How do you select a handful of exceptional women working in business events from a massive pool of exceptional women working in the business events sector? You call for nominations.

We did that and we got a flurry of information about plenty of great women working here and a few abroad. We got so many in fact that we’ve decided to do this feature in two parts. In reality we could do it in about 20 editions but hey, you have to draw a line somewhere.

On the following pages you’ll find our first bunch. Congrats to all those who were nominated.


Adrienne Readings
– General manager, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre

Adrienne was appointed general manager of the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre (GCCEC) in 2002- the first woman to be appointed the GM of an Australian Convention Centre. She currently oversees a team of more than 300 employees. With a passion for sales, her main focus is finding ways to create opportunities to attract conventions and incentives out of national and international markets.

Adrienne is the Vice Chair of Gold Coast Tourism Corporation and has proudly represented tourism on the Gold Coast as a Board Member for 13 years. She works with her peers to capitalise on the success Gold Coast Tourism has garnered in recent years and to further nurture the rapid growth of the destination’s market share across tourism, leisure and business events sectors.
With more than 26 years’ experience across hospitality and business events, Adrienne is a destination advocate with an unwavering commitment to providing a voice for the Gold Coast and Queensland. She is affiliated with a number of leading industry bodies and currently serves on the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) and Griffith University Gold Coast Advisory Council.

With tourism now Australia’s leading economic driver and the positive global legacy of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, Adrienne believes this is an opportune time to harness a larger percentage of the market. Amidst boundless opportunities for tourism, trade and investment, Adrienne hopes to partner with key stakeholders to develop and foster this potential through dedicated and targeted business and marketing strategies.


Anna Case
– Director, Business Events Gold Coast Tourism

Anna has extensive experience in both business events and leisure tourism, having previously worked with Tourism Australia and the Hong Kong Tourism Board. She has also successfully established meeting and event specialist businesses in the US and Australia. As a destination specialist, she has worked with international tourist boards including Britain, Canada, Cannes CVB, Beverly Hills CVB and the State Tourism Boards of Australia. Anna is currently the chair of the Australian Committee of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Deputy chair and Committee member of the Asia Pacific Chapter of ICCA and a director of the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA).

Anna’s experience in the industry spans 30 years, although she is the first one to say she is still learning at every available opportunity. Her passion for the industry is obvious, and something she engenders in her team of 12 as Director of Global Business Events at Destination Gold Coast. Anna recommends a healthy combination of focus and fun to achieve results, with a strong commitment to making the role your own and developing it over time.

Anna says the greatest achievements of her bureau career have been attracting Infinitus China to the Gold Coast in May 2018 and her work on the bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“Being able to combine a passion for the Gold Coast with the love of working and connecting with people… It’s so creative and varied, no day is ever the same,” she said.


Fran Barlow
– Events and sponsorship specialist, Amazon Web Services

Fran knew she wanted to be an event planner when at age nine, she successfully pulled off a neighbourhood surprise party for her mother. Fran’s events and sponsorship management career now spans 20 years, with roles in Australia and the UK.

Starting as a junior producer at a Sydney advertising agency, Fran spread her wings and ventured to the UK where she landed various roles, from executing small business events for John Cleese to organising participation at international exhibitions for Granada Television. Returning to her homeland after a decade of successful event direction, Fran secured the role as Head of Events and Sponsorship at Microsoft Australia where she developed strategy and led the planning process. Some of the events included the award-winning TechEd/Ignite Conference (2500 attendees), Australia Partner Conference (1500+ attendees), Imagine Cup (1200 international attendees) and Big Picture (3000 attendees).

In 2012, Fran won the Most Outstanding Individual Contributor plus Best Innovation and Best Small Event at the Microsoft Global Event Marketing Awards. She also recently completed a six-month contract role as Event Manager on the AWS Summit Sydney that achieved 17,000 attendees over three days at the ICC. However, her proudest achievement has been identifying and developing young talent who have since moved into successful careers of their own. Fran also believes that building partnerships with suppliers, internal teams and external agencies is critical to seamless event planning and delivery.


Juliet Alabaster
– General manager, Brisbane Convention Bureau

Juliet is the general manager of the Brisbane Convention Bureau, which sits within the city’s economic development board, Brisbane Marketing. Juliet spends the best part of her day leading major bid wins and new strategic programs for Australia’s New World City, including the recently launched Lord Mayor’s Convention Trailblazer Grant. She heads a dedicated and passionate team undertaking research, business development, bidding, convention promotion and membership.

Juliet’s unwavering passion for business events stems from her love of Brisbane, and playing her part in creating a more prosperous city through the wide range of work that the Convention Bureau does. Having spent ten years with Brisbane Marketing, Juliet has become an integral figure within the broader conventions industry and is always looking to take Brisbane to the next level.
With persistence and determination, she and her team deliver the tangible results that are building the city’s thriving visitor economy, while facilitating the knowledge sharing, trade, investment and employment benefits that business events bring to Brisbane.

Juliet’s potential was shown very quickly after joining the Convention Bureau in 2008, beating off submissions from around Australia to win the 2009 AACB Staff Scholarship. Winning the Scholarship underlined Juliet’s potential and provided a springboard for her to progress to senior manager, bidding & business development before taking up the top job at the Brisbane Convention Bureau. By applying her extensive experience in the conventions and business events industry, Juliet is bolstering Brisbane’s reputation as a world-class destination for conventions and business events.


Malu Barrios
– Director of event services, ICC Sydney

Malu has been putting the needs of business events clients first for the past four decades. Her optimism and passion for the industry, focus on keeping clients engaged and informed and keen attention to detail have left a favourable impression across the industry. Having held senior roles in convention, exhibition and major event venues, she has also steered many team members to achieve their own successful careers.

Malu has been involved with AEG Ogden for almost 25 years. Her tenure began in 1994 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. In 2005 she progressed to the role of general manager at the Darwin Convention Centre before running the Sydney Exhibition Centre at its temporary Glebe Island location between 2013 and 2016. While ICC Sydney was being constructed, Malu played an instrumental role in transitioning exhibition clients to the Glebe Island facility and then back to ICC Sydney in Darling Harbour. The new venue’s stacked design and integration into a bustling precinct required the maintenance of close client relationships, as well as a constant flow of industry updates. Malu rose to the challenge, and the venue’s first events went off without a hitch.
Malu’s time as general manager of the Sydney Showground at Sydney Olympic Park also left a lasting legacy. During her time there between 2000 and 2005, she led the way in corporate structure changes and development programs that enhanced the venue’s exhibition capabilities.


Rachel Argaman
– CEO, Toga Far East Hotels

Rachel is a visionary leader whose collaborative leadership style has helped build TFE Hotels (Toga Far East Hotels) into one of the most successful hotel and apartment development and management companies based in Australia.

Rachel has led TFE Hotels through a huge growth era over the past 10 years, overseeing takeovers, integrations and the rollout of new hotel brands including Vibe Hotels and TFE Hotels Collection.

TFE Hotels is the only company headquartered in Australia to design, build and manage hotels end to end, from concept to successful operation. It now has 72 hotels across the globe.
Rachel has steered the company through key achievements, including:

  • The establishment of TFE Hotels in 2013- a joint venture between Australia’s long-established apartment and hotel development and management company, Toga Group, and Singapore’s Far East Hospitality Holdings
  • Management takeover of Rendezvous Hotels in 2014 and Travelodge Hotels in Australia and New Zealand in 2005
  • Development of TFE Hotels into one of Australia’s most sought after places to work with 2800 team members worldwide, an average team retention rate of six years and a strong gender diversity recordRachel’s commitment has also been recognised through numerous industry accolades, including this year’s acquisition of Travel Weekly’s Women in Travel, Employer of the Year and Telstra National Corporate Businesswoman of the Year. In July, Rachel will be stepping down from her post as CEO to embark on another career path. The trail she has blazed for women in the events industry is undeniable.


Anna Hayward
– Manager, Auckland Convention Bureau

Anna is one of the driving forces behind the New Zealand business events industry as manager of the Auckland Convention Bureau (ACB). She is also a pivotal member of the ACB division Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) and was formerly chair of the New Zealand Convention Bureau. Anna’s team has partnered with a range of organisations to secure international business events worth tens of millions in additional GDP for Auckland.

General manager- destination at ATEED Steve Armitage said “Anna’s passion and dedication to growing the business events sector and ensuring its value is recognised nationally is second to none.

“She is highly respected through the industry for her advocacy and willingness to share knowledge and insights into international trends.”

Anna led the development of the Auckland Business Events Plan, the first regional plan of its kind in the country, and the highly successful Auckland Advocates Programme which engages industry leaders directly in the growth of the region’s business events profile.

Chief executive of Conventions & Incentives New Zealand Sue Sullivan said “Anna has worked tirelessly as a leader in the business events sector in New Zealand. She has worked with many organisations on data collection, industry voice and advocacy for the betterment of the industry [and under her leadership] Auckland is becoming a real player in the international world of business events.”

Before ACB, Anna worked in sales and marketing for hotels and conference centres for more than 20 years.