quickly realised that it was one of the world’s biggest sport and cultural events led by the LGBT community. I figured that this could really encourage people to be their true selves.”
Seeing value in creating space for the LGBT community within the fitness industry, Charlz remarks, “In Hong Kong, there aren’t many places for LGBT people to connect. When people gather, it’s usually at parties, but I feel like there could be more. I’m a big believer in representation and inclusion. The Gay Games doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or whether you’re male or female. We are all equal – everyone should have the right and opportunity to try out. And this could be that space for them.”
Seeing as the Gay Games are set to take place in 2022, Charlz is hopeful that things will pick back up again, slowly but surely – with the potential for something even better to take shape. “I think people in Hong Kong won’t show any hesitance to attend large events again. They may not fly to another country immediately, but local events will be in high demand. That means safety and security measures will need to increase with temperature checks and more. More events will become hybrids featuring a mix of live and virtual elements. Events reach may actually increase, which might attract sponsors who may not be interested in live events to begin with,” he elaborates.
“The call to embrace innovation is stronger than ever before. Events like IRIS and Spartan can’t be transferred into the digital world, but are there ways to enhance engagement through virtual delivery? Absolutely. I think the potential for this is limitless.”