by Trevor Connell
Last year the Australian Event Symposium looked like it was on its last legs. The overall program was pretty good but the attendance was abysmal.
In a bold move Ian Steigrad, the director of the Australian Event Awards and Symposium has taken the event out of Sydney. A move which has breathed fresh life into both the Awards dinner and the Symposium, and the Sunshine Coast backed him to the hilt.
This year around 150 delegates attended the Symposium at the Novotel Twin Waters Resort. The underlying theme of many of the presentations was creativity. This was particularly evident in the keynote presentations by Andrew Walsh (Accolade) and Ignatius Jones (Vivid Sydney).
While Andrew and Ignatius spoke about major events in capital cities (along with Tom Larner from the Australian Open and ceremony producer Julie Brooks) there was appropriately an emphasis on regional events – Woodford Folk Festival, Ten Days on the Island, and Santos Tour Down Under.
We learned from Amanda Jackes that the aim of the Woodford Folk Festival is to “Save the World – One Festival at a time”. Jackes told how 22 years ago the Queensland Folk Federation purchased a dairy farm near Woodford on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland and then used event management techniques to sell the cattle (they actually wrote a story about each of the animals for the sales catalogue).
Woodfordia (as the site is now known) hosts over 20,000 people for the festival including 2,400 artists, 2,800 volunteers supervised by 180 department heads.
Andrew Walsh’s motto is to “make the impossible possible” by delivering events that inspire the audience by touching the thing in the audiences’ heart that matters. He says that attention to detail is what makes the ordinary extraordinary.
Ignatius Jones asked what is Vivid Sydney? Is it an arts festival? a music festival? a lighting festival? Nope, it is Showbusiness! It is Flash and Sizzle! And that is what Sydney does so well.
An interesting aspect of Vivid Sydney is their approach to sponsors. They are not interested in naming rights or sponsors logos in return for cash. The sponsorship has to be integrated into the event. And anyone who has attended the event will see that in action via Intel and Canon sponsorships for example.
By the way Ignatius’ personal showreel is a hoot.
The similarities in the objectives of the Tour Down Under and the Australian Open turn out to be very similar. The TDU aims “not to be the best cycling race in the world but to be the best cycling event in the world” and Tom Larner’s described the Australian Open as “more than tennis – it is an event”.
ASE spoke to Ian Steigrad as the Symposium was wrapping up.
The Awards and Symposium will be hosted at Sunshine Coast for the next two years and the region is making a major push for more events.
In fact the Sunshine Coast Council has aspirations to be the leading regional events centre in Australia. Cr Jason O’Pray spoke about that ambition.
Sunshine Coast Tourism and Events have launched a campaign “The World is Coming” is support of the push to make the region the events capital of regional Australia. David Hopper talks about how that campaign is being rolled out.
A common message from the speakers at the Symposium was the way social media is now used to drive engagement at events. Loren Bartley and Charlotte James run the social media office for the Australian Open tennis.
Liz Rivers spoke to the Symposium about building your brand through events by being courageous.