Reflecting on 25 Years of Events Following a Year Like No Other
By Peter King |
This year, Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre (MCEC) celebrates its 25th anniversary. As one of Victoria’s largest physical assets, we are also a major contributor to the vibrancy of Melbourne. Every year we host a huge array of diverse events that drive enormous economic activity and visitation to the city. That is, until the global pandemic of course.
I am proud to have been CEO of MCEC for 9 years. I’ve witnessed some memorable moments that stand out in our history and contribute to our success as a venue. But nothing has made me prouder than seeing how our people have responded to these turbulent times.
When I first joined, we made cultural change to put the customer at the centre of everything we do. To adopt a can-do attitude that makes the biggest impact. Our people wanted to be part of a successful business and they have been empowered to make that happen. Particularly over the past year, throughout the pandemic and when our doors were shut, it has been truly wonderful to see the creative thinkers we have in our organisation, to help come up with new ideas for the use of our space. Whether it be as a movie studio, an indoor drive in-cinema, or a training ground for guide dogs. We have unleashed the power of our people!
The way we have responded to this uncertain time will remain a landmark moment in our 25-year history. It stands alongside the opening of the new exhibition space in 2018. Or memorable events like the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal, which attracts more than 100,000 people to our venue each year (though this year will be a little different!).
We are genuinely contributing to the very essence of the Melbourne community in such a powerful way – we are part of the RCH family now. Our people continue to take us to the next level. I am always so proud when I hear how satisfied a customer or visitor is and it is always the contribution of our people that has delivered on that satisfaction. Never the facilities….always the people.
Having the opportunity to contribute to the community by what we have to offer has been incredibly fulfilling. We have used our space for the bushfire evacuations at the start of 2020, contributed to the Commonwealth games and brought important major world events like the 2014 AIDS Conference and many others to Melbourne. The list of impactful events and people we have seen through our corridors is endless. Our major medical and scientific events have made tangible change to the world around us and so too have the people we have hosted: the Dalai Lama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger to name a few. It is a diverse, vibrant and dynamic place that is buzzing with activity and innovative ideas. We connect people, in essence, for entertainment, education, momentous decision making and sometimes just for fun.
One of the most recent incredible events we had was when we hosted a dinner to fundraise for the Olympic team, the most recent one was themed “gold”. We had the top Australian gold record songs performed by their original artists on stage and then finished off with them all singing “it’s a long way to the top.” Farnham, Jimmy Barnes, Russell Morris, Ross Wilson, John Paul Young. Magnificent. I loved that night and it’s just part of my job!
This is an incredible business that we manage. MCEC is more than walls, chairs, and concourses. It represents the beating heart of a vibrant community. It has a relentless rhythm driven by many events arriving continually day after day and decade after decade. We have hosted presidents and artists of international fame. We witnessed the conventions and deliberations that shaped Australia’s, and in some cases, the world’s agenda. We celebrate events of national and local importance, proudly representing Melbourne and Victoria as its leading business events operator. We don’t just sell space. We create enormous economic benefits to our community, we help bring people together to celebrate, learn, grow and be entertained. Whilst being very commercial we can also be philanthropic, which is a joy not many people get to be part of during normal business activities. I could be biased, but I think we do a really excellent job.
We are in the process of setting the business up for the future. This is very difficult to do in such uncertain times. What we can do is to ensure the way we are structured, the skills and experience we employ and the way we work, is nimble enough and fast enough to be able to deal with change. This is a big change to the way we have historically operated our business but it will ensure we continue to drive innovation and proactively maximise what our future opportunities may be – whatever they are. The past 25 years have brought so much colour to Melbourne, and I am optimistic about what the future holds.