March 24, 2022 | By Joyce DiMascio

No one could have been more thrilled to see the Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME) come together after its two-year absence than its show director, Silke Calder of Talk2 Media and Events.

She spoke to micenet about the joy of delivering a successful event after all the challenges of the pandemic.

AIME is owned by Melbourne Convention Bureau with Talk2 Media contracted to deliver it.

Calder infused the show floor with warmth and gratitude – it emanated from every conversation she had over the four days of the program which began on Sunday. On stage, on the show floor and at the formal events, her smile lit up the room.

Because for AIME’s “new” show director, this was the first time she was meeting the exhibitors and her own team face to face. She copped the full impact of COVID restrictions including two weeks of quarantine at one of Crown’s Melbourne hotels when she arrived in Australia to take the job in 2020.

That was six months ahead of AIME 2021 – a show which MCB and Talk2Media made the decision to cancel due to low confidence at the beginning of last year. As the new leader hired by Talk2 Media Director Matt Pearce, she then also faced months of lockdowns in Melbourne. Not quite what she was expecting of her new life and job in Australia.

AIME 2022 and the way it was run is a case study of the times. It was delivered by a team of eight people who live in three Australian states and who never came together in person.

Calder is proud of what was achieved by that team comprised entirely of women – except for a contractor brought in for the final few weeks to fill a vacancy.

She intends to maintain this flexible workplace culture, she says as it has demonstrated that it can work very well and it also helps her staff, many of whom have young families.

“We showed it can be done. It worked,” she said.

“There’s good stuff to come out of COVID – the fact that I can have mums working from home is very positive. Three out of four of the sales team working on AIME 2022 had babies in the last six months.

“We have not been in the office at all,” Calder said.

Her pedigree in business events and hospitality is very strong – she worked for Messe Frankfurt, one of Europe’s most important venues and organisers. Prior to that she was in the world of global agencies with Saatchi and Saatchi in Frankfurt.

Her first love is food and travel as she grew up with a passion for cooking. At one stage she even ran her own catering business specialising in authentic German cuisine.

micenet spoke with her at the conclusion of AIME 2022 and she said feedback had been outstanding. After strong feedback from the meetings and events program before the exhibition days, it was most important that buyers and sellers were very satisfied about the trade show component.

“To get the feedback of all the exhibitors when we did our last final walk around was fantastic. We had a chance to hear them say that their investment was worthwhile.

“They met the right people, they had great meetings and they were absolutely excited that we put the event on. That we went ahead. And it was quite amazing.

“Now we’ve got another 12 months before for the next AIME.”

Asked what her take-out was from the return of AIME to Melbourne, Calder said that the hesitancy about business events had gone.

“It just made it clear that business events are back. There’s no more hesitancy. We are back and just looking forward to the next show and what’s to come.

“My message to the business events industry is continue and stay strong, keep going and definitely no more looking back.”