March 10, 2021

By Laura Bradley

Yesterday I joined 40 other members of the business events industry for Reconnect Canberra, a virtual famil aimed at showcasing the city’s venues, accommodation options and cultural experiences.

The famil was particularly timely as only weeks prior the city had eased restrictions on gatherings, allowing events with up to 10,000 people to take place and permitting the National Convention Centre Canberra (NCCC) to operate at 75 per cent of its capacity.

Director of business development at the Canberra Convention Bureau (CCB) Helen Ord told famil participants that Canberra was “one of the least Covid-impacted cities in Australia, and one that’s the least likely to be impacted again.”

Already its local industry is showing signs of recovery, with the NCCC having last month hosted 350 delegates for a major defence industry conference, and this month preparing to host the 800-pax Australian Cyber Conference. An additional 400 delegates will attend the Australian Cyber Conference online.

Last year the NCCC rolled out new social distancing technology, the Smart Badge, which can be worn as a watch, lanyard or helmet clip. The Smart Badge alerts the wearer through a vibration that they are within one-and-a-half metres of another wearer.

Famil attendees heard from a range of local suppliers. Pictured is Karen Shaw from Shaw Wines hosting a wine tasting experience.

Canberra has also not wasted the Covid-19 crisis by using the time to improve its accommodation offering. Ms Ord told participants that the world’s first A by Adina hotel opened in the city last month, introducing 130 apartments within walking distance of the NCCC, and that Canberra Rex Hotel unveiled a refurbishment of its 900 sqm of event space late last year.

Combined, these updates paint the picture of a city that is ready to rumble when it comes to hosting business events. During the famil, I particularly enjoyed watching a video montage showcasing venues such as the Australian War Memorial and National Arboretum Canberra. The video provided event styling inspiration for viewers, and brought back memories from the Canberra Top Secret famil which I attended in 2019.

But the unequivocal event highlight, and the component I believe all organisers should integrate into their virtual events, was the care package delivered to participants a week prior. The package included a range of smoked meats, pickled onions and zucchini from Pialligo Estate, and a bottle of wine from Shaw Wines. These culinary treats accompanied a charcuterie board assembling demonstration by Pialligo Estate’s general manager Scott Taylor and executive chef Mark Glenn; and a wine tasting experience presented by Shaw Wines’ Karen Shaw.

The care package sent to attendees a week before the event.

The food was simply delicious, and while I was gobbling it up with relish, two thoughts struck me. One, I really need to revisit Pialligo Estate (the last time I explored its 55 acres of event possibilities was for the 2019 Top Secret famil), and two, where feasible, all organisers of virtual events should send care packages to attendees ahead of time.

Speaking from personal experience, a care package or real-life component is what separates a virtual event destined for the trash file from one I will RSVP to in a heartbeat. Not only does it show that organisers are willing to go above and beyond to deliver a unique experience, but it provides a literal taste of the region being showcased. Plus, food is the most important part of events. That hasn’t changed since Covid.

The delicious meat provided by Pialligo Estate.

If you don’t believe me, listen to what the other attendees had to say. The overwhelming famil feedback was that the home delivered care packages were the highlight of the event.

Managing director of The Association Specialists Nell Harrison said: “Pialligo treats are a regular feature in my shopping trolley, great to see them showcased. Great update on Canberra and nice way to spend Wednesday lunch.”

Director at Destination Management Sonja Soderbom said that receiving such a lovely pack prior to the event “really enhanced the experience.”

Meanwhile, supplier relations and proposals manager for Event Travel Management Gloria Nykl said that the Pialigo smoked goods and Shaw Estate wines are “truly wonderful and a testament to Canberra.”

See. They might have put it a lot more eloquently than I did… but, essentially, food is awesome and will get people to attend your virtual event.

Thanks for having me CCB and I can’t wait to get back down to Canberra once again.