The Business of Events - Was it worth attending?

Last week we headed along to the inaugural The Business of Events held over two days at Sydney’s Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park. The first of the big industry events to kick-off in 2019, the question you’re most likely asking yourself is – should I have attended too?
The answer quite simply is YES! The two-day event was by far the BEST conference we have been to in a long time and, it wasn’t just us who thought so too… The general vibe from all the delegates - from the opening session right through to the final day post-conference drinks - was that The Business of Events was totally worth attending.
Below I’m going to do my best to outline some of the key take-aways from a few of the main sessions that you missed by not attending.  First, however, we want to give a big thumbs up to a few organisational elements that the team at ETF nailed perfectly. 

1. The Attendees

In attendance there was a great mix of industry representatives – from venues, hotels, suppliers to corporate event managers, agency event managers, PCO’s and association event managers. And, as I’ll highlight below – networking was a key theme for the overall event. 
I was surprised to meet a lot of people who had travelled for the event - QLD, VIC and SA all were represented. Should there have been more local Sydney-siders? Absolutely! This two-day event should be a no-brainer to add to the budget for 2020. 

2. The Venue

Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park is a well-located, central CBD venue with gorgeous park views from the light, bright break out areas – it was a genuinely a nice venue to spend two days. 
However, the most rave-worthy element of the venue was the food. It was excellent – a huge variety, live-cooking stations and no one went without. All breaks, lunch and networking sessions were very well catered.

3. The Content

What really impressed us were the choice of speakers and sessions. The team at ETF did a first-rate job of curating a program that had something for everyone and that everyone would enjoy. The main plenary sessions were engaging and insightful, and the break out sessions presented enough choice and depth to give the wide variety of attendees an option that would be interesting and beneficial.  

Now we’re going to attempt to share with you few of the key lessons you missed by not attending. But to be honest – there were over 40 speakers and 1000 lessons learnt, so this is just the tip of the iceberg…

1. Laura Schwartz – one helluva MC!

The powerhouse that is Laura Schwartz was an excellent choice for the event’s MC. Laura gained celebrity-style status during the event and gave her time generously by being available at all the break out sessions for good conversation and photo opportunities. 
Having held the position of Director of Events during the Clinton Administration, Laura shared countless stories and insight into working in one of the most political event roles in the World. 
Laura’s opening message was to Eat, Drink and Succeed – a philosophy of hers that encourages us to engage and be present during the social elements of business events in order to harness a world of opportunity. She supported this theory with stories of interesting partnerships she witnessed emerge first-hand, including how DreamWorks started 13 days after a chance meeting at The White House. 
Laura was quick to point out that as event planners, it is our responsibility to design and build these opportunities into our event programs to give guests a platform for making lasting partnerships. 
I believe all delegates at The Business of Events took on Laura’s advice and the networking elements of The Business of Events were not only enjoyable, but productive too. 
Laura closed the event with another excellent message about an event’s ROI vs ROE (Return on Experience). While many are keen to see a dollar figure return on attending events, what Laura believes we should focus on is the ROE. What did you gain from the experience? The answer in the case of The Business of Events – is a lot more than new business opportunities! (We got those too!)

Laura would make a great MC or speaker for conferences in a wide range of industries, in particular sales conferences where you want to inspire delegates to look for opportunities and learn to build relationships that turn into long-lasting partnerships.  

Laura Schwartz | The Business of Events

2. The Panel

Following Laura’s killer opening address we heard from the first of a few well-managed panel sessions. The panel consisted of some of Australia’s leading live event CEO’s – including World Surf League, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, Australian Grand Prix Corporation, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, along with representation from the Australian China Business Council and Tourism Australia.
Even if you don’t plan large-scale public events, this session still delivered worthwhile content. 
The speakers were asked to share details on: how they build and manage a team working towards a common goal; how they approach building sponsorship to grow and maintain their event; how they use social media to engage with their audience (including finding new audiences) and build a community around their events before, during and after the actual dates. 
This was an extremely interesting panel discussion and their advice could easily be applied to big and small events, of all kinds.
Our two main take-aways from this session were:
1. Terese Casu | CEO, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras
Partnership is the new Sponsorship - and it’s no longer about logo placement when negotiating deals. Instead organisers should give partners opportunities to tell their stories. By working together, events can give partners the perfect platform to create engaging content that delivers far better ROI than traditional logo placement.
2. Andrew Stark | General Manager, World Surf League Australia
He didn’t claim this as his own, but we’ll give him credit:
“The best plan will fail without excellent execution”
The Business of Events | The Panel

3. Holly Ransom - WOW!

Where do we start with Holly? Her bio is phenomenal (read it, you’ll be impressed). This Australian, game-changer is another top speaker choice for conferences in any industry.
Holly spoke about change and innovation. A hot topic for sure, but where Holly goes the extra mile is that she explains to the audience how…. How do you implement change and innovation in your business? How to get your teams on board and encourage them to be advocates of change? 
Holly’s presentation was exceptional and I literally have pages of notes from her presentation, but here are my top take-aways:

1. Know your WHY before you work on your how or what? She highly recommends watching Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action, even though we think she did a fine job of explaining it herself. 
2. When developing a new idea or product consider this: 
“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old you don’t understand it yourself.”  Albert Einstein 
3. Another idea when considering a change or new project is to conduct a post-mortem exercise. This consists of getting everyone together to consider:
“IF we go ahead with this project what are the likely causes of it’s death?” 
By brainstorming ahead of time ALL of the issues that may need navigating, it means no finger pointing, no association with blame and ultimately an excellent way to fight fires before they even appear. Is the project strong enough to survive? You’ll find out by conducting this exercise. 
4. Holly is a strong believer in learning from others and quoted a beautiful philosophy she lives by: 
"How long does it take to learn from someone's lifetime of experience? Coffee." 
Holly practises this weekly, meeting with new people to glean life lessons from them so she can better herself. She’s turned this into a podcast, called Coffee Pods with Holly Ransom, if you’re interested. 

5. Holly acknowledges that when you are on a quest to implement change it can be overwhelming. You’ve got all the ideas and vision, but there is still a day job to get done. Her advice is to start your journey of change with 24/7/1
STEP #1 - Within 24 hours take one step towards making the change (small enough that is
                   it inexcusable not to). For example, it could be sending an email to set up an 
                   initial meeting.
STEP #2 – Within 7 days take a slightly bigger step
STEP #3 – Within a month take an even bigger step towards implementing the change
STEP #4 – At the end of the month, reflect on how you’ve progressed and start the 24/7/1
                    process again.
This method makes implementing the change manageable and will help build momentum.

4. Cyber Security Top of Agenda

Who knew a talk about Cyber Security could be so darn interesting!? Michelle Price, CEO AustCyber was not only an excellent speaker, but her message about how cyber security should be absolutely everyone’s responsibility had the entire room scribbling down notes and no doubt racing back to the office (and their home) to baton down the (cyber) hatches. 
Michelle would be an excellent addition to almost any conference program!
Our big take away from this session is how important a password protector is to have to protect yourself (and your business). We’ve signed up and recommend you do too. Here are two options Michelle recommends:

5. Peter Jones – A Dose of Inspiration!

Let’s face it, Peter Jones has been around for a while, but there is very good reason… The guy is an absolute miracle worker when it comes to designing events with all the right ingredients to make a BIG impression. 
His presentation was fabulous, fun and full of great tips. And, no you don’t need ridiculously big budgets to make an impact. 
While I’m not going to include all his amazing examples and tips for you (honestly, you should have been there), we did like his comparison of what was required in the past and what clients expect now…
Yesterday Today     

Themed Events

Brand/ Experiences
3-course meal
(you gotta do something
creative with the catering)

Function space

Unique Venue/ Location
Sit, Watch, Listen

Interactive Opportunities

Corporate Video Presentation 
Live Elements

Styled Room
Photo Opportunities

Stage with dance floor
at the end of the room
In the round

Dance band
DJ/ combo/ tribute act
Famous singer
The Voice
(rising stars)
Indoor pyrotechnics
(you need to be far more careful)

Tell colleagues at the water cooler
 the next day
Tell all your friends, family, followers
on social media that night

Value for money

Same thing
What's new? What's different?
Gender Equality
(make sure panels, hosts etc,
have a gender balance)

Final Note...

I could go on forever (I literally have a book full of notes!), but I have to stop now, otherwise this blog will turn into a thesis.
However, what you can probably guess by now, is that the most important take-away we have to share with you after attending The Business of Events is that you should have been there. 
Can ETF top what they produced this year? We have 100% confidence that they will, and we cannot wait to attend in 2020. Will you be there too? 

Image credit: Camera Creations