January 24, 2022 | By Rebecca McCaig, Director of NT Business Events

Rebecca McCaig, Director of NT Business Events (NTBE), talks about how a number of business events staged in the Northern Territory in 2021 set record attendances, despite the challenging times, thanks in part to strategies put in place by the business events team.

We were really proud and pleased to host some very successful events in 2021 and were very grateful for the support received from event planners, as they continued to bring their events to the Northern Territory. A number of these business events highlighted how NTBE’s strategies have enabled the destination to offer invaluable planner assistance, access to in-depth local industry and business information and a cohesive network of partners, complemented by an ongoing bid fund program.

A combination of these factors enabled us to attract these events, assist them to be effectively staged and ensured the events themselves would provide the optimum experience for planners and delegates.

NT Business Events has long identified the merit in seeking to attract business events for which the Northern Territory offers special relevance.  More specifically, events which relate to an industry sector in which the NT excels or has particular expertise, providing scope for offsite technical touring to urban and regional locations, access to locally-based expert speakers, as well as exhibitor and sponsorship support.

Working within the NT Government Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, we were able to identify and leverage sectors which would provide an added incentive for the NT to be considered as the host destination for a business event.

Encompassing thirteen very diverse sectors, the NT’s key industry strengths include multiple specialisations in health, agribusiness and mining through to maritime services, defence and space.

This diversity has assisted us to engage with a broad range of business event planners across the corporate and association segments, many of whom were not previously aware of the depth of the NT’s assets in these industries.

Industry strengths in action

An example of an industry-sector-related business event was the Northern Australia Food Futures Conference staged at the Darwin Convention Centre in May last year. This four-day conference seeks to promote the development of agriculture across Northern Australia, especially relevant for the NT.

In 2021, the Darwin event was the largest Food Futures Conference ever held, attracting a record attendance of 500 delegates, over 78 percent of whom came from interstate.

We knew that the NT’s enviable dry season weather would appeal to interstaters during the southern winter, enabling much of the social program to be staged outdoors. The organisers noted that Darwin’s close proximity to working mango and melon farms and access to operators such as Humpty Doo Barramundi ensured the field trips would also draw great interest.

Flexibility and safety before profit

The reputation of the Northern Territory during these highly competitive times has also been enhanced by the outstanding collaboration and cohesiveness on offer from our industry partners.

Business event planners now find themselves working in a highly stressful, dynamic environment, making flexibility and cooperation from their host destination even more important. We’ve encouraged our business events partners and suppliers in the NT to be as flexible as possible to help mitigate some of the risks for planners, which have become an inevitable consequence of event organising in the COVID-19 era.

Another very successful business event staged in the NT in 2021 showcased how this was achieved.

Despite having been moved from its original dates due to lockdowns around the country, the Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) conference held in Darwin in May 2021 attracted 600 delegates, well exceeding the original target. Whilst pleasing to have such strong demand, the increased numbers initially presented challenges across accommodation availability, aviation capacity and the host venues. However, as a result of NT Business Event’s close working relationships with our industry partners, all challenges were met and expectations exceeded.

The glowing comments received from the conference organiser, Lauren Levin, Director of Policy with FCA, convey it better than I can:

“We all really appreciated that we could safely have a conference in 2021 and get together in person. Our delegates were very grateful that we could come to Darwin. The conference was hugely successful thanks to a team of people from NT Business Events supporting us. Many people told us that not only was this the best FCA Conference they’d been to, but was the best conference they’d been to anywhere! The Darwin venues provided flexibility. It was a joint effort by all to put safety first, ahead of profits … and this approach led to a safe, large, wonderful conference.”