At ASE we were concerned to hear the news on Friday that the inaugural C2 Melbourne event scheduled for 17-19 October has been cancelled.
The event, which was won by Melbourne Convention Bureau and strongly supported by both the Bureau and the event’s intended venue, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, was touted as a reinvention of the traditionally staid business conference. It appeared to receive much support from both within and outside of the events industry. Elements of the C2 concept were recently integrated into MCEC’s offering to all their clients.
ASE has keenly followed the conference and looking forward to its debut. We are of the opinion that many Australian business conferences could certainly use the injection that C2 Melbourne promised as a model for how things could be, going forward.
There are a few official statements floating about which address the cancellation amid several other bits of information – we would even venture to call some of them rumours – which have been introduced to the fray.
Here’s a quick recap of official statements:
The official release from C2 begins, “C2 International cancels Melbourne event to concentrate on its flagship C2 Montreal conference and global partner events”.
In the release, Richard St-Pierre, President and CEO of C2 International, elaborates:
“While we demonstrated our deep commitment to bringing C2 Melbourne to life, a series of circumstances outside of our control made it impossible for us to execute on the creation of the event.
“We are incredibly lucky to have had the support of a talented and dedicated group of individuals in Australia, and we are grateful for the local business community who supported our bold vision.”
From Karen Bolinger, Chief Executive of Melbourne Convention Bureau:
“Whilst we are surprised and disappointed to have received the news of the cancellation of C2 Melbourne, we have been advised that it is in the best interests of Melbourne, our stakeholders, partners and prospective attendees.
“The decision to enter into a relationship with C2 was all about being brave, innovative and trying new things.
“We know that as a conference destination we need to evolve to ensure the conference experience exceeds the progressive expectations of delegates. We will continue to take risks and seek out opportunities for innovation and disruption in the conference market.”
The statement from Peter King, Chief Executive of MCEC, reads remarkably similarly:
“We are currently assessing the prospect of an ongoing partnership with C2 International.
“The decision to enter into a relationship with C2 was about being brave, innovative and trying new things. We know that as a venue we need to evolve to ensure the conference experience exceeds the expectations of our customers and their guests.
“We will continue to seek out opportunities for innovation and disruption in the conference market regardless of the unfortunate news from C2 Melbourne.”
Much of this is vague and we still had questions about what happens now: Will the conference be rescheduled? Or is C2 withdrawing from Australia completely? How does this affect initiatives like the C2 Labs which have been introduced at MCEC?
We spoke with C2 Melbourne’s recently appointed Managing Director, Ron Gauci on Wednesday and have variously ascertained, discovered and intuited the following:
To answer – in our mind at least – the most pressing question: C2’s future in Australia has not been decided. It sounds like there are a lot of discussions to be had with C2’s many partners. The statement from Peter above seems to reflect the idea that the door is still open. Watch this space.
The most interesting thing we learned was the cancellation should not have been totally unexpected.
The appointment of Gauci should have put us all on notice – he has a reputation as a Mr Fix-It – the guy you call on when you need to get things back on track. He was appointed in July and none of us – ASE included – picked up the red flag waving in the breeze.
But speaking to Gauci actually paints a slightly more optimistic picture than the cancellation suggests. He says there were problems but it sounds as though they were surmountable – he simply “ran out of runway” as the event approached.
Although it sounds like ticket sales weren’t exactly going through the roof, not reaching their target of 3,000 attendees was not necessarily the issue – indeed given the last minute purchasing habits of Australians, it would have been too soon to have an idea of final numbers at this point. We understand from our conversations that trending indicated that the numbers would probably have been reached.
The plans for the first Melbourne event appear to have been extremely ambitious and we’re getting the impression that the C2 team are perfectionists who won’t deliver an event that isn’t up to their standards.
From ASE’s perspective it’s hard to say whether C2’s reputation would suffer more from staging an event that fell slightly short of the intended mark versus cancelling it as they have done. But Gauci advised against speculating so perhaps we should stop there.
Speculation that we came across which suggested partners walking away from C2 contributed to its cancellation are untrue. Although it seems that there may have been a disparity in C2’s expectation of involvement from the corporate community and their actual commitment to the event.
Finally, we wish C2 Melbourne figurehead and Executive Producer (and COO for C2 International) Martin Enault, who very recently left the organisation for health reasons, all the best as he takes some time to look after himself.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Martin at AIME in February after the C2 Melbourne Edge event as part of AIME and he really brought the C2 concept to life. His enthusiasm for what he was building was palpable and infectious.
We’re crossing our fingers for brighter times ahead for C2 and all its people.
We’ll keep you posted on further developments.