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From the 80's until now...

With Medical Meetings 20th Anniversary now upon us, I look back on the past 2 decades and the great things we have achieved as a Company and a Team.

But let’s go back a bit further.

No-one would disagree that Event Management is one of the toughest professions around, in fact it is up there with “fighter pilots” in the top 10 most stressful professions on the planet, coming in at number 5 believe it or not.

Whilst event management has always been tough, imagine organising an event in the late 80s and 90s before emails, internet, the world wide web, mobile phones for god sakes, laptop computers, social media unheard of, with only “word perfect” “excel” and later “access” data base. All event invitations were printed and usually through Mail Marketing Works, thousands were printed and mailed for each event especially in the pharmaceutical area.

It was the days of Golden Wing and when Ansett had more than 50% of the domestic airline market share over Qantas, no Virgin no Jetstar. The days of overhead and slide projectors and when you had only 1 physical group airline ticket for 100 plus passengers, with the event manager madly crossing off names from a PNR paper ticket that was 5 feet long at the check in counter, with 100 delegates staring you down.

It was also the time of no superannuation, no maternity leave, no flexibility in working hours and only 5 days sick leave per annum, where you basically had to have 2 broken legs to be able to take sick leave without the wrath of your boss.

Before the events of September 11, 2001 and the forever changed security measures that came with it, event managers mainly travelled on P17 tickets issued from Ansett and Qantas which were first or business class seats. I myself, as I am sure many others of my era in event management did, often also travelled in the jump seat behind the pilots when a flight was oversold, which in those days happened all the time. I remember people frantically waiting at the “wait list counter” trying to jump a flight after being bumped due to oversell, it reminded me of Athens Airport where you basically had to bid for your ticket. Airfares in the late 1980s were also much more expensive than they are in 2021!

Yes, Event Management is without a doubt, a tough gig and if you look at what the industry has had to endure since the late 1980s including the 88 stock market crash and subsequent global financial crisis, SARs and MERs, the gulf wars, terrorism, September 11, the 2008 GFC, it is a wonder any of us survived.

2010-2020 was one of the best decades of event management, there were leaps and bounds forward with technologies and what we could offer our clients. We were able to connect through interactive apps, at the click of a button. Team building activities now included virtual reality and we could now do Projection Mapping on tables at Gala Awards Dinners. We were better connected to all different parts of the country and the globe, meaning we could travel with groups to new and exciting locations. In 2019 alone our team had over 10,000 delegates across their events travel to Toyko, London, Edinburg, Barcelona, Uluru, Arnhem Land, Palm Cove, Barossa Valley and Hamilton Island (just to name a few).

Though nothing before had prepared us or even slightly compared to COVID which hit our shores and industry like a freight train in March 2020.

Every event across Australia and the world was postponed indefinitely or outright cancelled, the Event industry which generates 36 billion dollars and employs almost 250,000 people each year in Australia, was decimated overnight.

We no longer had a product to sell. There were no incomings, only outgoings and without government assistance in the form of Job Keeper I have no doubt that 95% of event management and other related companies would not be here today. Whilst there were no events taking place, staff worked tirelessly to postpone events again and again and negotiate with hotels and suppliers to hold the events at later dates, everyone was looking out for their client’s best interests.

Virtual conferences and events were introduced to help bring people together. During some of the toughest lockdowns our team did an incredible job organizing and producing a huge range of virtual programs. From live broadcasts in studios, to conferences with 70+ speakers, multiple concurrent tracks and gala awards dinners with both delegates, speakers and awards recipients based all over Australia. This new way of doing events virtually meant some of our clients could connect with new people from all over the globe, with one event growing from 400pax in person (before being moved to online), then growing to 3000+ virtual delegates.

Then just when we thought “it was safe to go back in the water”, and about to put staff back to normal days, 26 June 2021 came and lockdown again in Sydney then Melbourne and ACT and all other states closed their borders again and we were back to where we started, yet this time around it was so much harder, for everyone. Surviving COVID in Event Management has come at a high price.

The absolute worst casualty of COVID for the Event Industry has been the loss of our very talented, very experienced, jack of all trade, specialist people that have left the industry due to the instability and mental and financial hardship they have endured over the past 20 months and the insecurity of what will happen next.

However we are excited by what’s to come in 2022, with our February calendar already having events confirmed for every state in Australia. The rebuild phase for the events industry is exciting and full of possibility. Here at Medical Meetings and Face to Face Events we are thrilled to be hiring new team members and taking briefs from new clients.

May Face to Face Events come back again like a freight train in early 2022 so that Event Management Companies, Airlines, Hotels, Restaurants, Transport, Team Building, and so many other related industries can do what they do best.

We are all looking forward to the future in Event Management and what is to come in 2022.

Gina Peterson

Director - Medical Meetings

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