By Joyce DiMascio

He’s one of the most dynamic and commercially savvy leaders in the business events industry. And he’s invested lots of his time promoting the “greater good” of our sector. Yet this week he had to announce the difficult but necessary decision to defer the Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME) from 2021 until 2022.

AIME is not just any event, it’s the business event of the business events industry and the news of its deferral strikes another blow to our industry which is looking for opportunities to stand on its own two feet and restart.

Matt Pearce, director and founder of Talk2 Media spoke to Joyce DiMascio about what led to the show’s postponement and also how he sees the current state of the industry.

Matt Pearce is one of the most outspoken and well-regarded leaders in the business events sector – and when he speaks, everybody listens. He has a good grasp of what will help the “greater good” and is commercially and reputationally savvy.

AIME is like public property – everybody loves it or has an opinion about it. And each year, it represents the start of the business year and reunion for those in the sector – especially business events destinations and suppliers.

The closure of international borders certainly was impacting the event – but it was the closure of domestic borders at short notice over Christmas that sucked any positivity that the show could go on.

According to Pearce, prior to Christmas there was some confidence that the show could run – but after the state border closures and local government area hotspots and shut-downs like Avalon, the alarm bells rang.

“Earlier in the pandemic, our client’s concerns were around not catching Covid – but after the Avalon cluster in Sydney and the consequent triggering of interstate border closures, our clients simply did not want to get caught on the wrong side of the border,” he said.

“We had a good handle of what was happening with “buyers” as we invite them and control who attends – but confidence in the market started to cool pre-Christmas because of the uncertainty around travel.

He said the company had addressed all the safety issues and designed the event in order to keep people safe – distancing, sanitising, training, track and tracing. These systems were all in place.

“The short-notice changes about travel across borders is what forced us to defer the show,” he said.

Apart from AIME, Talk2Media runs the popular Good Food & Wine Show; the Baby to Toddler Show and energy industry conference and trade expo, Enlit Australia.

Despite this week’s setback, Matt Pearce is confident that it won’t take long for the industry to bounce back.

He says that for events in the pipeline later this year there is lots of positivity. In the energy sector, for shows like Enit Australia, there is a strong demand for knowledge as so much is changing in the industry so there is a big appetite for content.

“People are still having babies and interest in food continues to grow, so we are positive about the prospects for these events later in the year. Sponsorship for the Good Food & Wine Show is strong,” he said.

“However, what we need most of all is an injection of confidence.”

And with confidence, Matt Pearce believes the events sector will get back on its feet.

He welcomed the $50 million recovery package for the business events sector from the federal government and JobKeeper, but says he would have preferred that event funding be made available directly to the organisers.

He says Austrade has adopted a model for grants similar to what applied to the Export Market Development Grants. He says this was a safe and proven model for Austrade – but that Covid recovery is not the environment of the past and hence it would have been more beneficial if organisers of events were able to secure the funding directly. Only exhibitors and attendees are eligible for funding support for events on the “approved” list.

Matt Pearce also commented on advocacy in the business events sector. He said the industry must work together to communicate the message to governments the value of business events.

“The value of business events cannot be under-estimated,” he said.

“This is a message we must promote strongly, always.”