July 26, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

Following the second postponement of Get Local last week, to October, micenet caught up with the show’s founders Donna Kessler and Gary Bender to gauge their stress levels and find out what’s what with the most anticipated business events trade show in Australia for 2021.

Q: How are you feeling having postponed the event twice now?
Donna Kessler: More committed to deliver a person-to-person event than ever! The Business events community needs it.
Gary Bender: Like everyone, very frustrated – the last 18 months has been a nightmare – for Get Local, in particular, in this moment in time, we have a sell-out show but can’t open the doors!

Q: Was the rescheduling a challenge?
DK: Strangely, every stakeholder and partner has been very positive. I think it boils down to the desire to make this happen. Everyone is on board.
GB: It seems it’s part of our lives now, everyone is in the same boat. The challenge was to get all our ducks in a row be it venue and suppliers and of course exhibitors and buyers. When to make the call, being confident of that call and being a realist – it’s not anyone’s fault – [so we have to] just suck it up and get on with it.

Q: Has there been any fallout from having to reschedule multiple times? How are both of your stress levels?
DK: No fallout. Stress levels have certainly been elevated.  Deciding to change or not and what is the perfect date…and what’s available. We have to follow the health orders and we also want to ensure all of the borders [are] open. There’s normally a lag in this, taking this into consideration and securing all is the chess game.
The Get Local team is small but agile, we respond quickly…although I think our Zoom account might be maxed out!
GB: We have enormous support from the industry and that drives us further and harder to make it happen. Stress test machine did a runner when it saw me coming towards it. Golf helps!

Q: The situation in Sydney is still worsening – what will you do if events are still not possible in Sydney in October? Would you consider moving the event to another state? Would you go virtual?
DK: We will not go virtual. NSW is the host state and Get Local will be held here. We would not consider virtual or hybrid [as it] goes against everything we believe in.  Our businesses are about the in-person connections. The industry is about meeting, gathering and having in-person connections, building relationships. You can’t do that virtually.

Q: What has the feedback from stakeholders been like?
DK: Very, very positive. They too want it to happen, they understand our industry and appreciate our drive to do this. It’s been great.
GB: Everyone one is gunning for Get Local and to be a part of it in person.

Q: Are you planning any new elements with the additional time until the show?
DK: Yes, stay tuned. We are working through these now.

Q: Has the show gained any additional significance due to the lockdowns?
DK: Absolutely. From all accounts it really will be THE event of the year. An industry party. We can’t wait!
GB: Everyone wants the doors to open.

Q: Is there any message you would like to give the government about the state of our industry at the moment?
DK: Many of our stakeholders are government organisations. We greatly appreciate their contribution and support of Get Local. Without them, it would simply not be possible. There is a desire to help get the industry moving again.
I do believe we need to have a stronger voice overall. The construction industry over the last 18 months has been strong. The current two-week shutdown for them won’t kill jobs, it won’t make the jobs disappear, it won’t make them leave this industry – it will simply delay the job being done. But the money will still be in the bank. For the business events industry, we’ve had to live with this and the uncertainty for over 18 months. Many people won’t recover, they are leaving the industry – it’s devastating.
GB: The Federal Government needs to stand up as it’s gone very distant. The travel and event industry is on its knees and unless we get support from Canberra, we are in for another long, hard 12 months – unless there is support there will be carnage. Locally, the NSW Premier and her health advisors have done a great job – it’s a juggling act. To me, they have behaved exactly like a decent PCO or event organiser by being too nice and trying to please everyone. They should have gone in harder.

Q: And what’s your message to industry?
DK: Firstly – thank you to those that are supporting the show, it’s been really encouraging. The show floor is sold out, we couldn’t be happier – there’s an appetite to reconnect and rebuild. GET registered to attend Get Local and support our events industry.
GB: Hang in there – the need to meet at an event is bigger than ever.

Q: Finally, any advice for other organisers having to reschedule?
DK: Work with your partners and be open and transparent – they understand [as] they are probably in the same situation. Discuss the pros and cons – everything has a silver lining.
GB: It’s worth it.