S02E03: Susan Chee, Founder & Director of Criteria & Connections, Malaysia

“We are in the business of the last minute!” says Susan Chee.

Susan is the founder and director of Criteria & Connections in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia whose business helps companies create memorable experiences through events, launches and conferences.

She has planned, organised and produced corporate events, new product launches, intimate bespoke events to technically complex and large-scale regional IT conferences for thousands of delegates.  

susan chee malaysia events management
“Events management is an art form of precision execution, coupled with furious pedalling of feet
below calm waters like the elegant gliding of the swan on a clear lake,” says Susan Chee.

Some noteworthy events include:

  • Managing the ultra-packed itinerary of the richest man in the world who was visiting Malaysia and didn’t even have time to gawk at him or even request a photograph! (In case you didn’t know who that was, it was Bill Gates.)
  • Organising a massive 600-delegate conference in Macao and undergoing so much stress that she slept the entire day once the last delegate got on the plane!
  • Managing 80s pop icon Rick Astley when he arrived in Malaysia and suddenly she realised he wasn’t very tall at all. (She was literally staring down at him.)

The business sounds glamorous. But when you’re behind-the-scenes, managing multiple schedules, clients, sub-contractors, vendors and teams, it is complex artistry at its best.

Known as “The Fixer”, Susan is the person you can count on to be unobtrusive yet fully engaged while developing and delivering events the way her customers want them. 

And no client request is too crazy or mad even if it means running all over the city looking for a specific item that the client wants for a teambuilding session!

In the pre-pandemic days, she and her team have organised destination incentive trips, senior management teambuilding retreats and glittering award ceremonies.

Besides corporate events, Susan is the one you call when you need to know protocol and how to handle dignitaries and visiting heads-of-state. She has been involved with planning and executing events that feature many of Malaysia’s politicians and business people including Tun Mahathir and Dato Tony Fernandes. 

She was most proud and pleased when she was asked by advertising company BBDO to organise a tribute party for the dame of Malaysian advertising, Jennifer Chan a few years ago. 

She and her team have in the past created and developed events for Bill Gates, Steve Balmer, Rick Astley, Pussycat Dolls’ Nicole Scherzinger, The Girls Generation, Yasmin Mahmood, Dato Paddy Bowie and the late Chuah Mei Lin from the Association of Banks in Malaysia whom she speaks of with deep fondness. 

It became big when I didn’t think it was big.
[Because all the while] I was looking at it from a small perspective. 

Susan chee

What hit her hard and what she couldn’t fix was the pandemic.

Yet in true Susan Chee fashion, she hasn’t let that stop her optimism and bubbliness that you will hear in this episode. She cites her humble parents as her inspiration and any music from the 70s right up to the 90s as her favourites.

She is also most proud that she was among the top 3 finalists in the “Young Manager of the Year Award” in 2009, organised by The Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM) & Public Bank Berhad. She is also immensely proud that she is a certified events facilitator for a meal-packing event by an NGO, Rise Against Hunger – Asia chapter. Helping the community is very much close to her heart and she takes every opportunity to help the less fortunate through her events company.

We had a superbly fun conversation where she spoke about:

  • How she managed and “processed” 1000+ participants for the biggest Windows 2000 launch in Malaysia back then
  • What she did when she got tired of everything!
  • How her boss’ husband created a role specifically for her before she left to start her business
  • How her growing billings changed her thinking from being a freelancer to being a boss
  • How she handled prospecting and what she did as a follow-up
  • How she went from blindly processing every enquiry and RFP (Request For Proposal) to becoming smart about her pitches and proposals so that others didn’t steal her best ideas!
  • What she says to people who try to get away without paying royalties for music used
  • Her “eye roll” list and the occupational hazards and the “sickness” that plagues most event planners and conference organisers

It was immensely fun interviewing her so much so that we went over the hour!

Connect with Susan Chee on Facebook.

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