By Kristie Thong

NAME OF EVENT Dreamtime Dinner
ORGANISER Tourism Australia
PARTNER Virgin Australia
EVENT COMPANY Peter Jones Special Events
VENUE Regent Theatre, Melbourne, Australia
OCCUPIED SPACE Plaza ballroom
WHEN December 10, 2013
PAX 210
BUDGET Undisclosed

Event overview

As part of an elaborate Dreamtime 2013 programme aimed at showcasing the best of what Australia has to offer, a gala dinner was hosted on the second evening in Melbourne at the Plaza Ballroom of Regent Theatre. Organised by Tourism Australia, together with platinum partner Virgin Australia and event management company Peter Jones Special Events, the dinner signified the end of business sessions in the city before buyers flew to different parts of the country for Dreamtime’s educational components.
It saw the attendance of 85 business event decision makers, industry stakeholders, and international media.

Execution

Peter Jones, managing director of Peter Jones Special Events, said the Plaza was selected for the dinner because it is a unique venue that showcases the heritage and grandeur of Melbourne.
“It is also a venue that has not been used on a regular basis for industry events,” he said.
The ballroom venue was first hidden from attendees by a thin translucent veil during pre-dinner cocktails. When it was time for guests to take their seats, they were greeted by soft lighting exuding opulence, with long tables donned with floral arrangements.
“We also made a decision to use long tables as they created a more elegant setting than just standard round tables. This dinner had to have a totally different look and feel, which is what we achieved with using the long tables,” Mr Jones said.

Tourism Australia general manager, Penny Lion, said the gala dinner was organised with a global audience in mind. “We had a diverse audience – from experienced buyers in China to fresh event planners who have never been to Australia – and different things appeal to different people.”
The screens featured a photo stream of images featuring buyers with superimposed signature landscapes in Australia, taken during the business sessions a day before. Buyers also found framed individual images of themselves at their seats.
Attendees enjoyed a three-course menu by Australian celebrity chef, Luke Mangan, between multicultural interactive performances ranging from Gangnam Style (Korea) and a bagpipe performance (UK) to Jai Ho (India) and Blue Danube Waltz (China).

Challenges & triumphs

Tourism Australia aimed to impress an audience that individually handled so many gala dinners as well as attended them. “That was our biggest consideration,” Ms Lion said.
Similarly, Peter Jones Special Events aimed to make the event as interactive as possible, involving many of the international buyers.

“This was quite a challenge as Tourism Australia explained how it was all going to work and get the different regions to agree to be part of it. This was not easy as the concept of certain countries actually ‘performing’ was quite daunting and we had to be culturally-sensitive. However, they all came to the party and represented themselves and their countries with pride. In fact, all of them came up afterwards and said how much they enjoyed it,” Mr Jones said.
It was also a challenge to get all the buyers’ photos taken to be used for the dinner. With careful planning, a photographer and two staff were working round-the-clock to ensure they captured everyone in the pre-determined location in Australia. A list was also prepared in advance to facilitate the project.

Event outcome

The team received hundreds of thank-you emails about the dinner, with many mentions to the food and entertainment that included audience participation. Buyers felt the cross-cultural experience was a truly unique touch, something the event managed to highlight about Australia. “We want it bigger and better at the next Dreamtime,” Ms Lion said. m

ON THE MENU – by Luke Mangan

Entrée

Fresh salmon sashimi seasoned with ginger and eschallots and topped with Persian feta and wild rocket

Main

Succulent tenderloin of locally-sourced Australian beef, highlighted by fragrant pumpkin purée and accompanied by asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, and almonds

Dessert

A floating island of soft, orange zested meringue served atop an arrangement of seasonal fruits and drizzled with Frangelico crème anglaise

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