Moving down under: the Conference Production transition from London to Sydney

Jul 14
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Long established is the tradition of making new years’ resolutions, but often despite our best intentions to make life changes, eat better, get fit, stay healthy we find ourselves slipping back into old, bad habits and not delivering.  This year though, I succeeded!   As I started 2014 I created not a new years’ resolution but a bucket list too – related to life goals, career and travel.  I decided I needed to progress my career to the next stage and ensure I ticked off some more of my travel goals.  By the end of April I joined the buzzing, high energy of the Criterion Conferences production team and I haven’t looked back since! 

So first day, I walk into my new office on Pitt Street, Sydney …….and I wonder whether I have walked into a mad house……….throughout the day a bell rings and everyone stops work to join in rounds of applaud?!  What IS this crazy Sydney conference production practice I ask myself?  I soon learnt that this signals a ‘ticket’ the booking of a place on one of our conferences. By the end of the week I know all my colleagues events they are working on and I am clapping madly alongside them, cheering them on!  A month later when my first conference ticket comes in I add in a ‘maraca moment’ too (when something noteworthy happens at Criterion we shake the maracas – yes, we DO have a pair of maracas in the office).

I was immediately struck on joining Criterion by the dynamic, high energy, buzz, infectious enthusiasm and constant push for innovation that working here brings.  From daily motivational ‘production team huddles’, to the development of audience matrix’s.  I was also struck by the culture to invest in staff, to empower them to strive for new innovations and drive for continual improvement in the way we work. 

Any Conference Producer knows that research is crucial for testing topic viability, establishing your key conference themes, identifying who your speakers should be and most importantly who your target audience are.  I very quickly worked out that the market research skills I honed in London worked even better in Sydney on the phone to Aussies who appeared to love my ‘English rose’ accent!

This accent also appeared to help me charm speakers and delegates alike ‘on the day’ at my first conference in Melbourne, where I developed what I hope will be some really solid working relationships with a number of professionals working across the retirement village and aged care sectors.  Whatever city you are in…….London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sydney, or Melbourne – the ‘on the day’ conference is always a hive of activity and a great time to gain new topic ideas and I have found here at Criterion we maximise the ‘on the day’ experience to it’s full potential even more than I did in the UK!  But really, it’s not all that different – just a more pleasant commute, better climate, earlier starts and MUCH better quality coffee!

It’s been 2 months of conference production in Sydney after 5 years of conference production in London so there is still a lot to learn about the Aussie and indeed Criterion way, its early days but so far, so good……..I would definitely recommend making the move! 

photo credit: conorwithonen via photopin cc

Submitted by Joanna Harper

Joanna Harper

Joanna is a Senior Conference Producer at Criterion. She has worked in the events industry in the UK for ten years, with five years conference production experience, the last two of which working for a London based public sector conference company producing conferences across local government, education, housing, criminal justice and health and social care sectors. Joanna is passionate about research and ensuring every conference is as market-led as possible. Having recently arrived in Sydney she is enthusiastic to immerse herself in all that this fantastic city has to offer.
Fun fact: Joanna remains unbeaten at the cereal box game

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