By Brad Foster

If there’s been a harder working CEO during the COVID-19 meetings and events pause than Geoff Donaghy then we can’t find one.

In-between his CEO role at the ICC Sydney, Donaghy has been working behind the scenes, primarily as deputy chairman of the Business Events Council of Australia, which has been pushing hard to get meetings and events back on track as restrictions ease.

Last week launching the ICC Sydney Event Safe Operating Framework that is being implemented to ensure the safety of all future ICC Sydney attendees, he said there was a groundswell of ICC Sydney clients wanting to come together and run events again.

“Zoom and other applications have done a great job filling a communication gap over recent months, and virtual events will likely form an ongoing part of our business, but feedback tells us there is still a very strong desire for people to meet face-to-face,” he said.

“There has been a lot of divergence in interpretations and applications of the Government’s Three
Step Framework rolling back COVID-19 restrictions. ICC Sydney has been working closely with our industry bodies to get clarity from both Federal and State Government about this, and enable us to restart.

“The Prime Minister’s announcement on Friday that the government is lifting the cap of 100 people gathering, and replacing this with the four-square metre rule per person, is a welcome step in the right direction. It is my hope that this will be rapidly implemented at a state level, which will have huge implications for our capacity and ability to start delivering safe, financially viable events.”

Donaghy believes the way things are progressing now there will be the return of substantially sized events starting to come back from September, with domestic bookings returning to a healthy level in 2021.

“Clients are certainly telling us they are ready to start meeting. We’re realistic though that with international travel restrictions and the pandemic ongoing globally, we may not see international events return until the second half of next year, or later.”

With that in mind, the ICC Sydney launched its Event Safe Operating Framework last week. It was a collaborative effort, developed by team members and departments across the ICC Sydney. It also incorporates best practice from ASM Global’s soon to be launched VenueShield and operates within the safety protocols of Safe Work Australia’s Codes of Practice.

“The ICC Sydney EventSafe Operating Framework outlines how we will manage events going forward in light of this situation – to ensure the health and safety of everyone at the venue, whilst also getting events back up and running,” Donaghy said.

“It is a comprehensive framework which we believe will set an industry benchmark and reinstall confidence in people to start hosting and attending events again.”

And here at micenet we certainly hope that will be the case.

Right now, the ICC Sydney’s core team remains active, particularly assisting clients run virtual events.

Our virtual events offering – which rapidly expanded in response to demand during this time – has formed a big part of the team’s work. This has included running events for government, education bodies, industry partners such as MEA and EEAA, and charities including Stand Tall and Batyr.

“We have also been using this time to fully audit and refresh the venue, as well as planning and preparing for recovery. The development of our EventSafe Operating Framework was a huge part of the latter, involving significant work and input from across the business. Critically, we have been getting ourselves ready to once again deliver world class events as soon as feasible.”

Amen to that!