Conventions & Incentives NZ (CINZ) held its annual conference in Rotorua last week. Each year a different region hosts the conference, and shows off its best tourism and incentive hotspots and suppliers. In a way that choice sets the scene for the event as a whole, which I’ve realized (having now been twice) is heavily geared towards the venues and destinations.
The event has been a staple in the NZ scene, and there were high expectations of something special this year, given the new CEO taking her position 6 months ago. I really enjoyed last year’s event in Nelson, as an aside, mainly because it was focused so heavily on collaborative strategic planning for the direction of CINZ given the departure of the incumbent CEO and the new appointment. So I was hoping that not too much would be different!
Starting with the disappointments…
MC – no, not me, but Greg Ward! I missed the amazing Greg Ward as MC, who knows our industry so well and connects us all during the year.
Length of sessions – I wished the concurrent sessions had been 45 minutes each, not 1.5 hours and had been repeated. Being a speaker who takes six weeks to prepare a presentation, only to find an audience of 9 people and no means of recording the presentation, the opportunity to reach two audiences would have been welcome. As a delegate, the content was compelling, but choosing only one option each day too hard.
Demographic – of the roughly 200 participants, almost 10% were from the organisers and key partner Tourism NZ. There was a distinct lack of suppliers and PCOs – and some venues were sending multiple participants which meant networking was limited. 80 organisations represented meant I met only three new people.
No technology. We barely used the Q/A handsets. Our app was accessed by only 8 people. There was no streaming to outside locations, no capture of content for further use, no requests for slides from presenters for sharing on SlideShare. For an industry event, this felt like ten years in the past.
More choice of content – this year there was more emphasis on the conference content. Not surprising I guess as the theme was ‘educate to innovate’! As well as presenting a workshop on day 1 (one of four concurrent sessions variously addressing personal or technical development) I attended three interesting keynote presentations – two from within the industry (Tim Alpe, CEO Jucy Group and Mercedes Trautwein, EVT) and one ‘inspirational’ speaker: Dr. Paul Wood who, after having murdered his drug dealer, spent more than a decade in prison during which time he graduated with two degrees and started his doctorate.
Event Design – the conference venue (The Energy Events Centre) was spacious and the designers made the most of the drama, giving us an inspirational stage set up, and flanking screens to support presenters. And the CINZ team attention to detail (YAY! The lolly bar came back this year!) included varying the ‘swag’ on the table each day. Thank you for the NZ themed Christmas decorations in particular ☺
Great entertainment – the CINZ team chose the Skyline restaurant for dinner on the first night and delegates were treated to the most amazing buffet dinner! As a vegetarian it’s not often I get up for seconds and thirds…and fourths! Their American themed final night went down well, and the troupe that performed for more than four hours (singing, dancing, comedy, the works) could have been equally at home on a big city stage anywhere. And dressing up really breaks down the barriers between colleagues, so you become friends!