October 14, 2021 | By Stu Katzen

According to the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) the business events industry delivers $35.7 billion annually to the Australian economy.

Since March 2020 this has not been the case. Two years with no real active events industry and as I look around Australia, all I see is event devastation.

Most of our events did not run this year and many may not run next year.

You would think $35.7 billion in direct industry expenditure would spark some sort of cogent plan from the Federal Government to rekindle events in Australia, but that does not seem to be happening.

At this point, most of the funding has been left to State Governments to disseminate and manage. In fact, at this point, Federal and State Governments don’t even really understand what we do and who we are as an industry.

From large Government-run public events, to small corporate dinners, from large outdoor sporting events and festivals, to trade shows and international incentives and everything in between, the events industry is vast and cuts across so many sectors. To lump us all together as just events is both naïve and perilous.

Currently no government grant or support applications have a business events category. We don’t officially exist.

When I hear about events being spoken of in the news, it seems to relate to sporting events, trade shows, large-scale public events and festivals. Whilst that is great and definitely part of the picture, it’s not the whole picture.

Most of that $35.7 billion comes from SMEs. The small to medium agencies that activate multiple corporate and business events annually. Yet we are dying.

As NSW starts its slow, cumbersome rise out of lockdown, the NSW Government has “generously” offered another three to four weeks of subjective JobSaver on a sliding scale. Victoria will also lose their equivalent support in a few weeks. So, what happens then?

Events won’t suddenly start up again the day lockdown ends. Corporates are scared and rightly so. We understand and we can’t even grumble about it. We would do the same in their position.

It will take six to 12 months for the business events industry to start to reclaim its position. But what happens to all the small and medium agencies in the meantime? How do we stay in business?

Most of us have little or no staff anymore. Most of our events have been either cancelled or postponed indefinitely. Incentive travel has completely stopped. Yet we still have to pay wages, rent, phones and more.

We will need to revitalise marketing and sales teams and gear them up in order to generate new work, at our own cost.

All our international clients and suppliers are scratching their heads at us and the current Federal restrictions on borders.

It’s a shambles.

So, what do we need and how do we move forward?

  1. The business events industry needs to be recognised and acknowledged as an industry in distress. If State and Federal Governments want that $35.7 billion being generated in Australia, they are going to have to support us. Deliver a JobSaver type scheme to the business events industry in order for us to stay afloat until business events are back up and running at profitable levels again.
  2. The Government also needs to take an Australia wide approach to business events. With most internal borders closed to NSW and Victoria, how do we organise and run domestic interstate events? We don’t just do events in our home states. There needs to be a coordinated plan put in place to allow events agencies to cross those borders and activate events, wherever they are. And to allow event attendees to do the same.
  3. The Federal Government needs to incentivise corporates via tax relief and insurance to start hosting events again.

Four weeks ago, with all of this in our sights and the knowledge that Government would pull JobSaver soon, a group of seven event agencies on Sydney’s Northern Beaches decided to come together to try to approach the government for some form of help.

We approached our local Federal Member of Parliament and asked for help. The amazing Zali Steggall did more than that. She took on our requests and is working with us so we can be heard.

We are not the only ones doing this. There is the Business Events Coalition in NSW and Save Victorian Events in Victoria. Event luminary Peter Jones is also doing something similar in Melbourne. But all of this is not nearly enough.

We have the answers. We have the plan forward; we just need Government to listen to us. We refuse to sit in the corner and play dead.

So, we are asking for your help.

If you are a business events agency, an incentive travel provider or in fact anyone who delivers events in Australia or overseas, please speak up.

We need all the help we can get. The bigger the voice, the more likely we are to get some action from Government.

We are in the process of contacting as many similar groups as ours to create some form of national united front in order to lobby Federal Government and we need your support.

Please feel free to contact me directly via email and we can add you to the growing group and loop you in.

We are currently a fractured and disparate industry. An industry with no governing body or group to speak for all of us.

We need to change this. We need to work together and come together. If we can’t learn to collaborate, we will not survive this. We need to speak for ourselves to ensure we don’t drown.

The best way to do this is to speak with one voice. Please help us do this.

Stu Katzen is the owner and creative director for Eventify. You can email him here.

micenet welcomes feedback on Stu’s proposal. Contact micenet’s editor here with your thoughts.