ISES Sydney members hear from the brains behind Australia’s biggest New Year’s celebrations on how they avoid fizzers.
Story and pix by Nate Cochran and Trevor Connell
The term, “Don’t rain on my parade” has special meaning for event planners such as Gill Minervini, who had no less than four contingency plans should the heavens let loose on Sydney’s 12th annual Chinese New Year parade last week.
Minervini, director for the City of Sydney’s Chinese New Year celebrations, told a gathering of events professionals that while planning the Sunday parade that would be a jewel in the crown of the lunar New Year event, organisers had to take into account Sydney’s unpredictable summer weather.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about rain for Chinese New Year,” Minervini said.
“There are so many different variations of rain in Sydney.
“More importantly, it’s about when to bite the bullet” to put alternative plans into action.
Fortunately for organisers, the 3,000 participants and 100,000 spectators, the rain held off during this year’s parade.
But when planning for major events, leaving such details to chance was asking for trouble, said Fourth Wall Events director of strategy, Jeremy Garling, who worked on the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (AACTA formerly called the AFI Awards), which was produced by FremantleMedia .
“You have to have proper contingency plans for rain especially red carpet (events) or someone will get fired,” Garling said. “To work it out on the day is just rubbish.”
Garling and Minervini were centre stage at the new, swanky Zest waterfront venue in Mosman with Aneurin Coffey to hold a masterclass in major events management for the Sydney chapter of the International Special Events Society.
After six years working on the event Coffey is now producer of the City of Sydney’s New Year’s Eve spectacular, which was imagined this year by designer Marc Newson and pulled together by a crew of about a thousand.
While it’s not possible to fit more people around the famous harbour to watch the culmination of 15 months of planning, Coffey said the bar was raised higher each year in terms of creative vision and attracting overseas audiences.
Modelling for the City of Sydney found the annual $6.3 million spent on the event generated $156 million in economic activity; a figure Coffey said was “conservative” and likely to be more thoroughly researched in future.
More than 1.5 million people last year crammed every vantage around the harbour to watch the fireworks and a billion people around the world watched it on TV, he said.
“Where we see the impact is that (two) billion eyes on Sydney around the world,” Coffey said. “It’s made Sydney and New Year’s Eve an aspirational event, a once in a lifetime; it’s on the bucket list.”
But even the famous fireworks show relies on Mother Nature’s blessings, he said.
“The weather really affects everyone’s impression; the wind (this year) blew away the fireworks (smoke). We’ve been very fortunate with the weather the past few years.”
During the Q&A, ASE asked the panel if Sydney was likely to suffer overload from too many major events. Jeremy Garling enthusiastically suggested that more events meant more work for our industry; however Gill Minervini was more circumspect, pointing out that there is only so much sponsorship money to go around and that already some major events are struggling to find sufficient sponsorship.
Formerly the 16Ft Skiff Club, Zest The Spit is located on Spit Rd right next to the Spit bridge.
Our hosts for the evening, owner Raphael Kahn and General manager Joan Loewensohn, ensured the catering was first class. Indeed, this was one of the best catered for networking events we’ve been to for quite a while.
Need to know: 5 tips for major events from top organisers
So you want to put on a world-class event? Here’s what ISES’ expert panel suggests:
1. Have contingencies for every possibility; and then have contingencies for each contingency and know the triggers to put them into action.
2. Define job roles carefully to remove unnecessary layers of administration to speed decision making.
3. Always exceed a sponsor’s expectations and document every deliverable.
4. Have regular meetings with all heads of departments to pen test the event looking for unexpected hitches or holes in the plan.
5. Allocate concierges to sponsors at events to make them feel a part of the process and feeling exhilarated by its outcome.
sources: Gill Minervini, Jeremy Garling, Aneurin Coffey
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