Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A tribute to the life of Michael Milburn from the Australian Event Industry

Michael Milburn passed away on 3rd of December 2009 following an extended illness.

Michael spent over two decades in the restaurant, catering, venue and event management industry and was highly regarded for his innovation and involvement.

In 1990 Michael joined Epicure Catering as Executive Manager Brand & Marketing Development. He soon took the business to a pre-eminent position in the off-site catering industry.

As part of his commitment to the industry Michael served as board member of Restaurant & Catering Victoria and ensured the business’ continuing involvement in industry associations including the Melbourne Convention + Visitors Bureau (MCVB), Meetings Events Australia (MEA) and the International Special Events Society (ISES)

Michael was a driver of innovation in the catering industry especially in promoting the use of seasonal and as far as possible, locally grown produce and then ensuring that food wastage could be minimised by entering into an agreement with Second Bite to assist those in our community who are less well off than ourselves.

The Green table imitative was launched in Australia in October 2008 by Restaurant & Catering Australia. In conjunction with the City of Melbourne and Restaurant & Catering Victoria, Epicure at the Melbourne Town Hall was granted accreditation as a certified Green Table Australia Business.

Friday, August 21, 2009

ISES Sydney goes for gold - but just what is "The Gold Standard"?

The ISES Sydney chapter has a new management committee and they were determined to hit the ground running as they took over the reins last month.

During the presidential handover at the RSVP breakfast incoming chapter president Jeremy Garling promoted the next ISES connect as one that would feature a stunning announcement regarding the future development of the Sydney Chapter.

The August ISES connect proved to be extremly popular, particularly as it featured the creative brains behind the recent hugly successful Vivid Sydney (not to be confused with Canberra's Vivid National Photography festival, also hugly successful by the way) and of course members were there to hear Jeremy's announcement.

So with much fanfare chapter president Jeremy unveiled The Gold Standard.

Well this got quite a bit of discussion going among those present - would this be a new form of accreditation for event managers - along the lines of a Gold Licence caterer? who would administer such an accreditation system? why just Sydney? how about the rest of Australia?
MEA have an excellent system for Accredited Meetings Manager (AMM) so why not something similar for ISES.

We were advised that all our questions would be answered in a media release to come out the following day the following day - and here it is.

But hello - did we miss something?

So first up let's consult wikipedia - "The Gold Standard is a monetary system in which a region's common medium of exchange are paper notes that are normally freely convertible into pre-set, fixed quantities of gold". Nope don't think that's it!

So what about just plain standard?

The OED provides eight meanings for the noun.
1 a level of quality or attainment. 2 a required or agreed level of quality or attainment. 3 something used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations. 4 (standards) principles of honourable, decent behaviour. 5 a military or ceremonial flag. 6 an upright water or gas pipe. 7 a tree that grows on an erect stem of full height. 8 a shrub grafted on an erect stem and trained in tree form.

So back to the media release:

The Standard focuses of three main principals:

Creative: ISES people represent the highest echelon of creativity in events. Event specialists, they continually challenge the boundaries of what is possible in event concepts, quality, experience and communicating messages to our audiences.

International: We are the conduit to the international group – the largest association of event professionals in the world. We draw on the experience of our globally diverse colleagues and keep abreast of the latest trends, technologies and developments.

Connecting: To be connected is to be ‘in the know, to be ahead of trends and to lead your industry’. We connect with each other, our clients and the latest ideas to continually deliver innovative and well executed solutions.

and then: The ISES Gold Standard is a symbol that informs clients and peers that they are working with someone who is committed to providing the highest quality of service and ethics

Well that fits with OED meanings 1 to 4 and maybe versions 6, 7 and 8 don't apply at all.

But what about OED meaning number 5? - a ceremonial flag - like a banner perhaps? - or a symbol maybe?

But yes, there it is after all "The ISES Gold Standard is a symbol" - just like a ceremonial flag - gold in colour.

I'm glad we cleared that up.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


RSVP and the Australian Business Events Expo (nee Sydney On Sale) have made their co-location debut. So did it work?
The overall feedback appears to be a very resounding yes!

The two shows managed to maintain a different look and feel with RSVP really buzzing on both days while exhibitors in ABEE reported that the quality of visitors was just what they wanted.

While both shows had space to spare they each managed to sell more floorspace than they could in Melbourne.
Interestingly the attendance figures for RSVP were considerably greater than for ABEE. I assume this meant that more visitors came in via the RSVP entrance than via ABEE and it is interesting to see just what crossover ensued (I did note that there were ETF staff clicking counters at the crossover entrances). see ETF media release

Two exhibitors stood out in RSVP. Staging Rentals who once again sponsored The Hub which was built with their AllyStage and Decorative Exhibitions (the new expo stand division of Decorative Events) who custom built nearly 30 stands in RSVP and ABEE.

What's in a name? Most people are pronouncing the name of the former Sydney On Sale as Abby - no! it is A - B - E - E (Gab will reinforce that)

One of the notable exceptions on the exhibition floor was Staging Connections who were absent from both Sydney shows and RSVP Melbourne. Considering that SC owns ETF who in turn own RSVP and ABEE one would have expected them to be there with bells on. But they are now promoting a 10% + 10% discount offer so I guess that works better for them than promoting themselves through their own trade shows.

RSVP Sydney Party After Dark

If it weren’t raining it would have been much quicker to walk from SCEC to the RSVP party at GPO in the Sydney CBD. Because of the time of day (i.e. traffic) and Sydney’s one-way streets the buses travelled from SCEC up to the Entertainment Centre then down Hickson Rd to the Harbour Bridge, then finally twisted around to Pitt St to get to Martin Place – a distance of around 6 Km. The walking distance is 1.7 Km

One of the issues is that private buses are not allowed to park in George St – hence they have to go all around the town to get into Pitt St

The GPO bar is located in the basement of the old Sydney GPO with a large bar area and the smaller nightclub style Crystal Room. Guests were certainly ready for a drink following the scenic bus tour to the venue.

GPO served their signature food – a sushi train and pizza.

Plenty of networking opportunities were presented as the guests mingled then entertainment by the excellent Velvet Set – very impressed by a group of young musicians who can deliver the Miles Davis classic “Kind of Blue”.

Following a floorshow by The IT Girls featuring Natalie Conway (very Cabaret and Chicago) it was off to the Crystal Room for the after party – very loud and raucous.

Friday, June 26, 2009

RSVP Melbourne stages a Mini seminair with bite

Over the years I've seen lots of hypothetical seminars on the subject of pitching for a job. This week I watched one of the best I've ever seen.
The opening session of the RSVP Event Talks in Melbourne was entitled Life's A Pitch.

This was a real life pitch to be delivered by three leading event producers for a real product for a real client.

It opened with Georgia Hobart - Events and CRM manager for MINI who went through the history of the marketing strategy that has been used to promote MINI outside the Motor Show. Essentially they took the product out of the Motor Show and created experiential events to attract buyers - I won't go into all that but essentially it has been a very successful strategy.

Hobart then detailed the target demographic, desired outcomes, budget, etc to the three contestants, who until now had no idea what the brief would be.

Then contestants had 15 mins to brainstorm with their teams and to come back to make the pitch.

The teams were Peter Jones Special Events, Jack Morton Worldwide and Great Southern E-vents.

During the 15 min brainstorming session MC Nic Yates kept the interest up for the audience by quizzing Georgia Hobart on the marketing of MINI and taking questions from the audience.

Then came the pitch - each team leader had 5 mins each to put their case and they were then voted on by the audience using responders.

Hobart was obviously impressed by each of the pitches and you could tell that she now has an extended pool of event producers to call on for future events.

So what were the pitches - here are just some highlights...

Peter Jones' started with cars on a platform at Southern Cross station that then headed off down Collins street which has been closed for the event (on a business day). Teams of dealers then had to "kidnap" potential buyers and take them to a location where they could experience the Mini first hand.

Jeremy Garling from GSE had potential buyers taken to an indoor test track in the shape of the Union Jack - this was in acknowledgement of the 50th anniversary of the launch of the original Mini. The main selling points would reflect the attraction of the original Mini - fuel efficient, compact, etc.

The pitch from Katie Chatfield of JMW was based on street art and very funky feel.

Everyone involved got their money's worth out of this session.

Nic Yates, Jeremy Garling, Georgia Hobart, Katie Chatfield and Peter Jones

RSVP Melbourne down on last year

RSVP Melbourne is over for another year and although a bit flat most exhibitors seemed satisfied with the response considering this event has been staged in the Year of Austerity.

Interesting to note how most of the bigger players have scaled down the size of their stands this year and more interesting was the absence of some of the bigger players from previous years - especially Staging Connections - not a great vote of confidence from a division of the company that actually owns the show. (RSVP is owned by ETF which in turn is owned by Staging Connections Group)
And I don't see Staging Connections in the exhibitor list for Sydney RSVP either.

The exhibition this year appeared to be at about 80% occupancy of floor space compared to last year.

So in a couple of weeks time we will see how the co-location of RSVP goes with the Australian Business Events Expo. It would appear that both shows still have floor space available.

The real test for the organisers will be how well they can attract quality buyers - and lots of them.

See you there anyhow

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Industry Awards - are they worth it?

I’m intrigued by awards and the process of working out who wins what.

Film and book awards are pretty straight forward – the judges get to view or read the entries and base their judgment on what they observe first hand.

This also applies to sports, singing, dancing, etc. Even hairdressing and other esoteric pursuits are judged by people who actually see the creations.

However in our industry awards are presented for the production of conferences and events of all sorts and in a huge variety of locations. Those hoping for an award put in a submission to a panel of judges who are most unlikely to have observed any of the process of the production of the nominated event.

People are also nominated (or nominate themselves) for best sales, marketing, technical, operations, etc person of the year and for the most part the judges would have know idea who they are or how accurate their submission actually is.

Then there are awards for various venues – at least venues get visited by more people.

Now while I appreciate that judging panels for the various industry awards do the best they can based on the information before them, surely, in the end it comes down to who can produce the most convincing awards submission.

I’m not suggesting that there is a better way – just that the system is flawed.

The most established is the Australian Meetings and Event Industry Awards run by MEA and they are only open to members – but let’s face it the membership fee could just count as part of your submission costs.

ISES members are encouraged to enter into the Esprit Awards conducted by the international office, and a number of Australians have been successful in this competition.

MICE.net run another competition - the e-awards - that is open to all comers no matter what association they may or may not belong to and according to their latest bulletin they have increased entries over last year.

So along comes the Australian Event Awards to fill a void that no one knew was there.
MEA and ISES have released a joint statement stating in part “Awards programs that are run for industry by industry have established a high standard of submission guidelines and judging process that ensures winners are true industry leaders and professionals in their field.”

The Australian Event Awards team struck back with a media release stating “The 23 Award Categories are the only opportunity for Australian events, event organisers, products and services to be acknowledged across the entire industry regardless of event type, size or association membership.”

The Australian Event Awards appear to follow the commercial model of the many business award programs around such as the Small Business Champion Awards run by Precedent Productions – even their award logos have a similar feel.

Incidentally the entry fee for the MICE.net e awards is $110, for the Australian Event Awards the fee is $220. The MEA awards entry fee ranges from $120 - $230 depending on the category.

In other award news a winner in the Telstra Business Awards for 2008 is Atlantic Group [v] who won the 2008 National Winner of the Panasonic Australia Medium Business Award. Atlantic are the owners of the very successful specialist event venues at Melbourne’s Central Pier Docklands

I look forward to industry feedback on the subject.
In 2000 I reviewed the Sydney Cabaret Convention and had this to say about David Campbell

"David Campbell is young, talented, charming and gorgeous and has just returned to Australia after a meteoric career in the USA, where he toured nationally and performed at all the major cabaret venues in New York. He has also starred in a Broadway musical, Stephen Sondheim’s Saturday Night. David will perform with the legendary Barbara Cook at the Sydney Opera House for the Olympic Arts Festival in September.
Suitable for corporate? You bet. But get in quick, this boy is going to be a big star."

Also at that event I remember sitting with some people from Adelaide who were having a very good look at what Sydney had to offer. Then in 2001 they launched the Adelaide Cabaret Festival with great support from the Adelaide Festival Centre.

The Sydney event lost the support of the Sydney City Council and died after the 2003 event.

This year's Adelaide Cabaret Festival was curated by David Campbell.

I was in Adelaide last weekend and took to opportunity to catch a show.

The show I saw was Julia Morris in "Don't you know who I used to be". As she pointed out right from the outset Julia does not do cabaret - she is a stand-up comic. That said the show was still most enjoyable - a slide show with commentary on many misadventures and a couple of songs (almost) to make the show a bit more "cabaret"

After Julia's show we headed to the Piano Bar - a venue that was a lot more bar than piano. The act on this night was Mahalia Barnes (Campbell's half sister) with a fairly large soul band that filled the stage (no piano but Rob Woolf on the Wurlitzer keyboard was great).

In contrast this after show venue was larger than the regular venue used for the SCC - which was Sydney's Lower Town Hall.

The space is very awkward though as it is usually the foyer area to the main venues and I would say on 25% of the audience would get a good view of the stage. The biggest issue however was the audio - it sounded great in the area in front of the stage but off to either side the sound did not reach which meant that the punters seated there kept talking and anyone (me) who wanted to hear was hard pressed to do so. A few delay stacks would have helped immensely.

And the former Tin Lid? Great voice, nice stage presence, good band - as I said just a shame we couldn't appreciate it.

And sometime soon I'll spend a week in Adelaide to take in a whole cabaret festival.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bump-in fees for AV companies

Recently Sofitel Brisbane sent out a letter to AV suppliers advising that they would start charging them $75 per hour to cover the costs of electricity, loading dock, escalators etc.

This got the Brisbane ISES chapter fired up and they sent out a media release decrying the action.

The Sofitel have not indicated whether or not the fee will also apply to other users of the facilities such as staging and decorating companies, entertainers (bands for instance), etc. But we have put the question to them and will post that when we get the reply.

It is interesting to note that AVPartners have recently become the in-house AV suppliers to the Sofitel. AVPartners is owned by Garry Hackett - the former owner of Staging Connections where he was quite diligent in getting his services ensconced in hotels and other venues and for endeavouring to stitch up exclusivity deals with those venues.

Probably just a coincidence.

Please have your say on this matter.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

New Melbourne Convention Centre opens

The long awaited new Melbourne Convention Centre has opened the doors.

It would be most usual for such an occasion to be marked by a spectacular opening ceremony - and even fireworks. But no, as 2009 has been declared the Year of Austerity it was marked by a lunch. For the owners - the Victorian Government; the building consortium (The Plenary Group) and representation of the big end of Melbourne town.

Also in keeping with the YoA the room lighting was fluros - yep the work lights, no attempt to create any sort of ambiance.

The state government held a caucus meeting at the venue before the whole cabinet then joined the lunch. The Premier performed the opening noting that the venue already has 48 international and 190 national conventions, meetings and seminars booked in. In his speech the premier also quipped that the venue would be ideal for a party conference, particularly with the retractable seating, ideal for removing pesky delegates.

One observation that the premier made that I totally agree with is that the new centre has more in common with an arts centre rather than a traditional convention centre. I for one certainly look forward to seeing the a convention opening ceremony staged by the like of Peter Jones - the venue is right, the staging and technical facilities are right - now just move on from the GFC and the Year of Austerity.

The MCECs Food and wine manager Frank Burger oversaw the lunch of Red Hill goats cheese with a roasted baby pear, onion jam, brioche and micro cress, followed by char grilled certified Black Angus rump sourced from Gippsland and Yarra Valley salmon which is cured on-site by MCEC’s own chefs.

Premier John Brumby did a media stop before lunch - he talked about the green cred of the building, the events already booked in, etc. Then the hacks asked about anything else except the new centre. Maybe they were pissed off because they didn't get invited to lunch.

The foyer are is very spacious and flooded with natural light - and is very much like that of an arts centre.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Meetings & Events Industry Awards for 2008

What an excellent night.

The Adelaide conference committee went all out to ensure we had a great conference this year and they topped that off with an excellent awards night.

Following his very vocal criticism of last year's awards presentations Meri Took was invited to produce this year's event. Meri has produced a great number of high profile events over the past few decades and this was a no-brainer for a man of his experience.

The event was tightly scripted and with the excellent Toby Travanner MCing the night all went very smoothly and even finished ahead of schedule.

The Adelaide Convention Centre staff showed great technical flair and expertise including projections onto spheres and portrait screens.

Ding Entertainment provided the floorshow in the form of their very tasty "come to the cabaret" production that bookended the conference - their "bandstand" show opened the conference.

Full list of award winners
Add Image

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

MEA conference casual dinner at Adelaide Showground

Adelaide turned on great variety in the weather department during the conference. The weather for the outdoor party at Adelaide Showground was rather chill and then the rain came right on cue as the event wound up.

Unfortunately the event was designed for summer and this was not a summers night. The event was spread out around the event space making it very difficult for any chance to keep warm.

Fortunately though the band really got the guests warmed up and there were some fancy demonstrations on the dancefloor.

Maclaren Vale wineries provided sampling of their products and I’m sure did a good trade with follow up orders. While there was plenty of wines to keep us going the queues for food were totally unacceptable.

The after-party for this event was held a nightclub called Swish On Terrace - certainly did not have the ambiance of the previous night and with no DJ on duty it was left to the guests to pump up the music - much to the chagrin of the manager.

The interaction with a couple of Sydney detectives who happened to be in Adelaide for some reason was interesting to watch.

ASE Out & About for this event

Sunday, April 05, 2009

MEA conference welcome reception at Adelaide Town hall

The MEA conference welcome reception was held at the Adelaide Town Hall and featured performances by Opera singers Antonio Villano and Kate Lara followed by the Town Hall's resident organist - all quite fitting in this venue.

South Australian food and wine was enjoyed by the guests courtesy of Epicure Catering.

The welcome address to delegates was presented by Martin Hamilton-Smith MP, who gave us a very long winded preview of a wonderful plan that he was to announce at a media conference the following day. Riverside West is a plan for an entertainment, sporting and cultural precinct between the River Torrens and North Terrace. However, Mr Hamilton-Smith is the leader of the SA opposition – so unless he can topple the Rann government pretty soon his marvelous plan is nothing more than a pipe dream and quite frankly wasted on the delegates at this event.

The after party was a hoot as delegates cut loose on the dance floor at The Cavern Club - Adelaide's centre of Beatles memorabilia

Social pix from this event are in the ASE social events section

Penfold's Magill Estate

The MEA annual conference curtain raiser event for accredited members was held at Penfolds Magill Estate on the outskirts of Adelaide where the suburbs meet the hills.

Exploring the cellars and drooling over huge vats of Grange was a great experience.
The estate was established in 1845 and although the vast area of plantings has gradually been reduced there are still around five hectares of vines and historical buildings.

Our palettes were tantalized by a selection of wines that included the Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz – often referred to as the poor man’s Grange – well it is made in the same winery.

However the surprise of the night was when I commented on how much a bargain Koonunga Hill Shiraz is. So a bottle was produced and offered to the “wine buffs” among the guests who insisted it was a fine drop and probably worth in excess of $20 per bottle (it can be picked up for around half that)

Sue Pearce is impressed with the Koonunga Hill

Photos from this event