Convention centres are emerging from the challenges of the global economic slump with some valuable new lessons in business operations, explains president of AIPC, Geoff Donaghy.
Q. What is the driving force behind this new need for centre / client collaboration?
A. I’d say that the top driver is the rapid evolution in event content and formats, brought about by factors ranging from newly available technologies and changing delegate expectations to shifts in program requirements and an increasing engagement by participants in shaping the event structure itself. These shifts can require a significant investment of effort by all concerned – often with little time in which to do it – but there’s a lot at stake for everyone. Organisers know the importance of responding to changing expectations if they are to retain attendance, and those expectations are changing daily. Many features that were considered luxuries even a year or so ago – like sustainability programs or available connectivity – are now simply expectations, while others such as multiple media and remote technologies are moving rapidly in that direction. And this is all coming at a time when event finances are still challenged from years of global economic recession.
Q. How are centres responding?
A. Centres have some unique challenges; it’s a lot easier to change a program on paper than it is to reconfigure a building which may have been designed and built to meet different conditions. Also, many of the new services now in demand are costly to support, and organisers are not always willing to pay the extra expenses. However, the centre product is itself constantly evolving, and that creates new opportunities to revisit how changing event requirements can be supported.
Q. What about the organiser interface?
A. I think there are two factors for success in this respect; the first is creativity and the second is transparency. In the creativity department, the need is to anticipate new program demands as far in advance as possible. This means an ongoing dialogue between the planner and the centre during the period between booking and delivery in order to take full advantage of new services and program options that may be developed in the interim. It’s often possible to address new requirements very cost-effectively through programs already in place at the venues, provided everyone knows about them. So in areas like sustainability or space configurations, creative solutions can often be found easily if there is advance information that lets the venue look more widely at available options.
As far as transparency, again it makes sense to get all the expectations on the table and keep updating these as conditions evolve so there are no surprises on either side. By keeping this conversation active and updated the surprise factor can be minimised – and in the meantime, everyone can be on the lookout for greater savings and efficiencies.
Q. Why does all this matter?
A. In the end, only one thing really matters for both parties – and that is to ensure the delegate has the best possible experience and comes away from the event feeling they got a good return on their investment of both time and money. So it makes sense that more than ever, centres and planners should be collaborating on how to deliver that experience as powerfully and cost-effectively as possible. m
Geoff Donaghy is AIPC President, CEO of International Convention Centre Sydney and Director Convention Centres AEG Ogden.
AIPC represents a global network of more than 170 leading centres in 54 countries with the active involvement of more than 900 management-level professionals worldwide. It is committed to encouraging and recognising excellence in convention centre management, based on the diverse experience and expertise of its international representation, and maintains a variety of educational, research, networking and standards programs to achieve this. Visit www.aipc.org