28/01/2014 - 12:08

Crowded calendar a concern

28/01/2014 - 12:08

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SPECIAL REPORT: Associations are filling the market with events for business people, leading some to request additional venues.

Crowded calendar a concern
AICD WA manager Suzanne Ardagh (left) and UDIA WA chief executive Debra Goostrey’s organisations host more than 100 events a year between them. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Associations are filling the market with events for business people, leading some to request additional venues.

Perth's business events market is at near-saturation point, with professional associations having to plan more than a year in advance to secure dates and venues.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors state manager, Suzanne Ardagh, who oversees about 60 events a year, and Urban Development Institute of Australia state chief executive Debra Goostrey, who oversees about 40 events for 6,500 attendees a year, say the competition for attendees and venues is fierce.

“It’s incredibly crowded. It’s a really, really crowded market and since I’ve been with the institute in the last seven years it’s just got busier and busier,” said Ms Ardagh, whose events cater to more than 5,000 people.

Ms Goostrey said the increase in competition had led some organisers to diversify their offerings.

“It’s a very competitive marketplace because so many more organisations are now running events that you’re looking for a point of difference,” Ms Goostrey said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s oversaturated, but it is pretty much at saturation point.”

Other professional associations to hold events include the Committee of Economic Development of Australia, the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia, the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA, and newspapers including Business News.

While the main event planners are known to each other and liaise to ensure events don’t clash, securing a venue and a date often comes down to first in, best dressed.

“I’d like to think there’s a very collegial attitude among event organisers, but that still doesn’t take away from the (contest for the) event dollar, which is limited,” Ms Ardagh said.

To attract attendees and provide an experience of sufficient value to ensure repeat business has become more difficult since the GFC, with Ms Goostrey saying she’d noticed a significant drop as companies cut back.

“Before the GFC we were running lunches and attracting 750 people regularly; we’re now attracting 450,” Ms Goostrey told Business News.

The UDIA has changed from having its state conference run as a retreat in a regional area to this year holding a shorter program of events called a ‘presidential summit’ at the Crown Promenade convention centre with an emphasis on speakers, rather than networking.

“Even though we’re out of the GFC, people don’t necessarily want to be associated with something that is more about networking, … because we know they have to justify back to their companies who are paying that it’s going to add to the bottom line,” Ms Goostrey said.

For the AICD, carving out a niche has been key to throwing well-attended events.

Ms Ardagh said the association worked hard to avoid offering broad-focused leadership or management events, which had become popular due to the growth in the number of associations and businesses entering the events arena.

“We’re really defining our space, which is the director space. We’ve become very focused on making sure what we offer is relevant to directors, so it takes away some of the overlap,” she said.

Both Ms Ardagh and Ms Goostrey said there needed to be more venues if the sector was keep up with demand for events.

The Business News Book of Lists (pp 14 and 15) shows 42 hotels and convention venues in Western Australia.

 “The real challenge in WA is the lack of suitable venues,” Ms Ardagh said.

“Seriously, there’s not enough space. The lack of variety means you’re at the mercy of the price fluctuations.”

For CEDA state director Liz Ritchie, who oversees 55 events a year attracting 6,000 people, having more venues would be a bonus, but she said CEDA was happy with Perth’s current stock.

Ms Ritchie said CEDA had worked out deals with a number of regular venues during the past two years as it had ramped-up its events capability.

“It would be lovely to have more venues but our preferred venues are tremendous event partners and they provide competitive pricing and fantastic customer service standards,” she said.

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