by Trevor Connell
“Cosi from South Aussie” (Andrew Costello) is passionate about his home state. So are Annabel Crabb, Simon Burgess and Rodney Harrex.
Andrew Costello was the MC who introduced these passionate South Australians at the opening of the 2018 MEA conference starting with journalist and TV presenter Annable Crabb. Annabel is the first MEA conference “Local Champion” (a great initiative) who treated us to a number of video vignettes in the lead up to the conference. She continued in this vein in her presentation – informative and very entertaining.
The welcome to country by Kaurna Elder Aunty Suzanne Russell was refreshing, entertaining and educational. The Kaurna people are still celebrating a major land rights case that they won in March and Aunty Suzanne was keen for everyone to enjoy her country.
Then, as is usual for MEA conferences, we heard from the hosts. Rodney Harrex, CEO of South Australian Tourism Commission, who talked about the events held across SA and their economic impact and then Simon Burgess, General Manager of the host venue, the Adelaide Convention Centre (which has just completed a major upgrade).
The opening keynote presentation came from Anders Sorman-Nilsson whose presentation traces the story of his parents clothing store in Stockholm as a metaphor for change from analogue to digital ways of doing business. This is the third time I’ve seen Anders speak and I must say I get more out of his presentation each time.
Dr Steve Brown created his event management business in 1986 and has gone on to become a leading consultant, writer and educator in the industry. He took the audience back to the basics of event design – something many in this industry can learn from. His presentation was not the most polished, but it was certainly the most relevant.
Andy Dexterity was one of the highlights of this conference. He encourages his audience to learn communication skills outside our normal range. He does this by utilising sign language which he extends through his whole body which was shown in his interpretation of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody – a combination of sign language, mime and air guitar. Andy’s story of how he got the rights to the Queen classic for his TEDx Sydney spot was also very entertain. It is not very often that a MEA conference presenter gets a standing ovation (the last one I remember was Li Cunxin).
Video – Andy Dexterity TEDx Sydney performance
One of the presentations most anticipated by the ASE team was that of Hugh Forrest, Chief Programming Officer of South by South West (SXSW) and yes we were intrigued by his story of how a small Austin Texas music event has grown into a massive multi-disciplinary festival that now runs for over a week each March.
We interviewed Hugh and invite you to check that out via link we will drop in here once we upload it.
The expo showcase worked very well indeed. The food stations scattered through the space enabled the exhibitors to easily engage with the delegates. The food was outstanding – just as one expects when a venue is showcasing to potential clients.
This was billed on the conference website as “The Ultimate Conference for the Australian Events Industry”. Did it live up to this claim or was this just hyperbole?
Essentially if you are going to make such a bold claim then you need to deliver on that promise. So was it the “Ultimate conference”? Well no it wasn’t. There are other conferences for the Meetings and Events industry in Australia and I wouldn’t describe any of them as being “The Ultimate”.
I have seen a number of presentations at various industry conferences that have presented the case for doing conferences and events differently – most notably Eric de Groot at the Kuala Lumpur conference and Steve Brown at this conference.
So should it be the Ultimate Conference for the event industry? Well it could certainly be a testbed for conference ideas – after all we are the industry that delivers conferences for others, so surely we should be trying out new ideas and delivery styles. You only have to look at the C2, TED and Mumbrella models to see that our conferences are stuck in a formula that is decades old.
I’m not really talking about the overall content – there were some great presentations – and most were exactly that – a presentation – a one way conversation. We get inspired for an hour or so and then move on.
How about presenting differently? C2 certainly are. OK, associations don’t have the budget to suspend delegates from the ceiling but then can certainly use some of Eric de Groot’s ideas.
And how about an event app that encourages the conversation (and debate) before and after the conference and maybe even morphs into the next conference?
One of the challenges for MEA is servicing and engaging members outside Sydney and Melbourne. We now live in the internet age so how about continuing the conference connection online. MEA is doing a great job with regular webinars – how about getting some of the conference presenters to do a follow up webinar to continue the discussion. This could apply in particular to the session on The Legacies of Events which was supposed to be a panel discussion but finished up just being three presentations. Excellent content, but no discussion.
I’ve attended over 20 MEA conferences so maybe I’m jaded with the concept – there were certainly plenty of others at the conference who were describing it as “the best yet” – So maybe I’m totally wrong.
Planning is now under way for the 2019 conference that will be held in the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre – at least Brisbane will be warmer 😉