The company is now known as DC Conference and Association Management or DCC&A.
"It’s a small change to our name which is welcomed by our association management team as it is more inclusive and more reflective of what we do. It gives us a renewed perspective on the benefits that come with the integration of the conference management and association management teams for our valued clients" says owner and founder Dianna Crebbin.
Meeting Newz magazine took some time to talk with Dianna about the state of event management in the C-19 world.
Tell us a bit more about the business, the team and your areas of expertise and type of events you have run?
DCC (Now DCC&A) began back in 1989 with the first conference held at the Wentworth Hotel (now Sofitel) in Sydney. It was a medical conference with around 200 delegates and a small trade exhibition. Surprisingly DCC&A still manages this same annual conference but it has grown to around 800 delegates, multiple streams and a very large trade exhibition.
Today DCC&A manages around 20 national and international conferences per year and most of these are for medical or healthcare associations or not for profit organisation. We have deliberately concentrated on this area of conference management because they fit well with our philosophy of managing conferences that can make a difference.. conferences with meaning
What has happened to those events you were managing and going to manage pre C19?
In March 2020 we were all set for a very busy year before the threat of COVID19. In early March, we were already in at the ICC Sydney setting up for a three-day national medical conference with around 1000 delegates and an exhibition of 70 booths, when 18 hours or so before the conference was due to start their Board decided to cancel the conference. It was a huge shock to all. The Board felt that should infection take hold at the conference it could take out a very large portion of specialists across Australia and New Zealand and close down this specialty. It was a very brave move on the part of their board and we understood.
That same week we were managing another national medical conference at PCEC in Perth with around 500 delegates and multiple concurrent sessions over four days. Their Board decided to continue with the conference, with very strict monitoring and health processes in place to minimise the risk of infection. However, hospital departments had started restricting their staff travel recommendations and so we were facing many cancellations. So just 24 hours before the conference was due to commence we and our AV team from Sydney converted the whole event to a hybrid conference. This included 7 breakfasts and 6 concurrent sessions each day. The program and technology ran without a hitch and we were amazed at what had been achieved. We were also very happy that no cases of the COVID19 were reported from the conference.
On the last day of the conference PM Scott Morrison announced bans on gatherings over 500 pax and from that point onwards almost every conference through to the end of the year either cancelled or postponed. We spent many months doing refunds and reconciliations to delegates and exhibitors. Since then the team has been working hard to build skills in virtual and hybrid meetings and general upskilling. It has also given us time to undertake some administration which often gets left behind in the fast-paced environment we are used to working in.
What are the most critical elements of events that are going to change?
Like most of our PCO colleagues we accept that the hybrid and virtual elements are here to stay and will be incorporated into programs in the future. It may no longer be necessary to fly each and every keynote speaker to the conference and cover their travel and accommodation costs, which will have a positive impact on conference budgets. Virtual program formats have changed from face to face formats to be more accommodating to the delegate faced with a computer screen for hours on end. Exhibitors and Sponsors will be asking for new ways to get the return on their investment. PCO’s are re-evaluating their staffing levels and charges for virtual and hybrid events.
We do however believe the face-to-face meeting will be back, as the virtual world does not provide the relaxed social environment so important for networking. This is particularly important in scientific fields, allowing for peer to peer collaboration.
Are some of these a good thing?
I feel confident that this shake up will force us all to review the way we manage conferences and events. While it is hard to endure at this stage, in the end the changes will bring benefits.
What are the current client barriers to holding events? How can these be safely mitigated?
Our clients, which are mostly not-for-profits and ANZ member based organisations are inherently conservative. They think twice about risking members’ funds and rightly so. In the currently climate these organisations are weighing up the risks vs their need to meet for professional development etc. To help mitigate some of the risks, once borders are opened again, we will advise our clients to re-examine estimates of delegate attendance and the need for multiple break out space. Venue contracts may also be in line for review and negotiation. For the foreseeable there will be some onsite processes to ensure health and safety of attendees is looked after. Everyone in the industry is working on procedures and policies to ensure this and as an industry we will meet these needs.
Do you think there will be screening at events… temperature, sat levels?
Yes, I believe once face to face meetings are back, screening and other safety measures will continue for some time. Attendees will need time to adapt and build confidence in attending so any measures that provide this will be relevant.
When do you think we will see the Trans-Tasman bubble happen?
This is crystal- ball gazing. The second wave in Victoria and the small outbreak in Auckland has impressed on all of us how delicate the situation is and how quickly an outbreak can spread. I can’t see the Trans-Tasman bubble happening until confidence in virus containment and contact tracing increases. Maybe optimistically the first quarter of 2021?
Do you have clients wanting to travel each-way?
Yes, most of our clients are Australian and New Zealand organisations who are committed to holding their meetings in both countries.
What % of your events moving forward do you feel will have a hybrid component?
I think all of our clients will consider the hybrid options. There are many different ways of including a hybrid component and eventually it will come down to costs.