Sydney: The Sweet Spot for Conference Organisation!

28th Nov, 2023

Sydney, the capital of New South Wales (NSW), is Australia’s largest state economy accounting for a third of national economic output. Its destination management organisation, BESydney, has focused on partnerships with the NSW Government, universities and innovation hubs, aligning financial objectives with impact and leveraging business events to create social legacies.

Business Events Sydney (BESydney) unveiled a new face to the world in September, with a new institutional branding, website and complete content refresh, sending a bold signal that the destination has reached a new phase in its global positioning. As the city’s international advocates with responsibility for attracting global associations and academic audiences to Sydney, this corporate brand facelift is designed to appeal to the various business travel segments such as association conferences, incentive activities and corporate meetings. “As the world of events has changed dramatically, with new business models, new ways of working and meeting, we feel the time is right for this significant change in our identity and the way we sell our city,” says BESydney CEO, Lyn Lewis-Smith (pictured right). In the wake of megatrends and as different global markets awaken from the pandemic in different ways, BESydney identified that associations are now looking for destinations that tangibly demonstrate how organising a meeting benefits both the association’s membership and the host citys. “Our customers want to know where we stand on sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion, and delivering CSR outcomes. They are requiring values-alignment, a deeper cultural connection, and a more immersive experience when they get here.” An example was this year’s most welcoming, inclusive, accessible and sustainable Sydney WorldPride festival and Human Rights Conference – a 17-day ‘party with a purpose’. BESydney’s new brand reflects that confidence on the international stage – after all, this is Sydney, Australia’s sweet spot.

And what services influence bidding processes? “We can support bringing in delegates from nearby developing countries, social impact projects, connections to government, industry experts and suppliers, and connect clients with Australia’s greater understanding of our industry’s strengths, thought leaders and innovations.” BESydney partners with the NSW Government to use business events as catalysts for foreign direct investment and talent attraction. In addition, they partner with other entities including the city’s globally ranked universities as well as research and innovation centres, such as Australian Space Agency, Cicada Innovations (a leading incubator for start-ups and scale-ups involved in science and engineering innovation, also known as deep tech). Sydney’s industry strengths lie in areas such as Aerospace & Defence, Finance & Professional Services, Health & Life Sciences, Science & Engineering and Technology & Innovation. Just like investors, association members are voting with their feet, aligning their spending with destinations, partners and employers who practice what they say. In this way, BESydney is taking steps to stay ahead of the curve by consulting with its Global Ambassadors and the broader network of member suppliers and partners to explore ways of generating social impact on a large scale. “ESG and CSR in boardrooms has quickly gone from being a nice-to-have to a must-have in the proposals we receive from our global customer base,” adds Lewis-Smith.

Sydney's long-term and proactive approach to sustainability has helped the city consistently rank in the top 30 of the Global Destination Sustainability Index. The DMO is an associate member of the City of Sydney's Sustainable Destination Partnership, which brings together hotels, cultural institutions, venues and industry influencers to make Sydney a sustainable destination for visitors and improve the environmental performance of tourism and event suppliers. BESydney is also a certified member of the Climate Active Network (the first CVB in Australia), an ongoing partnership between the Australian government and businesses to drive voluntary climate action and invest in projects by reducing carbon emissions to near zero or neutral. “We have also purchased 100% of our offsets through the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation Company for the Karlantijpa North Savanna Burning Project, bringing benefits to the traditional owners, including training, income, cultural sustainability and ownership of the project. Seeing these trends and knowing that this is something our venues and PCOs do very well, we felt we could confidently tell our story about Sydney as one of the most diverse, inclusive and sustainable meeting destinations in the world,” says Lewis-Smith.

A good example is the city’s harbourside International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) the standard-bearer for sustainable events as a founding signatory of the Joint Meetings Industry Council’s Net Zero Carbon Events pledge. Based on its Silver EarthCheck and ISO 14001 – Environmental Management accreditations, its Sustainability policy objectives limit environmental impact through the sustainable use of resources to manage the building and its operational management of events. Through its Legacy Programme, the ICC Sydney team collaborates with PCOs and AMCs, corporations and their partners across all aspects of its culinary services, water, energy and waste management, and providing positive social impacts for the community.

Having been industry leaders in legacy research for the past decade, BESydney has taken the next step in formalising processes, education and tools to more responsibly define and measure these social impacts. To do this, the DMO has collaborated with #MEET4IMPACT over the past 12 months to build and trial a social legacy management methodology and framework, and provide early measurement of event impacts that can be meaningful to both associations and the destination. As a result, this work was awarded the inaugural GDS Movement & #MEET4IMPACT Impact Award for DMOs committed to legacy through business events.

The NSW Government is also taking a social perspective to attract global talent and foreign direct investment as it builds and develops a series of new innovation districts such as Tech Central, Barangaroo and the Westmead Health and Innovation District. BESydney then connects to introduce delegates to local industrial sectors, research, technology and commerce. “At BESydney, we take a multi-faceted strategic approach when assessing which global business event opportunities to pursue. Firstly, we prioritise events that align with the NSW government’s priority sectors and then, within each priority sector, assess business event opportunities based on overall collaboration, industry development and impact. We also engage with global communities that align with broader industry and community needs,” BESydney’s Executive General Manager of Client Engagement, Kristian Nicholls, tells us.

The opportunity to attract business events in key industry sectors has a huge influence on the city’s social legacy. As the BESydney Ambassador and CEO of Cicada Innovations, Sally-Ann Williams (pictured right), said: “If we are to solve the really serious problems facing the world, they will be solved by people doing business, researching, working and investing together. Ultimately, it’s people who drive innovation and transformative change, both in Sydney and around the world.”

Finally, inclusion is also present in the structure of Tech Central under the leadership of its inaugural executive director Annie Parker, the district prioritises meaningful consultation with diverse communities and minorities within an inclusive, sustainable and creative vision. “It can be as simple as when we’re organising a conference or an event, making sure there are crèches available, making sure there are closed captions on the screens so that people who receive information differently don’t feel like they have to sit there and listen to every word and write it down,” she says. Spanning eleven floors of a building, the Sydney Startup Hub, for example, is the highest density startup space in the Southern Hemisphere, offering 17,000m2 of affordable office spaces with a prayer room, a feeding room and a baby-changing room. Regular consultation with First Nations representatives as well as the NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce is also an integral part of achieving economic outcomes and skills for these communities. Liam Ridgeway is co-founder of Indigitek, Australia's non-profit organisation that aims to increase the participation of First Nations people in the technology industry. A proud First Nations man, Ridgeway credits Tech Centrla with opening up new pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in areas such as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) and facilitating internships and ongoing employment opportunities at top tech companies.

In Sydney, there are many ways to immerse delegates in local First Nations culture and perspectives at a conference, sharing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, history and customs. “We know that diversity is key to innovation, so it’s even more important that diverse groups can come together. Making events accessible and inclusive broadens the range of audiences able to participate, which means events will be better attended by a more diverse group of people,” says Lewis-Smith. “For change starts here.”

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Events coming to Sydney:

  • Global Nature Positive Summit 2024
  • World Congress on Endometriosis 2025
  • International Congress of the Transplantation Society 2026
  • International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation 2027
  • International Conference on Solid-State Sensors & Microsystems – Transducers 2029

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