By Joyce DiMascio

This is part two of Joyce DiMascio’s chat with the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre’s (MCEC) Peter King and Leighton Wood. To read part one, click here.

But the centre and Melbourne are a long way away from the highs of pre-Covid.

“We’ve now gotta rebuild the business,” Peter said.

“Uncertainty has been the most difficult thing to deal with over the past 12 months. And it’s going to take a long time.

“We’ve decided business as usual is not an option for the future – we’re now building a platform to build organisational prosperity in the future.”

He says things won’t be the same – the future will be different. What’s changed? The need to be nimble, the cycles are shorter – and groups are involved in decision-making.

Asked whether his resolve was tested at any time over the past 12 months – Peter said he came close to curling up in a corner a couple of times – especially with some hard calls with people who weren’t dealing well with the lockdowns.

The health and wellbeing of staff is taken seriously and in recent days, the MCEC has announced the appointment of health and wellbeing advisor, Tina Blythman, to “achieve the highest standards and performance in mental health and wellbeing.”

Leighton points out Peter’s strengths – his calm leadership and the empathy and understanding that he shows. Of Leighton, Peter King says he’s like “red wine”, and gets better with age.

For Leighton Wood, 2020 had its own personal challenges in dealing with some major health issues that along with Covid, derailed his long-service leave.

He says he missed a lot at the centre during the height of Covid, but when he came back it was like getting onto a fast-moving carousel – everything was different.

“It was the biggest learning experience I’ve ever had,” he said.

Wood is confident the centre can deliver safe events – just last week it hosted the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Ben Folds Symphonic Tour. It was a huge success and the centre delivered a seamless Covid-safe experience that was closely watched by the state’s health authorities.

They both are in-sync especially with building on MCEC’s credentials as a winner of the Employer of Choice for several consecutive years.

Leighton Wood says they have shifted from an autocratic culture to one where people are empowered and given the freedom to do their jobs – even the floor stewards have authority to solve problems to a specified monetary value. That means problems are fixed quickly.

Australia’s reputation has grown during the pandemic, King believes.

“The cache of Melbourne and Australian cities has grown around the world” because of the way Australia has handled the past 12 months,” he said.

Things are different. And Melbourne will be back: “the essence of Melbourne is still here, Melbourne will recover – there are still lots of cool things here.”

With confidence in their teams and faith in their city – Peter King and Leighton Wood make two fine industry captains with the ball firmly in their court. And everybody will win with the MCEC ready to welcome clients and support the community like never before.