November 24, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier | AIME’s event director Silke Calder and Talk2 Media’s director Matt Pearce after two wins at the Event Awards last night | Image credit: EventPix

Emotions ran high on the floating stage last night, as the best in the industry reflected on extraordinary achievements at the Australian Event Awards, held onboard new luxury super cruiser The Jackson on Sydney Harbour.

The Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME) was a big winner, taking home two awards, winning Best Congress, Conference or Exhibition and being chosen as the Australian Event of the Year by the industry judging panel.

AIME’s event director, Silke Calder, attributed the success of the event to her all-female team, which generated a collective cheer from the Event Awards audience.

It’s a team of women only, starting in their twenties, we’ve got three little babies, we’ve got four ladies in their sixties and it’s an absolute powerhouse,” she said.

Calder said AIME would be back to an in-person only event in 2023, following a hybrid format in 2022.

Sydney-headquartered Artists in Motion also scored two awards, winning best achievement in design and best export, for their work on World Expo in Dubai and A Symphony of Lights in Hong Kong.

The company’s director and head creative Richard Lindsay’s reflective acceptance speech for Best Export highlighted both the immense sense of achievement for their winning projects and the emotional challenges of working on international events during the pandemic.

“When you think you can’t do something is probably the best reason to do it,” he said.

“We were faced with a massive challenge, actually well beyond our experiences.”

With Expo 2020 Dubai delayed by a year, Lindsay offered a small insight into both the difficulties and the triumphs of the situation.

We onboarded, I think, 300 people…from all around the world at a time where there was a pandemic; people were turning up and they had people in their families that had died and all sorts of stuff. It was real, it was absolutely real.

“We stuck in there, we didn’t get rid of anybody,” he said of the event’s year-long delay.

“It was a gamble. And that’s what you do, I think, as an owner of a business like that, you gamble, because you believe in the people and you give everybody the opportunity to do something like that.

“And in the end it was such an extraordinary moment – we built this momentum and there was so many great bloody Australians that we brought on board and we should be proud as an industry, we should be proud as a people, proud as a culture, because we just get on with life.”

Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Christine McLoughlin AM, former chair of both Destination NSW and Venues NSW, paid tribute to the industry and called her time in the events sector “a cocktail of pleasure and pain”.

“What I find exciting about this industry is your ability to provide a great place for community inclusion and cohesion, whether that be through sport, music, cultural events, the arts, festivals and vibrant precincts. In all cases you are uniting people with common passion around an event.

“The heartbeat of this industry really is you great people who drive us forward.

“It’s been your imagination and your vision that’s enabled us to deliver for Australia over many years.

“The people who pioneered the events sector in this country have set the stage – and we’ve seen this tonight in spades, I think – for a new generation of event professionals to continue this journey. This new wave of diverse talent is going to drive incredible new events and we’re seeing that already.”

McLoughlin also acknowledged the current difficulties the industry is facing, saying that staff shortages remain “a handbrake on the growth in our visitor economy”. She encouraged the industry to speak up about its challenges, which included the rising costs of delivery against the same experience expectation.

But she remained optimistic that Australia was well positioned and equipped to continue punching above its weight on the world stage.

“There’s a decade of great opportunities ahead of us,” she said.

Parrtjima – A Festival in Light 2022, delivered by the Northern Territory Major Events Company won two awards at this year’s Australian Event Awards

The Northern Territory Major Events Company was the night’s biggest winner, taking home three awards, including Best Community Event and Best Achievement in Marketing or Communication for Parrtjima – A Festival in Light 2022 and having Darwin music festival BASSINTHEGRASS eclipse Vivid Sydney, Byron Bay Bluesfest, North Australian Festival of Arts 2022 and its own Parrtjima, to win Best Cultural, Arts or Music Event.

Other winners included Vivid Sydney and one of its suppliers, with Destination NSW winning Best Public Event and TDC-Technical Direction Company taking home Best Technical Achievement for their work on the event.

In the event management categories, The Shift Corp took out Event Management Organisation of the Year and Caroline James Events won Small Event Management Organisation of the Year.

Organisers of the Event Awards also overcame their own challenges with humour: with global supply chain issues putting their impressive trophies somewhere in the middle of the Pacific, winners were given wooden commemorations of their awards, which were jokingly referred to as driftwood, as placeholders until the trophies made it to shore.

See the full list of winners on the Australian Event Awards website.