by Ady Shannon
Over a period of 48 hours a number of hugely inspiring presenters took main stage in a central city Auckland hotel recently. They presented messages of inspiration, affirmation, positive change and world peace as the New Zealand events’ industry personnel came together for their annual conference; ETF 2013. Sponsors, show creators, funders, festival coordinators, directors, academics and administrators gathered to hear a range of presentations that covered global and local issues. Despite – or perhaps due to – the range of personalities, roles, topics and interests covered; there was universal agreement that the conference was inspiring, informative and interesting.
From the opening Auckland update by Rachael Carroll, general manager of ATEED, to the state-of-the-nation address by Kylie Archer from MBIE right through to the concluding presentation by Dr Mike Ashby – inviting delegates to implement a four point plan to ensure sound goal setting and business focus – attendees were encouraged to explore new ways of developing and delivering events. New venues, genres, sponsors, suppliers, markets, themes, experiences for fans and measures of success for funders were all explored. None of the old models for event planning and delivery were exempt from rigorous scrutiny.
There were many notable moments during the conference.
Andy Lark was billed as providing ‘a stimulating overview on how to use social media more effectively’ – his presentation was that and a whole lot more. Working on the premise that people remember ‘how experiences make them feel’, Lark introduced a number of novel ideas and means to improve the use of social media platforms to enhance the entire event experience.
Responsive design, seamless applications across all devices, apps that can go across all platforms and building virality into social media offers unlimited advantages for the events industry. By making each interface playful and engaging there is enormous potential to drive audience participation and enhance the event experience for the benefit of the attendees, the organisers and the sponsors.
Chloe Dear and Coralie Winn from Christchurch had the audience contemplating new spaces and approaches to outdoor entertainment. Admittedly, they have had the impetus of an earthquake to motivate their approach to making the most of a changed urban environment, but their message was clear; events can be held safely and effectively in unexpected environments. It takes courage, creativity and an excellent grasp of the industry to overcome challenges. In addition, a ‘playful approach and a willingness to push boundaries’ are fundamental to achieving success in surprising spaces.
Stu Robertson, founder of The Orange Group encouraged his peers and colleagues to ‘increase the size of the pie’ by seeking more opportunities to grow and expand. He urged the audience to unleash their creativity and to endeavour to be ‘change agents’ with an emphasis on courage, creativity and conviction. Robertson introduced the acronym MADE – Money, Attitude, Direction, Education – as a mantra for achieving success in life and in business.
Robertson is currently touring the world taking images of random and diverse characters holding a white rose as part of an innovative global image library dedicated to world peace. The 10,000 images will eventually be sold and the aim is to raise $25 million over the next two years. Given his passion, expertise and flair there is little doubt that the lofty target is entirely achievable.
And Bernard Dooling showed us how his take on English soccer fanaticism created a whole new and invigorating audience experience. The brief demanded ‘make Arsenal club fantastic’. The Dooling-devised journey involved providing an Arsenal-i-sation experience designed to appeal to all fans from humble working-class loyal supporters through to extraordinarily wealthy fans who can afford huge money for super experiences. The secret was to ensure that “When it comes to Arsenal, we are all 10 year old boys”. Translating fans’ desires into their personal childhood dreams was achieved via a range of tactics and strategies; each one tailored to the target audience. Inspiring stuff.
Extensive Networking Opportunities
The opening night cocktail party attracted an excellent turnout and provided a chance for colleagues to get together over drinks before the official kick off. Next day a special speed meeting session provided another chance to match like-minded peers, although judging by the number of attendees heading for the exit doors the minute the speed networking started, the concept of meeting over drinks was more appealing.
Several delegates commented on the collegiality of the conference and the excellent networking opportunities afforded by generous lunch breaks and social occasions between presentations. The conference dinner at St Matthews provided a chance for delegates to let their hair down mingle and to experience the catering capabilities of the recently launched Collective. Superb food, a divine setting and standout entertainment by Peter Urlich made a fine combination.
Eventing the Future 2014
Already discussions are underway for next year’s venue and theme. Delegates have been invited to respond to a survey and convenors Anne Hindson and Peter Burley will take that feedback into account before they announce the details for 2014. Whatever the theme, and wherever the venue, next years’ conference will build on the professionalism, creativity and innovation that defines New Zealand’s approach to staging events, here and on the global stage.