Global Roundup with ILEA Australia Leader, Jennifer Trethewey, CSEP
Monday, February 5, 2018
The International Live Events Association (ILEA) is a global organization, representing the voice of creative events professionals worldwide.
The ILEA Global Roundup taps into leaders from around the world who lend their knowledge and expertise on a range of different topics impacting the creative events business.
Jennifer Trethewey, CSEP, (JT) serves the ILEA Board of Governors as secretary and treasurer. She is a global change agent consulting to small/medium-sized businesses on how to become more internally focused, efficient and effective. She helps businesses grow through internal alignment. Her key clients are in the event, hospitality and tourism industries. Get her take on the Australia events space below.
ILEA: What are some of the trends you’re noticing with live events in Australia?
JT: Technology is just powering ahead; it’s the trailblazer. It’s always changing, not just in Australia but also worldwide. Live events are experiencing unchartered territory: sophisticated technology, terrorist threats, occupational health and safety restrictions, and how many food allergies are there in the world now? It’s not going to get easier, so we need to combat that and make it easy for our consumers to buy. Corporates, now more than ever, must demonstrate how they will offer value to clients, shareholders and staff. So not only do they need to be clever with their events, they need to prove they can deliver a return on their investment. This leads to having point of difference with their launches, conferences or staff events. Many will look outside of the usual venues such as hotels and exhibition spaces and go for unusual ones such as open spaces, sporting areas and unique destinations.
Melbourne is known as the event and sports capital of Australia. We host massive sporting events like the Australian Open and Grand Slam at Rod Laver Arena, and the AFL Grand Final (Aussie rules football) where the MCG Stadium holds nearly 110,000 crazy footy fans. The AFL Final is streamed to millions around the world, and, by the way, Aussie rules is becoming really popular in the U.S. The PGA recently announced the World Cup of Golf for 2018 in Melbourne, our new AAMI Park rectangular stadium has held world soccer and rugby games, and, for horse lovers, we hold one of the richest horse races in the world called The Melbourne Cup. It rivals the Dubai World Cup and the Kentucky Derby. The event is so big we actually have a public holiday for it here in Melbourne and women spend tens of thousands of dollars on their outfits for the “race that stops a nation.”
Melbourne has one of the most visionary and world class sporting precincts. It’s quite extraordinary. All stadiums for every event, either sport or corporate, are within walking distance of each other. Our trams and trains all lead right into the epicenter of this stadium hub. So, for the Commonwealth Games or Australian Open, you would have hundreds of thousands of people moving en masse, and the infrastructure is so streamlined and well designed it’s easy to access or depart. The Melbourne City Council oversees a massive group of services called “The A Team” that executes every large event in Melbourne. It includes transport, police, ambulance, security, fire department, etc., and they have the whole process down to a fine art. I know there are many cities in the U.S. that have the same infrastructure in place. This precinct covers a massive area of land and sits right on the banks of the Yarra River, which means ferries and private boats or yachts can also access the sporting stadiums.
The Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct features the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground, which holds 110,000 people), the Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and Hisense Arena and AAMI Park (rectangular stadium), which hosts rugby and soccer games. The train and trams can go right into middle of precinct, so it’s a one stop sports and entertainment stop.
In terms of other event trends, destination weddings are huge. I’d like to see the numbers of weddings in traditional venues compared to the FIFO weddings (fly in, fly out). I originally come from Tasmania, a small island south of Melbourne. It’s famous for its amazing wines, cheeses, beef, lamb and fresh produce. Many developers have built stunning world standard environmentally designed lodges/venues that sit atop mountains or overlook some of the most gorgeous beaches and wineries — purpose built for a wedding, don’t you think? Brides are becoming far more discerning than in the past. By having a destination wedding, they have fewer people but spend on quality not quantity. Plus, they are already at their honeymoon start point!
ILEA: For an event planner who’s not from Australia but in charge of organizing an event there for a client, what should they be aware of?
JT: Australia has incredibly strict occupational health, safety and risk assessment laws. Some would say it could be difficult to execute an event in Australia because of the approvals, applications, accreditations and registrations you have to deal with. The red tape is quite laborious and can make or break an event. The cost of public liability insurance alone for an event can actually be a deterrent. I understand why we need to have our protocols and processes in place, but sometimes its just ludicrous.
For example, we have a legal requirement where you cannot work with children at all unless each and every person “going near the children within so many feet” must apply for a Working with Children permit. I know a producer who was looking at having a children’s choir on a golf course for a large event, and for the 20-minute recital they were asked to build separate children’s toilets. They finally decided to replace the choir with other entertainment; it was just too hard and costly. It makes it very difficult for small businesses in the industry. On one hand, they need to insure to cover themselves, but on the other hand it becomes too expensive for the client. I think it’s a very fine line we have to walk now.
ILEA: What are the biggest factors influencing the way events are being planned in your part of the world?
JT: Everybody books their venues at the last minute and responds two days before the event, and it’s getting worse! Timelines are tighter and clients are becoming more demanding. This is not just an Australian phenomenon; I know it’s the same in United States and other parts of the world. This is why I work with clients on internal processes and procedures. You will not survive if you don’t have a fast turnaround, efficient systems and effective staff that understand what a sense of urgency means.
Weddings are a good example of technology taking the front seat. My son recently got married and they sent their “save the date” electronically; they set up their gift registry online themselves; and the dresses were bought online and then fitted by a dressmaker. Most of the heavy lifting and selecting can be done online. Most people don’t always have to taste the food, smell the flowers or touch the tablecloths, so you don’t even need to go outside of the house. Plus, it’s cheaper. That in itself is a big issue for event managers, caterers and venues. The secret is to be fast, efficient and make it easy for people to buy from you. No excuses.
Social media is a massive influence on conferences. People have to be clever in the way they use it. If you attend a conference and send in questions through an immediate response platform like Twitter and they come up on a big screen, that’s OK. But, on the flip side, I constantly see more people interested in tweeting and having their questions up on the screen instead of listening to the speaker, which is off-putting for the keynote and the delegates miss the content!
I see a change coming. One of my high-profile clients has banned phones from all his internal management meetings. His leaders do not focus on the issues and do not communicate as a group so they leave their phones in a basket at the door. Imagine that … you go to a conference and have to leave your phone at the door … what next?
Jennifer Trethewey, CSEP, CPM, FAIM, has been around the world working with companies and educating their people on how to lead the pack by achieving internal business alignment. A positive and strong internal culture with effective processes and procedures is the ultimate business model, achieved through a system called The Arrows™. She has become an expert in business culture, conflict and change over the last three decades working with many profile Australian companies and organizations. In 2007, after 20 years in the corporate world, Jennifer went solo and set up The JT Group. In 2016, after spending over two years working with international clients, she rebranded to JTG Global.