Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sydney on Sale and RSVP

The second Sydney RSVP has created quite a buzz, with people I’ve been talking to this week saying they are very busy just trying to get through their follow-ups.

A number of industry old hands were likening the event to Sydney Destination One – the precursor of Sydney on Sale (the first Destination One was held in the cargo area of the OPT at Circular Quay). The hubbub was quite energetic and although RSVP is booked back into Wharf 8 for next year I can foresee that it will have to move on to larger premises, maybe the RHI where Single Market Events are next week running the Restaurant show. The big advantage of Wharf 8 is its proximity to the CBD and this was evident with the number of corporates who came in to have a look around lunchtime.

RSVP had over 4,700 visitors and feedback from the 234 exhibitors was very positive with over 85% already rebooked for next year.

The transfer across the city to Fox studios for the RSVP cocktail Party After Dark was a typical Sydney experience 30 – 40 mins to travel about 5 Kms. Another good reason to have it all in the same area.

The Party After Dark should have been a real highlight, but for me it was marred by a deafening audio system. Maybe I’m getting too old but I’m not into having my chest thumped by the bass and head sawn through by the tops when I’m trying to socialise. I thought I had left that behind in my pub band days (Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil, Chior Boys, Kevin Borich, etc). I seems that this nightclub venue runs a sound system more suited to the nearby Hordern.

The food from Lishas Catering was great but unfortunately the wonderful waitstaff had a huge job getting through the crowd to distribute it, which was pissing some people off who should have known better.

The star attraction of the evening was undoubtedly The Laserman Experience - this is a stunning new act to Australia (from France) that takes interactive laser dance to a new level.

This is the first industry event I know of to grace the social pages of the weekend paper (Sun Herald), although I understand it did last year as well. A number of us were intrigued by the Fairfax photographer talking into the back of her camera to record names with the photo – sure beats trying to write in the dark. You can view my social photos here (with names written in the dark, so if I got any wrong… blame the sound guy because I couldn’t hear you)

These events are usually great for networking but after about an hour conversation was impossible, I understand the band was quite good but the only place I could comfortably listen to them was outside.

Seen at the Howard & Sons RSVP stand was a very pregnant Kellie Howard with her beaming husband Andrew. Their baby was born the next day – now that’s dedication. As their proud email says “Henry Christian Howard born at 9.57am Friday 21st July 2006 7lbs 13oz. Words can not explain how we feel.” And of course in this digital age the email was accompanied by pix of mother and child. Congratulations to both.

Loved DJs corner at RSVP. Peter Jones has joked that one day he and David Grant would join forces and become known as David Jones Special Events, so there they were last week adjacent to each other at RSVP.

Friday night saw many in the industry gather at the Four Seasons Hotel (nee Regent) for the annual ISES Sydney Gala dinner.

The entertainment was kicked along nicely by the very verbose verbaliser of the vernacular, MC Rodney Marks with SMA Productions new Ohh James show. Ohh James very nicely blends the James Bond movie themes into a slick cabaret show. Being a diehard I couldn’t come to grips with Goldfinger not being sung Shirley Bassey style, however the Live and Let Die rendition was very Paul McCartney. SMA have produced great backing tracks for their shows so it was a pity that the supplied sound system was somewhat inadequate.

And returning to his old stamping ground was John Rohanna, on a break from the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai. John left The Regent to take up his current position in Dubai, so it was very nice to see him back in his old digs. And of course John totally fitted the James Bond theme of the evening by dressing in the traditional Arab Dishdashah, a most becoming look.

With ticket prices now up to $150 for the ISES dinner it is not surprising that numbers were down despite the solid membership base, maybe it’s time to re examine the style of the dinner and look at event venues rather than hotels, despite the excellent fare served in this venue.

Had a great chat at the ISES dinner to Des Wittingslow about a movie that he and his Splashdown business partner Glen Pruesker have financed. Brothers Clayton and Shane Jacobson worked up the script about a plumber working for a portable toilet company while working in event management. Kenny is about to hit the cinema screens and is a mocumentary about Kenny Smyth, who dispenses philosophy along with clean toilet humour while working for a company called Splashdown. The movie was shot on location with Splashdown’s products at events such as the Melbourne Cup, airshows, car races and even at an international toilet expo in Nashville. Watch out for it.

Sydney on Sale was on two weeks before RSVP and this year run for the first time by ETF, who very sensibly pulled the event back to a single hall. This defiantly created a more concentrated feel with the reducing number of visitors attending the show. ETF have claimed 5,000 visitors this year, however that includes around 1,000 for the offsite seminars and the cocktail party.

Having Sydney on Sale and RSVP only two weeks apart is a challenge for those of us exhibiting at both but the two shows seem to be settling into quite different fits. With Sydney on Sale focussing on the conference market and RSVP focussing on the more fun party market and although I noticed a percentage of buyers who attended both there was certainly quite a different set of buyers for each.

In the past SOS organisers have tried a number of presentation styles for the entertainment and usually had to cop flack from the exhibitors about the noise level. This year the entertainment was restricted to walk-around acts only with more focus on the Meeting Place for serious networking. RSVP on the other hand was a hubbub of entertainers and musicians on stage and throughout the venue.

SCEC were promoting their new very expensive coffee machines at SOS. The coffee still tasted like something made by a kid. It’s not the machine that makes the coffee taste good, it’s the barista!

Tony Assness was a very popular panellist at the SOS breakfast along with Michael Hassett (TDC), Robert and Victoria Fisher (Production Stuff) with fashion designer Leona Edmiston and Mistress of Ceremonies Nell Schofield. Probably the most telling comment from Tony was regarding his credo for how he works – you can shock an audience, entertain them, challenge them, make them cry, make them laugh, but never bore them.