Being there at the beginning…

Being there at the beginning…

 – the first IACC Asia Pacific Conference

So there I was in Sydney, in the hottest part of the year (January) with the biggest bronchial head cold a girl could imagine, putting the final touches on a ninety-minute presentation on disruptive technologies to International Association of Conference Centres.

Sweating much?!

But as it turns out, for no reason (well, the 35C heat was a good reason, as was the flu) as the audience there were thoughtful, engaged and keen to learn. As I got to know them over the three days I understood why.  Here’s my takeaways from the event:

1. Conference Centre managers really care about their business

What a privilege to be in a room of owner operators, of business managers with skin in the game – with a reputation to uphold, and in some cases, a long historical family involvement. I am used to working with managers, convention center administrators, employees and staff. They’re usually passionate about what they do, don’t get me wrong, but only while they’re doing it – it’s their job. This group however lived and breathed their properties, knew the insides and out of their relative performance and kept a weather eye on the industry trends that could affect their livelihoods at any time. They knew each other intimately from hanging out together at events around the world and I got the sense that they had each other’s backs. You don’t get that in every association.

2. The world is still a little bit confused about Australasia

Firstly, that there are two parts to it (New Zealand! The little bit of rock to the right of Australia!). This well-traveled group were of course aware of the geography but I did wonder why January for this first event. For those of you yet to make it to this amazing part of the world, January is holiday time – it’s sun, sand, sea and shiny hotness. It’s when families get together and cities are deserted (and the beaches are full). So planning a conference for January immediately means gathering attendees is going to be hard.  This is a tip for global event planners considering Australasia as a location! I learnt that the IACC membership across Asia Pacific is mostly centered in Melbourne too, which made the choice of Sydney as a location an extra challenge as the two cities are a two-hour flight apart. I know that at the end of the day, it was vital to just Have A Conference and we absolutely made the most of what Sydney had to offer; a highlight for me was walking over the Harbour Bridge (the pic above I took myself! It’s not a postcard!  It’s that beautiful!)

3. Where are the women?

This is not just about the IACC as this is something I yell most days (not always out loud, I do spend a lot of time in airports and they look at you funny if you yell there). But this conference had no ‘in their own right’ female attendees. Forgive me for belittling their attendance as the women who were there, were interesting, intelligent and
contributed to the conversations immensely. But one was there as the wife of the chair, one as part of the organizing venue and one as the wife of the winner of the Copper Skillet competition.  Perhaps the Americas conference will right this skew, and I’m standing by to help the IACC reach out to more women – hopefully my involvement in the Association for Women in Events can help here. On a side note, because it’s the little things, right, I did mention to the beautiful venue we stayed in that it would be awesome to consider that women might ALSO stay in their rooms and therefore extend the hanging space to allow for skirts and dresses…not just suits… 😉

4. Technology is on people’s minds

Which is a relief for us being in the technology business! I noticed a sharp eyed focus in Jo-Anne Kelleway’s expose of how WeChat will take over the world, and in Amanda’s quick fire social media strategy session. There was furious note taking and a genuine desire to understand and apply the content to business immediately. Refer back to point 1 – this audience cares!

In my presentation we spent some heated time discussing WiFi in the venues. This could easily be a half day in it’s own right for a future conference – because it’s a complex, multi layered challenge with a variety of stakeholders to understand. The IACC has already helpfully provided a bandwidth calculator, but it struck me in the conversations we had that there’s still a communication gap somewhere between providers, purchasers and users of this mission critical service or, as my presentation suggested, this basic human need!  We also discussed the use of beacons in venues, with the conclusion that they open up the very real opportunity for venue owners to directly connect with event goers in their spaces via the event app in play. This means those thousands of people that come and go from a property can now be connected with and marketed to – I am looking forward to continuing that conversation at the IACC Americas conferencelater this year.

In conclusion, it was a proud moment for me to be in the room at the very first IACC Asia Pacific conference.  Ever.  I emigrated to this part of the world to immerse myself in the pioneering attitude, and this conference exemplified that in many ways. Not the least it was Mark’s first taste of kangaroo!

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