by Trevor Connell
With the imminent closure of SCEC my mind has gone back to 1988 and the development of our industry since then.
I maintain that 1988 is the year the Australian event industry came of age, because, as a result of the Bicentenary events, the general population started to understand what an event manager does, and just over a decade later the industry was well established – for the Sydney Olympics.
So what was the industry like in Sydney 25 years ago?
First up there were only a handful of event management companies – now there seem to be thousands. The first part of our meeting with clients back then was to explain what an event manager does.
On the support side there were lighting, audio and AV hire companies. The lighting companies were primarily supplying to either theatre or the music industry and the AV companies had lots of slide projectors and dissolve units.
We hired our staging, drapes and props from the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust and the only other themeing available was via florists – or we made our own.
There were no event management courses available – most event managers came from a background in theatre (in my case), television, advertising or from the ranks of AV producers.
We purchased our first computer in 1988 – an Amstrad PC1512 – it had two floppy drives and 512kb of RAM. My first modification was to replace one of the floppy drives with a 100 Mb HDD which enabled us to boot up from the HDD rather than a floppy. We were running DOS 3.2.
We printed out quotes on a dot matrix printer and faxed them to our clients.
Event management software included rudimentary versions of Word and a spreadsheet. The most important software was our card file.
We used to hire a mobile phone for events because we couldn’t afford to buy one.
No one wore hi-viz vests and we managed OH&S via common-sense rather than having it imposed.
The industry associations included Meetings Industry Association of Australia (MIAA – now MEA) and the fledgling Australian chapter of the International Special Events Society (ISES) of which I became a founding member.
And the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre opened – by far the biggest such venue in Australia at the time. Before then conferences were held in hotels with some major plenaries held in the Sydney Opera House.
This month we say goodbye to the old girl via a number of industry functions – see you there.