Showcasing your brand new centre to colleagues from around the world for three days of conferencing must be like bringing your date home to meet the family for the first time. As expected, it was a big thumbs up for the ICC Sydney.

So many things can go wrong at a conference. The AV can pack it in, the signage can be less than clear, the food can be poor, the coffee weak, the WiFi dropping in and out, the room too uncomfortably cold, and the room set-up lacklustre. And they’re just the things that is in the venue’s areas of responsibility.

Other external elements include the weather and the content.

Thankfully, at the recent 2017 Annual Conference of the International Association of Convention Centres held at the ICC Sydney, everything went according to plan.

And more than that, everything that was delivered was top notch.
One can only imagine the jittery nerves the ICC Sydney chief executive Geoff Donaghy and his team must have had prior to the start of the conference. Delegates who manage some of the largest and most successful convention centres in the world were all coming to the meeting and for a sticky beak at the all-new ICC Sydney.
For the past three years they had seen models of the centre at international trade shows around the world. They had heard about the centre’s proximity to the CBD, the healthy `feed your performance’ food philosophy, and the state-of-the-art audio visual equipment.
First timers to Sydney may have also heard about the mild winter weather and clear blue skies. And they definitely weren’t disappointed. One UK presenter quipped that he had left a London summer to arrive in Sydney for it to be warmer than it was back home.
The theme for this year’s conference was `transformation’, with topics ranging from the potential impact of current geopolitical challenges to cyber-security, evolving client expectations and emerging competition.
Not that you could tell these delegates were competitors. It was amazing to see that of the Australian delegates in attendance were the CEOs of every major convention centre in the country. No doubt like their international counterparts many had also come for a sticky at the new venue.

Big city talk

As was the case at the Meetings & Events Australia conference earlier this year, one topic that garnered plenty of interest and debate was a presentation on urban renewal and the importance of large cities to foster greater meetings activity.
Professor Greg Clark, Chairman of the Business of Cities Ltd, told delegates there were six key trends of global cities currently:
1. Cities are emerging markets for businesses
2. Businesses are re-urbanising
3. There is an urbanisation of capital
4. There is a rise of tradeable urban services
5. Cities are labs of business and cluster innovation
6. Businesses are rebranding and restructuring to meet city goals
Professor Clark believes that within the next century, 85 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities.
The conference drew on the recent experiences of host city Sydney with a series of presenters who described and illustrated the dynamic of a city renewal process that relied heavily on a convention centre component as a catalyst for new business events activity.
Other sessions explored areas of immediate centre concern including the growing spectre of cyber-security and the importance of convention centres to keep data safe.

Innovation award

The conference also saw the presentation of the AIPC Innovation Award. There were two joint winners in 2017:
the Palais des congrès de Montréal for the “Urban Agriculture Lab”, a green rooftop development created by the centre to explore green inner-city opportunities;
and the Cairns Convention Centre for its innovative response to the question “What to do with an old roof”. The centre commissioned a local artist to turn the old roof into artworks which were sent to customers, past and present, as a gift, celebrating the facility’s 10th anniversary.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Geoff Donaghy told micenet it was a great privilege to host the conference in Sydney this year.
“The attendees were senior leaders of international convention centres who are advocates for our industry, raising the profile of business events globally and civic leaders demonstrating the impact of convention venues in their own communities.
“There was a high degree of anticipation from members for this year’s conference in Sydney thanks to the powerful marketing campaign that took the world of business events on our journey from construction to opening and beyond. Simply put, their expectations were more than exceed.
“The overarching feedback was that nowhere in the world combines the elements that Sydney enjoys – its CBD location and harbourside setting, ICC Sydney’s contemporary flexible venue design, our 360 degree connectivity to local precincts of business, academia, government and leisure and a city that, through the power of our connections, has embraced ICC Sydney and recognises its economic, intellectual and social impact.”
The conference also saw the election of a new Board of Directors, with Geoff Donaghy stepping down as president. The Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre’s Peter King was elected to the Board.
A decision was also taken to accept an invitation from the Flanders Meeting & Convention Center Antwerp in Belgium to host the 2019 AIPC Conference in its new facilities.

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