Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) Acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Narrm, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present, and to Elders of all First Nations communities that visit MCEC.

Exterior image of venue with MCEC sign and Rotary sign

Rotary International Convention 2023

By Bree Pagliuso |

In May this year, MCEC was thrilled to host The Rotary International Convention, bringing together thousands of members from around the world.


Rotary's annual conventions are a hub for members to connect, learn from experts, and address community issues. Designed to help motivate, inspire, and drive positive change for participants, their communities, and the world. Thanks to our venue's exceptional capabilities, this year's convention was enhanced to prioritise safety, simplify learning, improve accessibility, and champion sustainability.

After winning the bid in 2018 in partnership with Melbourne Convention Bureau, our planning period for the convention kicked off with intense focus, especially in the 12 months leading up to the event. With a short lead time, our dedicated efforts culminated in a successful gathering that exceeded attendee expectations and beautifully showcased Melbourne's vibrant spirit.

The impact of the event on Melbourne was truly remarkable. With nearly 15,000 attendees from over 120 countries, the local economy received a significant boost of over $91 million, supporting nearly 1,000 jobs. It undoubtedly stands as one of the most economically valuable conferences in the history of MCEC. 

"Bringing together the Rotary family is a joyous occasion for learning, fellowship, and the power of collective action- and this year was no exception!"

- Shannon Watson, Director Meetings and Events for Rotary International

The Planning

Speaking with our Event Planner Maxine McIntyre on what made the Rotary International Convention 2023 a hit, "We pulled it off with extensive planning and attention to the smallest details. Using every part of MCEC creatively, transforming support rooms into rest and breakout areas."

In a ground-breaking move for the convention, the event took place across not one but two locations. MCEC was the primary venue, while Rod Laver Arena was the secondary location.   

"What made this year truly remarkable was the effective integration of the two venues. Efficient transport plans and effective communications between staff, venues and attendees made the convention a remarkable experience for our participants."

- Shannon Watson  

Accessibility - A Top Priority   

Our team worked closely with Rotary to prioritise accessibility for all attendees. Small, thoughtful measures were implemented across the venue and guest experience to create an inclusive environment, allowing everyone to engage and participate without limitations.   


Transportation was crucial for the convention's success, smoothly moving over 14,500 delegates between venues. MCEC, Rotary International, and TMS Global Logistics support worked together to manage transportation logistics efficiently by:  

  • Leveraging Melbourne’s accessible public transportation to provide an environmentally sensitive and efficient option for transfers between venues 

  •  Supporting additional transfers between venues with high-volume buses.  

  • Providing 3 dedicated shuttle transfers for mobility assistance.  

  • Stationing volunteer way finders at 65 hotels to manage over 600 scheduled transport services.  

  • Designing and delivering a dedicated inter-venue service, ensuring accessibility with wheelchair-accessible vehicles.  

Throughout the event, 180+ staff and volunteer way finders across Melbourne CBD ensured safe and supported journeys for all attendees, creating a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone.    

The Execution of the Event

When it comes to thorough planning, The Rotary organisers are unmatched. The event was designed to prioritise the attendee experience in a safe and healthy environment. Common experiences like registration, access to programming and transportation were designed for efficiency and accuracy. Customer service was a priority, with help desks and volunteers provided throughout the venues to assist with navigating the event and using the mobile app and simultaneous interpretation system. They provided onsite COVID-19 testing, meeting international standards for minimizing risk. With our guidance, the space was filled with clear signage and user-friendly experiences, making the convention welcoming and inclusive for all.

These thoughtful measures helped to create an enjoyable experience, placing safety, accessibility, and inclusivity at the forefront of the event.  

"Holding the 2023 convention in Melbourne at MCEC and Rod Laver Arena enabled us to be more equitable and inclusive in many aspects of the experience, to continue our journey to support an equitable experience for all."

- Shannon Watson, Director Meetings and Events for Rotary International.


At the heart of the Rotary International Convention is a strong commitment to sustainability, and MCEC's shared dedication to a greener future as a venue contributed to the event's environmental consciousness in alignment with Rotary International’s goals. Environmentally friendly transportation options were encouraged by providing complimentary access to the public transportation system and encouraging participants to opt for bike and walk-friendly alternatives. Rotary also leveraged our digital signs to support event programming and sponsor recognition, in place of increased use of one-time use banners and signs. Rotary International also minimized paper waste by delivering their event program digitally and by emphasizing the use of the mobile app for the latest programmatic updates.  The focus on sustainability extended to using locally sourced produce and minimising food wastage.  

Technology and Support   

Thanks to some new tech-savvy initiatives, the convention became a dynamic and immersive experience, keeping everyone informed and involved throughout the event and leveraging our reliable Wi-Fi, technical support, and smart lecture capabilities. We were able to make everyone stay connected and engaged with real-time updates on breakout session capacities and provide easy access to interpretation services in multiple languages. 

This year interpretation services took a leap forward. Translators worked from a central location, providing them safety and a simpler way to deliver their service. With our venues advanced infrastructure and access to the latest technology, guests accessed on-demand interpretation in 7 languages through personal devices or web-based platforms using a QR code scan. Aural interpretation with closed captioning added to the accessibility and learning. This innovation redefined accessibility, making language barriers a thing of the past for all attendees.  


"Attendees expressed their appreciation for the well-executed event, the world class venues, the inspiring content, and the welcoming local community. The support and partnership from MCEC was highly valued and contributed to our overall positive experience."

- Shannon Watson, Director Meetings and Events for Rotary International.

Attracting Attendees  

To attract attendees, our team executed different marketing and promotional strategies. The standout was utilising the prominent sign on Montague Street created unmatched visibility and intrigue around the event. A free day was offered exclusively to Victorians to engage and attract younger generations to experience the convention. This initiative was introduced for the first time, generating excitement among local participants.  

Boosting Tourism and Economy  

The Rotary International Convention 2023 significantly impacted Victorian tourism and the local economy. 60 hotels accommodated attendees, and pre and post-convention tours were offered to showcase the region. The host committee organised various events at iconic locations such as Flemington, Crown, Melbourne Museum, NGV, and the vibrant streets of Melbourne. These activities contributed to boosting local businesses and showcasing what Victoria has to offer.  

Event Highlights & Breaking New Ground 

The convention marked a milestone in a number of significant ways.   

Honouring our First Peoples'  

The Rotary members took the opportunity to celebrate Indigenous cultures and history. They showed their respect for Australia's traditions and customs by acknowledging the land at MCEC. A special Welcome-to-Country ceremony was conducted during the official opening of the House of Friendship expo, honouring the Indigenous community during this significant week for Rotary members. 

The First Female President  

In a historic moment, Jennifer Jones closed her year as the first female president of Rotary International since its inception in 1905. This ground-breaking achievement not only marked a significant milestone but also highlighted Rotary's dedication to continuing inclusivity and pioneering a new style of leadership, one that is empathetic, open, and eager to learn from everyone who participates in the act of change. 

Special Design Elements  

Design elements played a crucial role in creating an engaging environment. Signage was strategically placed throughout the venue, ensuring clear directions and information for attendees. Wider aisles and extra seating were incorporated to enhance comfort and accessibility, making navigation easier for all.  

House of Friendship  

Attendees had the opportunity to engage in the House of Friendship, a central hub for meetings and networking.  Displays emphasised Rotary members’ commitment to having sustainable impact, including the inaugural Peace Park, the Virtual Reality dome and numerous projects initiated by members around the world.   


"MCEC is ahead of the curve; Melbourne is ahead of the curve."

- Shannon Watson, Director Meetings and Events for Rotary International


General sessions and ticketed lunches featured influential speakers, including the incoming President, Gordan McInally. These sessions reflected the convention's purpose, inspiring attendees to make a positive global impact. Featuring world-class speakers, including Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee, 10-year-old climate change activist Nakeeyat Dramani Sam, sustainability leader Kari Aina Eik, and ground-breaking basketball coach Chantal Vallée Tthese speakers, among others, provided inspiration and insights to convention attendees.  

Community Connections and Leaving a Legacy 

Melbourne Rotary members were an integral part of the event's success. From the outset, local members worked closely with the MCB and MCEC to support winning the bid for the convention and development between 2018 and 2023. Volunteers were a cornerstone in supporting the attendee experience, developing local events and engagements, including food packing and a fundraising walking event to support the End Polio Now initiative.  

The event's lasting impact is represented through the Rotary Peace Bells, an interactive installation designed for permanent display in Melbourne, which supports the four pillars of positive peace. The Peace Bells were introduced to the world at the convention and displayed at MCEC during the event before becoming a permanent installation in the Victoria Botanic Gardens.

Live Broadcast   

A live broadcast on 3AW was set up in the Exhibition Centre Concourse, strategically catching the attention of every passing delegate. The broadcast featured guest interviews, including Rotary International President Jennifer Jones, creating an exciting atmosphere throughout the day. The booth provided a perfect visual opportunity for engagement, with live on-air commentary adding to the convention's energy. This ground-breaking initiative added a memorable and interactive dimension to the event, leaving a lasting impression on all attendees.  

Logistical Excellence  

The event was a logistical feat, utilising every part of our venue. The delivery team, comprising AM and PM leaders, ensured consistency and excellent customer service throughout the 11-day event. The coordination and attention to detail was remarkable, with over 15,000 people on site and various uniforms, transport vehicles, and staff stationed across the CBD.   

Fun Facts  
  • Over 6,643 uniforms were provided for kitchen and Food and Beverage setups alone.  

  • Inner-venue shuttles ran on 15-minute rotations, and more than 1,000 tensa barriers were strategically placed.   

  • Thanking each staff member, Rotary convention organisers went the extra mile by personalising thank you cards for each MCEC staff member involved.  

  • 15,000 attendees utilised every part of the venue, showcasing the event's popularity and efficiency.  

  • AM and PM event leaders provided consistent delivery and excellent customer interaction.  

  • The 11-day event ran flawlessly without missing a step.   

  • Daily luncheons served 1,500 people in just 45 minutes.  

  • Visitors from 120 countries participated, reflecting its global appeal.  

  • We held bi-weekly planning meetings with key stakeholders for 4 weeks before the event and daily on-site wrap-ups with the Rotary team and delivery members.  

  • Inner venue shuttles, scooters, and accessibility vehicles provided convenient transportation.  

  • Over 1,000 barriers and staff stationed ensured event security.  

  • Extra site visits provided thorough preparation and improved the event's success.  

"Working on Rotary International Convention 2023 was an absolute delight, and unlike any other event I have previously worked on. The thing I most enjoyed working with Rotary was the people over 18 months, we worked closely together to build long-lasting relationships across several site visits and many teams calls. The only reason we all developed such amazing relationships is 100% due to their organisation's values and dedication to always doing what's best for the community and people around them.

Throughout the event, from planning to delivery, there was a level of respect and partnership I have never experienced with other events. Down to the planning aspects, as customers based in the US and not overly familiar with Australian ways of working, they were so keen to learn and work with us for the best outcome for their event delivery, really partnering with us at MCEC as a trusted advisor for all event advice."

- Maxine McIntyre.  Event Planner, Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre

Start planning your next conference in Melbourne.