Q: What prompted you to found the Australian Event Awards?
A: Over my years in the events industry I’d been constantly impressed with the quality of work produced, while feeling a lot of that work was unrecognised and certainly that the value of the industry as a whole was under-recognised. Partly, that is because the industry itself was sliced into many different ’silos’.
You can see it with the associations in the mix – you’ve got MEA, EEAA, PCOA and the like – which are all valuable because they cater to the niche issues of being specialised in those areas – but we needed something to unite all those parts and recognise the achievements overall.
In any case, I can’t take credit for The Event Awards alone. The Awards grew out of a number of people supporting the same idea. It couldn’t have gotten off the ground without legends of the industry like Sandy Hollway and Johnny Allen, the first two co-chairs of the Awards’ Judging Panel, as well a host of luminaries that jumped on
board at the outset to make it happen. Happily, most of those are still working on the Awards today. This year, we’ll have over 35 industry experts who will assess hundreds of entries. Of course, the ceremony itself is put together through collaboration with industry suppliers. Without this industry support, the Awards simply wouldn’t happen. We always envisioned that the Event Awards would be an event celebrating the industry, put on by the industry. I’m just the lucky guy who gets to oversee it.
Q: The Event Symposium has also seen a resurgence last year – what’s going on there?
A: In 2015, the theme didn’t resonate with enough people. In 2016, we refocused on content which would benefit the heartland of Event Awards entrants. We balanced skills sessions with inspirational speakers like Ignatius Jones from Vivid Sydney and worldwide event producer Julie Brooks, and suddenly we had a success on our hands.
The theme this year is Events, Technology and art of the unexpected – it’ll address core elements of planning and executing great events, whether they’re business
events, public events or special events and it’ll explore how events can incorporate technology and the unexpected to leave a lasting impact on attendees. There will also be sessions for the tourism industry looking to support events in their areas.
Q: Tell us about the move to the Sunshine Coast.
A: The move has broken new ground for us. Prior to 2016, we’d never held the event outside of Sydney, primarily because Sydney based bids had always been the most competitive. But when we did the latest Search for a Home, interestingly enough, the top two contenders were both regional locations and neither were in New
South Wales. In the end, despite fierce competition, the Sunshine Coast bid, which was a collaboration between Visit Sunshine Coast and the Sunshine Coast Council, won and it’s been great. We’ve encountered an incredibly enthusiastic destination host, who have worked with us on every part of the Event Awards and Symposium experience. It’s been very much mutually beneficial – in 2016, we brought over 200 people from interstate to the Awards and Symposium and an additional 175 from Queensland we estimate that over 180 events were represented by those in attendance. Visit Sunshine Coast estimates that the region will enjoy up to a $1.2 million benefit from
hosting the Awards.
Q: What’s next for the Awards?
A: For the first time, we’re holding the awards in a theatre this year, so we’ll be able to do some things we’ve never done before, and explore the ‘art of the
unexpected’ a little more. We’ll also be starting the Search for a Home for 2019-2021 before this year is out, so keep an ear out for that! And next year is our first major anniversary – 2018 will be the 10th Australian Event Awards so it’ll be ‘go big or go home’ – and we have absolutely no intention of going home! Watch this space…