Sunday, September 23, 2007

A quick question – Where were the last three APEC summits held?

If you couldn’t answer that question then just how well do you think Sydney’s hosting of the event will benefit the city over the next three years.

Remember how in the lead up we were promised that the inconvenience would be worth it because of the exposure Sydney would receive in the world of business and government events.

Comparisons were made to the Sydney Olympics regarding the traffic inconvenience and the thrill of having international visitors. The big difference though was that we were all invited to participate in the Olympic experience and if we couldn’t get to see an event we could still gather to watch it on big screens at the various Live Sites.

In contrast APEC was for an exclusive club and if the populus were to gather in any numbers they were surrounded by police. Just imagine how much more enjoyable it would have been for everyone if the Live Sites were set up again so that we could have gathered to enjoy the spectacle of George W praising our Prime Minister (over and over) and our Austrian troops in Iraq. And how enjoyable it would have been each night to watch Roy Slaven and HG Nelson do a wrap up of the days proceedings along with interviews with representatives from some of the lesser lights of the conference.

Surely the most outrageous act though was to not invite the taxpayers of Australia, who after all were paying for the whole shebang, to the harbour spectacular on the Saturday night. In fact the populus were specifically instructed to stay away and the spectacle on the water was never mentioned.

The Gala Cultural Performance in the Sydney Opera House was reserved for the APEC visitors and assorted Australians of note – as it should have been. But just maybe a concert paid for by our tax dollars could have been televised in order to make us feel a little more included, especially as that concert featured the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, TaikOz, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Christine Anu, Simon Tedeschi, The Australian Ballet and soloists from the Australian Opera.

The harbour fireworks associated with this concert were covered by the media but how many are aware that a complex and spectacular show was performed on the water. This involved a number of tall ships and 16 racing boats, all of which were lit up. The lighting on the racing boats in particular was quite impressive as the sails were lit with LED lamps with wireless DMX control (the first time these lamps have been used in Australia). The boats looked spectacular as the sails changed colour in unison and sequentially. A story on how this event was developed will be published in ASE shortly.

So now the APEC cavalcades are gone and traffic is back to the normal half hour or more to get from Sydney’s airport to the CBD. Fortunately The Chaser team managed to get some TV exposure for Sydney outside Australia.

And the last three APEC meetings? They were held in Ha Noi, Vietnam (2006); Busan, Korea (2005) and Santiago, Chile (2004).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No Welcome to Country for APEC leaders

It is common practise for national and international conferences (whether corporate or government) to include a Welcome to Country by representatives of the local indigenous mob, so one would expect that an important meeting like APEC would include such a welcome. But no! Despite all the posturing by the Howard government over intervention into indigenous affairs no acknowledgement was made of the original owners of the land on which they met.

The chairman of the Metropolitan Land Council, Rob Welsh, told the Sydney Morning Herald that his organisation, which represents indigenous people in the central Sydney area, had not been asked to perform a single welcome to country, smoking ceremony or cultural performance during the week-long schedule of events.

"Normally we do welcomes for the Federal Government when they come to town. We've welcomed the Dalai Lama and the Queen here, but when 21 leaders come to the country, we're not being asked to be involved. Maybe it's in case we get up and say the wrong thing."

The two Aboriginal performances that were part of the APEC program featured dancers from Arnhem land at the national Maritime Museum and Bangarra (a contemporary dance company) at the Opera House bash.

This spray by Hamish McDonald in the Sydney Morning herald summed up Howard’s attitude.

Howard still singing the wrong song

PARDON ME for choking over the sheer effrontery of John Howard in one particular bit of his $330 million spend on the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation extravaganza.

Tonight he will be the genial host for other leaders and 750 handpicked guests for a 45-minute cultural miscellany of the Australian performing arts.

It will take its title from the contemporary classic song My Island Home, which will end the show, sung by Christine Anu leading the massed cast after a swirl of eerie didgeridoo music.

According to spokeswoman Anne Fulwood, the concert and accompanying fireworks are "a celebration of a confident nation rejoicing and proud of a wealth of talented performers that call the earth's largest island 'home' ".

Actually, the song My Island Home is a tribute to indigenous Australia, composed by the Whitefella songwriter Neil Murray shortly after staying with Aboriginal singer George Rrurrambu, of the Warumpi Band, at his home on Elcho Island, off Arnhem Land.

Christine Anu, born of Torres Strait Islander parents living in a crowded household in Cairns, made the definitive recording in 1995, winning the Song of the Year award.

To anyone who really listens, the song is meant to express to the rest of us Australians the pride and joy of the people in our maritime borders to the north. It is a song connecting us to the peoples of the close region around us.

Howard's appropriation of this song reflects the crassness that has characterised his government's dealings with the Pacific over the past decade and which continues through the APEC summit.

Monday, September 10, 2007

APEC policing and the tourist industry

Some years ago I was photographing a demonstration in Sydney. I cut through some back streets to get to the head of the demo and was surprised to come across a number of buses packed with police with riot gear at the ready. It was quite a hot day and the buses were not air conditioned. The occupants of these buses were mostly young and not looking happy.

It occurred to me at the time that if they had have been let loose on the protesters they would be ready to take out their frustrations for being cooped up for so long. Fortunately this protest was peaceful – noisy but peaceful.

I was reminded of this incident while watching news reports in the build up to APEC and I wondered just how the police would react to protesters after being pumped up by all the chest thumping by the politicians in the lead up.

So I read with interest comments by Dr Michael Kennedy, a former detective who teaches policing at the University of Western Sydney, who said politicians, not frontline police, should take the blame for any overreaction. "Young coppers who are pumped up and told to do their job are doing their job" he stated.

Certainly the police had to be prepared for trouble after the debacle in Melbourne last year (footage of which the media kept playing over and over again which helped reinforce the police/political position) but the APEC fence has now been proven to be incredibly over the top.

One would have to consider that the man arrested for throwing a dart at police and brandishing a steel bar rolled in a newspaper is nothing but a common thug who took advantage of the situation to play out his hatred of police. This was nothing to do with the protest nor with APEC and if the police intelligence was as good as they claimed why was this person, who is well known to police, not spotted and dealt with before he caused harm.

Re the police removing their nametags, the Police commissioner claimed that "The indications that I've got is that there are times when protesters have used these things in the past (as a weapon), and I would be horrified if police didn't take the right actions to protect themselves." The line-up of nameless police in the SMH shows them all wearing overalls – the nametags they should be wearing are made of cloth with a velcro backing – some weapon!

The bottom line is that the media images that were sent around the world were supposed to enhance Sydney’s reputation as a business tourism destination, but it would appear that the images that went out were of the fence, the police operation and the inconvenience caused by the whole shebang. Oh, and The Chaser of course.

So just how did it look to you?

Relevant media links

Fences, foes and farces: world view of APEC

With 21 leaders arriving for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the world's media already had one eye on Sydney this week.

Prison language describes a city

It is all very well for those who have escaped, but it has been a trying time for the rest, writes John Huxley.

Close encounter with cell on wheels

CITY office worker Tom Godfrey had a close encounter with one of the buses the Government has converted into mobile prison cells for protesters arrested during this week's meeting of world leaders.

APEC's surprise guest - Mr bin Laden of Canada

IF ONLY the police had stopped to read the fine print on the "APEC 2007 Official Vehicle" sticker.

APEC pranksters say police gave them permission

The Chaser pranksters charged for breaching APEC security with a bogus motorcade that came close to George Bush's hotel say police gave them permission.

APEC dents Sydney's tourism image

Australia's tourism industry has slammed the image that Sydney's APEC summit has sent to the world.

Harsh security 'hurt business'

Sydney CBD restaurants and retailers say the "police state" security measures of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit hurt their businesses badly over the APEC long weekend.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Equine Flu effects on the Event Industry

From Greg Coffey
Events Coordinator, Sydney International Equestrian Centre

As someone who is involved in the equine industry (venue related) how has the Equine Influenza outbreak affected you? We have virtually shut down. All events for September & October have been postponed - that alone is in the vicinity of $100k.

Of course the govt is missing out on taxes from TAB etc but another thing to consider is that all those "recreational" horse owners and those in equine competition, "performance" horses, are suddenly grounded. Now take into account that all these horse folk own 4WD's, 6 cylinders, V8's, F250's or trucks to move their horses around the state or country. Now that they are at a standstill that means they are not buying fuel for their vehicles - no taxes on fuel for the govt. It is the tip of the iceberg as far as impact is concerned.

I heard from a contractor yesterday who told me he had been contacted by a plant nursery and was asked if he wanted to buy a semi trailer load of annuals - these flowers had been purpose grown for Randwick Racecourse for the Spring Carnival. They no longer require them. The local nursery is hardly a $1m business - that will hit this guy really hard.

What about the hire car and taxi industry... you get my drift here. So over to you - how has the outbreak affected you?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Want to get to know the neighbours? You need a permit

Spotted this article by Jennifer Whaite in the Heckler section of the SMH. Any one else have similar bureaucratic experience?

Once upon a time we used to have a Christmas street party. We have an ideal street for it: long enough so we don't know the people from the other end of the street; small enough so we can all get to meet each other; a nice flat area; and no through traffic. It was easy.
read the article

Monday, August 20, 2007

Has David Grant created a signature for his events?

These leggy lampshades do keep popping up don't they?
The Australian Events Expo party (right) and John Symonds 60th Birthday (below)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Industry conferences and trade shows - all getting a bit silly

The last few weeks have been rather busy with conferences and trade shows for the events industry and next year it will be insane!

This year it started comfortably enough with AIME (back to the regular slot in February), Brisbane's Event ConneQion (it's not a typo, remember, to Queenslanders XXXX spells beer) in March followed by the Meetings and Events Industry Conference in April (just before Easter).

The first RSVP for Melbourne was held in May followed a week later by the Australian Events Expo (formerly Sydney on Sale) in Sydney.

Then it got a bit silly in July with the Melbourne chapter of ISES hosting the Regional Educational Conference (REC) at the RACV club followed a week later by the International Event Research Conference in the same venue, especially as neither party was aware of what the other was planning.

So as if things weren't silly enough this year, next year it all gets positively ridiculous!

The MEA conference is on in Alice Springs 10th - 12th May, the Australian Events Expo is slated for 13th & 14th while RSVP Melbourne will be on 14th & 15th May – Go figure!

Regarding the ISES and Event Educators Conferences - a positive outcome from this is that ISES and the organisers of the Event Educators conference (ACEM, UTS and Victoria University) are now talking, and hopefully will get together for their next conferences.

Both are held bi-annually and as ACEM have plans in place for the next Event Educators conference to be held in the Gold Coast in 2009 it makes enormous sense for the new Queensland ISES chapter to host the ISES REC concurrently. Just look at the benefits – both conferences are small in delegate numbers (ISES attracted around 80 delegates and Event Educators around 150) so they can combine the social functions and plenary sessions, thus sharing costs and hopefully attracting relevant speakers.

Certainly a number of speakers at each conference this year would have been welcome and appropriate at the other e.g. Tim Holding (Victorian Minister for tourism), Wayne Kayler-Thompson (CEO Victorian Events Industry Council), Dr Stephen Silk and Dale Monteith (Victoria Racing Club), Paul Gudgin (Edinburgh Fringe Festival), Andrew Walsh (Ceremonies – Athens Olympics and Melbourne Commonwealth Games), Robyn Archer (Festival Director) and of course Joe Jeff Goldblatt the founder of ISES who was brought to Melbourne for the Event Educators Conference and the ISES organisers didn't find out he was coming until a couple of weeks prior to the REC.

Reports on these conferences and trade shows are in our features section.

Your comments are welcome.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

RSVP Sydney Party After Dark

RSVP’s Cory Watson has developed a reputation for producing edgy parties.

This year the RSVP Party After Dark went retro with sex the dominant theme - and that theme oozed from every pore of the labyrinthine venue. Home is one of Sydney’s best-known nightclubs and is just a short walk from the expo venue at SCEC.

On arrival a pair of tele-evangelists implored guests not to enter the den of iniquity in front of them while a couple of sprites on stilts beckoned those same guests. Others tried to keep warm by huddling around the gas fired RSVP welcome sign.

Eventually the velvet ropes were parted and the guests were allowed in, to be greeted by an assortment of characters that one might meet at the Moulin Rouge or a German Cabaret of the 30s.

The entertainment opened with The Velvet Set a swing band accompanied at times by a pair of Lindy Swing dancers and then Sydney’s top burlesque entertainers showcasing their acts.
The Sugartime burlesque performers included Gypsy Wood as the absinthe fairy, a very dexterous Ginger Snap who has perfected the twirling of nipple tassels and Amelia Wood who has taken foot juggling to a new level.

Tasia showed a very inventive use of lights while Tulsa was a poppin and Hula La turned into a human slinky.

The finale featured Rachael St James in a very large champagne saucer. These acts managed to surprise a few punters but the majority were totally engrossed.

Elsewhere guests could indulge their fantasies in the Absinthe bar, try their had at sketching a model or visit the delights of the East and the Middle East.

Burlesque has made a big resurgence over the past year or so and has crossed into the mainstream where it is often combined with the edgier circus acts. Kass Warner is the madame of Sugartime and was responsible for the lineup of these acts.

Unfortunately this fantastic event did not get off to a good start.

Most guests simply walked across to the venue from SCEC. It was a chill night and they were looking forward to the warmth of the venue, however they were kept waiting for around 20 minutes in the unusually (for Sydney) freezing conditions and quite a number decided enough was enough and didn’t wait around.

This was then compounded by the tight entry to the venue. Home is not an event venue; it is a nightclub or disco and the entry is quite small, so many guests were left in the cold for even longer.

The welcoming drinks on arrival were a good look for the first dozen guests to enter but then they were just in the way.

Guests were directed into the main downstairs space which quickly became packed (at least it was warm). Eventually the upstairs spaces were opened up and when the crowd filtered through the venue it was quite comfortable and the bars accessible, however many guests had had enough and had gone.

Many guests complained about there not being enough food or drink. To be fair to the caterers the problem was that the waitstaff couldn’t move through the crowd to distribute the food or drinks and the bar was impossible to get near.

The entertainment content was too confronting or risqué for some guests (who apparently don’t get out much). I know the element of surprise is important for such events but some sort of forewarning could have prevented the wowsers from getting upset.

Home has a cloakroom hidden behind the main bar – it has no signage and no attempt was made to make guests aware of its existence, consequently the main dancefloor was littered with bags and coats, causing more than a few trips.

Surely it is important at any event to keep guests entertained, fed and watered. The issues I have listed are all avoidable with proper preparation and isn’t that what event management is all about! Keeping punters waiting outside a nightclub is supposed to make the venue look more exclusive, but this was supposed to be a party, not some wanky nightclub.

Not a good way to showcase the industry.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Phantom of the ISES REC

I'm in Melbourne for the ISES REC and we have just enjoyed the welcome party at the legendary Princess Theatre. Even for someone who has the theatre background that I have it was quite a thrill to be taken into the circle to have a look at the set-up for Phantom of the Opera.
Our host tonight was Jason Marriner who's father was responsible for saving the Princess along with the theatre history of Melbourne.
Marriner Theatres technical manager, Mark Allan talked about the history of the theatre and Ken Roach who is head of production for the touring production of Phantom enlightened us on the current production that was in the bump-in process. The delegates were very interested in the process and the questions kept coming.
Some items of interest - the original production at the Princess used over 800 lights, since moving lights were introduced into the rig a couple of years ago the size of the rig has halved (including 96 movers) and the so has the focussing and plotting time. In fact there are now more speakers FOH than lights. And the main FOH speakers are hidden behind the false pro so looking at the stage no speakers are visible.

Ken Roach, Mark Allan and Jason Marriner

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Sydney's event venue snubbed

The major event for Sydney next year will be World Youth Day featuring the Pope.
And a major spat has erupted over the choice of venue. Randwick Racecourse has been the traditional venue for Papal visits in the past but with what is involved these days in presentation, staging and security organisers need control of the venue for a much longer period.

When Sydney Olympic Park was proposed it was promoted as the great venue that was going to solve all issues involving big events in Sydney - plenty of space, fantastic public transport access and close to the demographic heart of the greater Sydney area.

So where did it all go wrong?

In a very ironic twist the SCVB held a members information session about the papal visit at the SMC - that's the Sydney Masonic Centre. In years gone by the Tykes would have been much more comfortable with the gee gees.

And one has to wonder how much angst our pollies will suffer as they endeavour to find time in their diary to meet another religious leader.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

It's Easy To Have A Scene Change

The editor of Staging Connections newsletter - Showtimes - has sense of humour.
Their latest edition includes this little gem...
It's a Small World
It's Easy To Have A Scene Change. But When You're Planning Your Event - Wouldn't You Prefer Some Inspiration?
Pristine sandy beaches lapped by turquoise water. World Heritage listed National Parks and magnificent rivers. Rolling hills, pristine waterways and breathtaking vistas.
Where else but Tasmania?

Where else indeed!
And then their next article is promoting the new management team in Hobart.

New Management Team
A new year means a fresh new management team for Staging Connections Tasmania. Adam Webb and his team have nearly 40 years of experience in the events industry in Tasmania and interstate. The new management team plan to take Staging Connections Tasmania to the next level in technical and creative services. They will not only be providing Tasmania with quality AV production and exhibition services, but inspired customer service as well.

But then I guess they needed a new management team after the old one walked - to join Scene Change.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

At last Sydney takes major events seriously - maybe

John O'Neill has finally been named by Premier Dilemma to head the NSW Major Events organisation and the Melbourne media has gone into meltdown claiming that he will be targeting Melbourne's iconic events.

This quote from The Age...
"Victoria's Formula One and motorcycle grands prix and the Australian Open tennis are in the sights of a new major events corporation announced by the NSW Government.
Officials from Sydney have held talks with formula one supremo Bernie Ecclestone to poach the plum motor racing events, according to reports today."

Meanwhile there was not a whisper in the SMH. So essentially this is more of an issue for Victorians than it is for Sydneysiders.

So let's look at the options - The F1 Grand Prix is currently held on what was originally designed as a car racing circuit. It is near the CBD but not in it. Where would Sydney hold such an event - Centennial Park, Randwick Racecourse? Don't think so. The obvious choice would be Eastern Creek - definitely suitable but not as appealing as Albert Park. And the Motorcycle GP - once again Eastern Creek just doesn't have the appeal of Philip Island

The Australian Open is a Melbourne institution so forget that one.

John O'Neill currently heads the Australian Rugby Union and they are about to hold a Bledisloe Cup match at the MCG, so he obviously recognises the claim that Melbourne is the Sports Events capital of Australia

So what about major arts events - well as long as Sydney has nothing to match the Sidney Myer Music Bowl Melbourne has nothing to worry about on that front either.

But Sydney does have one of the best large event spaces in the world - it's called Sydney Harbour.

So rather than trying to do a Jeff Kennett, O'Neill would be much better off looking to new initiatives for Sydney - on or off the harbour.

Ideas anyone?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Interfaith dialogue?

Yesterday I attended the Interfaith Dialogue organised by the Law Dept of the Australian National University as part of the tour by the Dali Lama.
A few things that struck me.
The presentation attracted over 4000 attendees to the AIS arena - pretty standard for an ANU Law lecture quipped the instigator of the the event.
The scheduled starting time was 2.30 pm and although only about 75% of the audience were seated by then it started bang on time, with stragglers still coming in 30 mins later. And it finished at the scheduled time of 4.00 pm. A lot of conference and event organisers would do well to follow this trend.
The next was that although it was described as "Interfaith Dialogue" only the Abrahamic religions were invited to be involved in the dialogue with the Dali Lama. It would appear that the organiser, a western convert to Buddhism, couldn't see past his own history.
Each of the speakers read from prepared notes, so when the Dali Lama approached the lectern without notes he read the one taped to the top of the lectern "Do not lift the lid on this lectern" - it brought the house down.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Scene Change in Hobart

In a very cheeky move Hobart’s new AV company Scene Change managed to attract plenty of attention at the MEA conference.

First up they postered vantage points such as bridges along the route from the airport to the city and they had more posters around the CBD area that the conference was being held in. Next they took a trade stand at the conference and they also parked their black “AV response” van opposite the conference venue.

Scene Change directors Peter Kolevas and Ian Whitworth are former senior management folks from Staging Connections and when they opened their Hobart business they attracted key people who defected from Staging Connections.

Their “revolution” T shirts distributed at the conference were a hot item and were quietly sought by Staging Connections Sydney staff attending the conference.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

MEA conference technical woes

This year’s Meetings & Events Industry conference in Hobart was well received and we have many of the delegates gracing our social pages along with a full coverage of the industry awards.

One sour note was the standard of production for the plenary sessions in the Concert Hall. The sound was patchy as was the lighting and the imag was feeding back on screen.

Let me address those issues. The video feedback occurs when the imag screen is in shot giving a repeated image on the screen, this is very distracting to the audience and easily avoided by keeping the screens or the cameras a little bit higher. Cameras at the rear of the auditorium were fine but the handheld at the front of the room seemed to be shooting straight at the screens.

In the opening ceremony the stage was filled at times with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra or a children’s choir, both groups very underlit, something I was very aware of as I tried to photograph them. I looked up at the rig and could see a good row of profiles on the FOH bar that were barely glowing and defiantly underused. Sure the stage looked pretty with washes on the walls but surely the performers deserved better.

However the most disappointing technical aspect was the sound. Something that was commented on by delegates and a couple of the presenters. The rig consisted of a standard stack flown on either side of stage with some small infill speakers across the front of stage. When I was down the front I couldn’t hear anything from the infill and the sound was patchy to say the least throughout the room.

The day after the conference finished I had cause to go back into the auditorium and was surprised to see that the two side stacks were removed and the house crew were tuning a centre cluster. I asked the audio tech about the speakers and was told that the centre cluster is the house system and that Staging Connections had decided to bring their own system. That night I attended a concert by the TSO and the house system was used for extensive commentary and onstage interviews by the ABC’s Christopher Lawrence. The sound was perfect.

Now one would think that if a company is a major sponsor for a conference of industry peers and potential clients that all effort would be made to ensure that what they do they do exceptionally well.

Moral – if it ain’t rooted, don’t root with it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ministerial mumblings at MEA conference

This year I attended my 10th Meetings & Events Industry conference. A number of those conferences have been attended by Federal Tourism ministers.

Jackie Kelly won the seat of Lindsay from Labor in 1996 and was rewarded by John Howard with the Sport and Tourism portfolio. Kelly had represented Australia in rowing and is a keen sports person, however she had little to contribute to Tourism and even less to Business Tourism. This lack of knowledge (and interest) was very evident in a Q & A session at the 1998 Melbourne MIAA conference.

Following the 2001 election Kelly was relegated to the role of Parliamentary Secretary and was replaced by Joe Hockey.

Hockey attended the 2002 conference in Hamilton Island and to his credit he listened to senior figures in the industry. Mind you he didn’t have much option – he was stuck on the island for a few days and Elizabeth Rich spearheaded the dialog. The result of this lobbying was Australia’s first Tourism White Paper, defining a new direction model and significant government funding for the country's $19 billion travel industry.

Hockey also made a memorable visit to the 2004 conference.

Following the 2004 election Fran Bailey was made Minister for Small Business and Tourism.

Conference delegates were treated to a nondescript video message from the minister at the Perth and Gold Coast conferences.

But this year in Hobart the minister appeared in person to deliver a speech that was considerably underwhelming. The speech was excessively long, was big on data and even bigger on rhetoric. It was a one size fits all speech that did not address the audience in front of her and sounded like it had been delivered many times before. In fact one of the technicians at the event told me that he had heard it almost word for word at tourism conference in the same venue some weeks earlier.

Business Tourism was dealt with by the minister as data – figures we have head many times before.

And to paraphrase – “and when international delegates have finished their conference they can visit such wonderful tourism destinations as the Yarra Valley (in the minister’s electorate) or Cairns and the Barrier Reef or the Northern Territory or…” well you get the picture.

However not a mention of Tasmania! Don’t her minders tell her where she is?

Thankfully there is an election before the next conference so we can be assured that we will have a new minister to invite to the Alice Springs conference.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

ASE February news

What’s in a name? Or more to the point, what’s in a web address? Sydney on Sale has now become the Australian Events Expo and when those words are run together in a lowercase web address it is just too easy to read it as australian event sexpo. Now I know the organisers are looking at expanding the market, but…

They have come up with a very clever logo though combining champagne flutes and searchlights.

Where will it end for Staging Connections? The corporate takeovers are continuing unabated with Bytecraft Entertainment the latest target. Bytecraft Entertainment is the lighting and effects services arm of Bytecraft, which also runs an ATM and poker machine repair and maintenance business, known as Bytecart Systems.

Bytecraft is currently owned by Tattersall's, the Victorian based lottery and gaming company who bought out the minority interests in Bytecraft in 2005 for a total investment reportedly worth $39 million. It paid $12.9 million for a 75 per cent interest in the entertainment business, according to its last annual report.

And speaking of Staging Connections, some people within the company have been feeling that they are getting a bit of stick in the media (who, us?) so industry legend and SC employee Jon Smith has kindly written an insiders view for us – check it out below and feel free to respond.

Julius Media College is expanding on their well regards technical production courses to launch an Advanced Diploma of Venues and Events (Music Management) on February 19th. The college, at Rydalmere, was the first accredited institution to pick up this new qualification which is entertainment based, unlike the traditional slew of hospitality and sports based events courses offered across Australia.

Other courses run by Julius Media include technical production; sound light and video; and the college offers skills recognition assessments for people already working who need a formal qualification. More at

Summernats is perceived as a festival of booze, burnouts and babes. It is however a very successful event that has been running for 20 years so, now that I am based in Canberra I thought I should go along. I did and then I interviewed the man behind the event, Chic Henry – the interview is in our Event Talk podacst section and can be downloaded as an mp3 file or you can read the transcript.

And the great event movie thunders on. Kenny is about to open in the UK. Talk about flushed with success!

AIME is on next week in Melbourne, I’m sure I’ll catch up with many readers there – please say hello. Then give me a week or so and I’ll have social pix and reports on the AIME events online.

Staging Connections – the inside story

by Jon Smith – Creative Services Manager – Staging Connections Melbourne

There has been a fair amount of media surrounding Staging Connections over the last twelve months. While I can understand that a company as large as ours is always going to be a talking point I am somewhat amazed by some of the things that have recently been written about us.

While it is true to say there have been many changes at Staging Connections over the last 12 months, it has remained very much business as usual for the majority of staff. During this period we have expanded our Australian operations with offices in Fiji, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Dubai and while some staff have left a lot of talented people joined our team.

As a current employee who has been at Staging Connections on and off for 15 years I can honestly say that I am continually amazed by the passion and dedication of our staff and crew. While there may have been ongoing changes at senior management level our staff have remained focused on delivering high quality events and I believe our standards are better than ever.

Contrary to popular belief it is a great company to work for - with great clients, great staff, a wide variety of projects, heaps of career opportunities, and most importantly a fun place to work. While some staff have left as a result of change many leave for other reasons – in our industry with the stress and hours we hours we work there will always be a fair amount of natural attrition. We actually encourage staff to what’s best for them – most leave on extremely favourable terms and are welcomed back when the time is right - that’s why so many are returning as I did a couple of years ago.

I’m not alone. People like Bill Kneebone who was with SC in Victoria and SA as General Manager for over six years is now working within the ETG SC Chinese operation; Fraser Watkins is back as Sales Manager at Staging Connections in Melbourne and then there’s Nigel Taylor returning to head up the sales team in Sydney, just to name a few. Our senior management team now includes highly regarded event specialists such as International Creative Director Paul Kenny who’s worked on many large scale sporting and corporate events around the world as well as Philip Black who is Director of Venues, Keren Southgate – Director of Business Development, Rob Vass – Director of Sales, and Nic Allum our Director of Communications.

So there is already a substantial amount of IP within the business and with the calibre of people like Bill Kneebone, Fraser Watkins and Nigel Taylor returning to Staging Connections our experienced event team is once again in a league all of its own.

It seems that as long as Staging Connections remains such a palpable force within the local events industry we will continue to be the focus of criticism from certain sectors of the industry. It has always amazed me how positive our clients are yet how negative the industry is towards us. How come the majority of our staff are well liked within the industry but as a whole the company is despised?

People come and go – that’s a fact of life. But from my perspective most of my colleagues are really excited to be here, and work on all the great events we do every day. Yes as an organization we are continually trying new things and implementing changes - some have worked others have been less successful. What is most encouraging is that as a company we are embracing change and we are prepared to take some risks in order to grow and improve.

The fact is as a company, Staging Connections puts its money where its mouth is. Just look at how much we have invested in becoming an RTO and how far we have developed our internal training systems. Under public company ownership and with the total support of our management team we continuously review our systems and processes and train our people to make sure that our service delivery is the best. There is a real atmosphere of collaboration. And our recent acquisitions only strengthen the company and provide more opportunities for our staff.

Our board is extremely positive and encouraging and again contrary to popular belief they view our staff as the companies most valued asset and I can personally add that the future looks really bright – there has never been a better time to get on board as we continue to develop and grow through the passion and commitment of our Management and staff.

Some will tell you we are loosing business but I can tell that we are winning more and more new clients every day. You only have to look at some of the very large events we are now working on to understand that although we are seen negatively by some parts of the industry, in the marketplace we are still considered to be leaders. And again while the industry has had mixed reactions to our new branding, it has been very positively received by our clients.

So while many might scoff about the branding we are still delivering what we promise, creativity, service, and reliability.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ah, the youth of Australia. Tell them they can’t and of course they will.

The media told the fans that bans would apply to the Aussie flag at Big Day Out and the Mexican Wave at the cricket.

However the flag was never to be banned at BDO as the organisers stated “We are not banning the Australian flag but are simply discouraging its use for anti-social purposes at the Big Day Out.”

Last year’s BDO was held in the aftermath of the Cronulla riots and some “true blue” yobbos took it on themselves to enforce patriotism by insisting that passers-by kiss the flag and if they refused they were abused both verbally and physically.

The Mexican wave was banned at the cricket because more yobbos were making the event uncomfortable for others by insisted on throwing anything in the air they had at their disposal, like drink containers or even eskys, which caused injury to those around them.

Then the opportunist pollies and shock jocks jumped on the bandwagon to decry the banning of the flag, but not the Mexican wave. So why not? Are they anti Mexican? If so they would be off the mark. The Wave originated in the US in 1981 and was practiced at football and baseball games around the country. The Wave came to international attention at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and so became known as the Mexican Wave.

So surely our USA loving PM would encourage an audience participation activity with such an American pedigree. But his voice was not to be heard, pity he couldn’t hold his tongue on the flag issue as well.

As for the flag hysteria – I leave the last word to BDO organisers “The Big Day Out is not an Australia Day event, but a music festival showcasing music artists from around the world and aspires to unify people through music. Unfortunately the media reports yesterday were not quoted accurately and we must thank the participating media for wasting everybody's time including the Prime Minister John Howard, Premier Morris Iemma, NSW RSL President Don Rowe, Keysar Trad (a confidant of the Mufti Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly) and Burt Lane of the Australian National Flag Association...”

So what is the lesson in this for organisers of public events – large or small?

  1. Damage control starts with Risk Management. Understand the consequences of any decisions that may be taken and then work out what possible reactions may occur so that you are prepared for those reactions.
  2. Have your media responses worked out in advance and be prepared for whatever comes up.
And tread carefully when it comes to nationalism because John W Howard has wedge politics down to a fine art, particularly as he had to wrestle the national flag and all its symbolism back from Pauline Hanson.