Learning with TBOE

Day 1 Highlights from The Business of Events

Posted on February 7th, 2019 in Event News, Industry Insight, Leadership

The Business of Events conference was officially opened by Laura Schwartz, Former White House Director of Events, asking delegates, “Are you ready to eat, drink and succeed?”

Laura spoke of her time organising events at the White House; one such event was a state dinner in 1993. On the guest list was Steven Spielberg, who met two other men for the first time that night. These men spent the whole night huddled in the corner, missing the entertainment segment, eating and drinking. 13 days later these three men formed DreamWorks.

“Events are about creating an atmosphere for people to share challenges and search for solutions – while they eat, drink and succeed.”

Panel Highlights: The Business of Making An Australian Event An International Success

Laura kicked off an executive panel of Australian event leaders by asking, ‘What defines the success of your event?”. Andrew Stark, General Manager, World Surf League Australia said to host a successful event for the World Surf League Australia they have to have a connected team. They focus on open and honest conversations to make sure nothing is missed.

Damien Hodgkinson, Executive Director, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, spoke of the importance of supporting and building a great comedy community. Starting from building pathways for people to enter comedy through to driving the right platform for artists to succeed. Strong teams are very important with a strong culture of sharing ideas.

Other successful strategies included: working with Visit Victoria to promote the rest of Melbourne and extend their stay when they are here; understanding what sponsors really want and developing a free family outdoor program all whilst ensuring authenticity across all that is done.

Helen Sawczak, National CEO, Australia China Business Council, said her top tip for a successful event is to know your target audience. Sawczak suggested the events industry is becoming overcrowded, and the way we deliver programs is always changing. She spoke about encouraging event planners to jump on new platforms and technology such as ‘WeChat’, to interact and engage attendees through various touch points. ‘Savvy event organisation is about understanding your target market, and everyone is going digital. You need to make sure you are using the appropriate digital platforms.”

Sawczak also highlighted the barriers of events in Australia. She said Australia is too far away, expensive and doesn’t always have the right infrastructure to support successful events.

Andrew Westacott, CEO, Australian Grand Prix Corporation, said the key to his event success is memorability. He said the Grand Prix is not just a race anymore. They host concerts, family entertainment and business activities, alongside the main event. He said the focus is to make sure people are inspired to come back to Melbourne again.

Penny Lion, Executive General Manager of Events, Tourism Australia, attributes hosting a successful international event to keeping the customer front of mind. Lion listed her tip to creating a successful event as finding the right team members and making sure there is a united synergy.

Terese Casu, CEO, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, said success for her, is to run an event that remains relevant to all age groups. Her top tip for a successful event is to step back and ask, ‘what makes us unique – who do we exist for?”. Mardis Gras is about ‘social justice and human rights’, and every decision they make for the event needs to fit into that.

Session 3: Game on Down Under: The Invictus Games Story

Patrick Kidd, CEO, Invictus Games Sydney 2018, said he is only interested in events that drive change and have an impact. “An event is so much more than the event, and that is opportunity for organisers”. He said the Invictus Games was not about the sport itself, it was about participation and bringing the community together.

The Invictus Games was viewed by over 8 million people and was the second most popular televised Australian event on the ABC. Kidd attributed this success to his focus on ‘legacy’ – what impact the event will have on the community.

Kidd said the Invictus Games were about educating people on the role of the military and raising awareness of health and wellbeing issues in society. Kidd addressed this through inviting 11,000 school kids to the event, as well as setting up an online learning platform for the games, which 45,000 school children interacted with.

“When you talk about legacy and the impact of your event, partners are more likely to be involved.” Kidd spoke about having a clear sense of what your event is trying to do, as being a key driver to bring people together.

Kidd said the Invictus Games raised awareness of disability and post-traumatic stress in Australia and inspired initiatives from the government, such as the launch of new programs for veterans and a shift around policies with guide dogs, because of what ministers experienced at the games.

“An event is so much more than event. It can inspire people do things and change their attitudes. You have the opportunity and ability to host a great event, by referring back to impact and looking at legacy.”

Session 4: Industry Growth and the Big Picture

Craig James, Chief Economist, CommSec gave an overview of the global and domestic economic outlook, but also asked, ‘so what?’ for the events industry. Last year the global economy grew 3.7% and this year the forecast is 3%. This he said will impact a company’s expenditure and may impact the sponsorship money, or companies wanting to hold events.

World Economy
The areas of uncertainty in the global economy come from the US/China trade dispute and the big question mark over the Brexit situation. Germany maybe entering a recession, and Italy is in recession. The US economy is in good shape with 4% unemployment and 2% growth in real growth.

Chinese economy has been slowing down, due to being a mature economy, but also because of what is happening with US. China is our major trading partner and buying a whole lot of our goods, rural (food, wheat, wine, beef, grain) and consumer goods.

In Australia
Business conditions have downturned in the last couple of months- as per the NAB business conditions, 12 month moving average index. Home prices are coming down which impacts consumer’s confidence on spending, which impacts the economy.

Job security is good. There are more workers, debt levels are falling (people are cutting back on Credit Card debts), and we have a high average wealth. We remain attractive to international investment, now passing Switzerland in average wealth levels.

Victoria leads Australia with job growth, and growth in population (first time since 1888). Unemployment is steady across NSW and VIC at around 4.3%. Wages are growing at 2% but wages are still outgrowing prices. Spending as a percentage is down on essentials, but there is an increase in discretionary spending. Many goods are cheaper today than 10 years ago e.g. eggs, glassware, bread, equipment for outdoor, milk, AV and computer products.

For more information, visit www.thebusinessofevents.com.au