ICC Sydney: Community Legacy and Home-grown Innovations!

14th Feb, 2023

When it came time to flip the switch, International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) ended up back in business very quickly. Thanks to clear and constant communication that allowed them to apply the right settings on the ground and to transition from home office to be back on-site. They were able to keep the vast majority of the core team busy during this period while continuing to deliver successful events.

To discuss all these developments and the convention centre's desert crossing, we spoke to Director of Communication, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability, Samantha Glass, about expectations of their event outcomes, legacy, diversity and inclusion, and key innovations.

1) How did ICC Sydney cope with this slowdown in demand caused by the pandemic?

The need for clear and consistent communication became more critical than ever. Thanks to the excellent relationships we have with all tiers of government, we were able to quickly navigate the communication streams relevant to our business and to build new relationships with departments such as Health. We were able to quickly demonstrate that we had robust safety measures in place that met government guidelines allowing at least some of our business to go ahead. So, we were able to continue to run virtual events even during the most stringent lockdowns. People still had to communicate, governments still had to receive messages, businesses still had to communicate with their customers, and from time to time, different associations also had to move forward with their updates. Some parts of our business were just as busy as when the venue was full, mainly the technology and audio-visual part, managing all our enhanced services within our team.

"We work very closely with our universities allowing students to participate in events through volunteering or running competitions to promote a new generation coming into the fields of expertise."

2) What kind of association conferences are giving the first signs of return to ICC Sydney?

From mining to medical, conferences of all types are back at ICC Sydney. In fact, they returned faster and stronger than we had anticipated. For example, we hosted the INDO PACIFIC International Maritime Exposition, a large global marine exhibition with many products and people from all over the world. It’s floor print and attendance were both larger than in 2019. We finally welcomed the International Pathology Conference, which was a huge success and our largest international business event in Australia since borders reopened in March 2022 was the International Mining Conference IMARC with 7,500 global attendees.

Lastly, we will host the Sydney WorldPride Human Rights Conference in March next year. Attendance, however, does remain mixed as the risk profile of people to travel is different for everyone and of course for Australia, China is still closed which impacts attendance at events in Australia.

3) What kind of role have you played in strengthening your CSR initiatives?

Making a difference for our planet and community has long been important for us at ICC Sydney and ASM Global we launched our legacy programme in 2018 and now it’s about building on that platform to help our customers make a difference.

We have great relationships with our community, particularly with First Nations cultural advisors and businesses, as well as the creative industries, young entrepreneurs and students. We work very closely with our universities allowing students to participate in events through volunteering or running competitions to promote a new generation coming into the fields of expertise. We seek to provide opportunities for start-ups to exhibit on a tradeshow or network with international experts or foreign investors. Those relationships are often built through one of our government departments, “Investment New South Wales”, which also provides links to local talent.

Since this year, we have seen an increase in client engagement and our legacy programme. To address this, we have hired a new CSR manager, and we have a number of carbon footprint measurement tools in place so we can co-create a pre-event and post event reports for events.


4) What kind of projects and improvements do you have in mind and what has the pandemic pushed forward?

Connect Hub was an evolution of the virtual event services we introduced during COVID-19, keeping in mind that it is important to have the ability to stream parts of an event, or even all of it. It is a one-stop destination for digital events solutions and is part of our excellent in-house suite of services that we provide to speakers entering either a live or a digital environment. We believe it will continue to be relevant in an environment where most people return to face-to-face meetings.

Some clients are now also looking for pay-per-view elements for post event content. The need for digital event support will certainly be in demand in the future. We have also launched a new Interactive Venue Map to help event organisers plan and promote their events at ICC Sydney. We’ve brought all our floor plans and services together on a map to guide people through every level and building and see how they connect. It eases the understanding of connectivity through five storeys and three interconnected buildings. The interactive site map shows all our rooms, as a static image or in a 3D version in its phase 1. Phase 2 will be almost like a “dollhouse”, where you fly in and go from room to room virtually inside.

"Everyone is raising their game and the industry is now adopting a very competitive attitude to grow reputation for everyone."

5) What are the main CSR requests that the associations have been asking you for?

Event organisers are often considered with their energy and waste − the biggest areas of impact at a venue level. However, we are keen to promote our Legacy programme and the positive social handprint they can make in Sydney. On this front, they are most interested in the programme’s First Nations pillar, so being introduced to traditional owners of the land, having elders come and welcome guests to the country. Through our Reconciliation Action Plan, we are able to offer connections to ensure they are also making culturally sensitive decisions around First Nations culture.

6) Do your major conferences and congresses converge with this trend of providing a specialist hub for Sydney’s strongest industrial clusters?

Our event pipeline is very strong for the next three years for international events. Our business events bureau, BESydney, targets the academic and economic strengths of our city, which are set by our State Government.

Through an ambassador programme they are also connected to local universities and research centres − experts in their fields. While many events are held at ICC Sydney, we have a notable strength in a large number of areas from agribusiness and aeronautics to robotics and microscopy to a great many health sectors. The entire city gets behind those bids to ensure successful outcomes.


7) How are you designing your sustainable place and what should be addressed in this area?

We have a very strong sustainability programme run by our own in-house staff, rather than external consultants, so we can report on your event’s carbon footprint and help reduce your waste. By providing these in-house, we have direct control over the quality of your event and the service we can offer, enabling a direct line of communication with no third parties. We are also building our new three-year strategy with a vision up to 2030.

We are signatories of both the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge and the Sustainable Events 2030 Pledge with a local association called Events and Exhibitions Association of Australasia (EEAA). I think our future is to continue to work together and move the needle with all these industry partners, because alone we will never get to net zero. Everyone is raising their game and the industry is now adopting a very competitive attitude in a positive way growing the reputation for everyone. A high tide rises all boats.

ICC Sydney's CSR Policies Strengthen its Community and Social Legacies

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Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.