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. 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 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.