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Eventing The Future Sets the Scene – Wellington conference delivers two days of value


by Julius Grafton

The annual ‘Eventing The Future’ conference in August ran a full house, bringing event professionals from all over NZ together for two days of sessions. Put together by Peter Burnley and his partner Anne Hindson, this 19th annual conference is also their last as they have sold it to trade association NZEA.

Peter Burnley and partner Anne Hindson

With the theme Recalibration, over 30 sessions were run up to three at a time, with some startling insights into the NZ events industry.

The continual impression I saw was that they do more with less – and that Government are much closer stakeholders than seen in Australia where there is an adversary gap between the industry and regulators.

Of note, the session ‘Esports Explosion’ outlined a dramatic upswing in this kind of competitor event form. Duane Mutu, Director & Co-founder of Letplay.live detailed the surge in live and online events associated with online games, an avalanche that started in Asia and has now reached NZ.

He put some startling numbers to the value and growth of events around Esports, and detailed the first specific arena for Esport. Engadget say: “The Overwatch League’s Philadelphia Fusion will build a $50 million esports arena to host its matches and is expected to be playing in the new building by early 2021.

“The 3,500 seat arena will be notable as it’s the first dedicated, purpose-built stadium for Esports in the Western Hemisphere.”

Mutu also outlined the revenue streams for Esport are different because a game like Fortnite is owned by the developer company, in this case Epic, from North Carolina. Events are licensed, and are sponsorship heavy. But the numbers are themselves epic.

Wikipedia: “In January 2019, Marshmello collaborated with the free-to-play video game Fortnite Battle Royale to throw an in-game concert, along with releasing merchandise based on the game. On February 2 and 3, the concert was held online, amassing over 10 million players on the first day.”

Andrew Tuck from Homegrown Events spoke of the Homegrown Festival on March 23 along the Wellington Waterfront which followed the terrorist attack in Christchurch a week earlier.

Andrew Tuck from Homegrown Events

Initially all outdoor events across NZ were cancelled, but Homegrown worked with the city and the police to reinforce its safety and security planning.

“We had 25,000 at 6 stages and planned a minute of silence at 9.30pm across the whole site. The Police detected a suspicious activity in Zone 6 and at 9.18pm we evacuated that site – over 10,000 people. The emergency plan had all radios go to one channel – we had everyone out before 9.30.

“17 seconds after that went on social media, I had a call from Germany. That’s how hot social media runs. The Police cleared the site and we did an Invac and put everyone back in again. The band came on at 10.10pm.”

Tuck is the guy you want in the hot zone. “We had plans on plans. If we need to shut a street right now, we just put fire engines across the end. We had forklifts, trucks. And the line of command went back to just one guy – that was me”.

Some testimonials were surprisingly frank, as is the way in NZ, with raw honesty more evident that seen in Australia. One event producer told of budget cuts after she had engaged all the suppliers, so she went ahead and paid them herself, not getting fully reimbursed. “I learned to say no from that”.

The conference was heavy with event managers and organisers, but strangely light on production suppliers, with Aggreko Generators the only supplier sponsor. It was a surprise to me, since this was an audience who engage with and hire technical and event production.

The NZ industry were alarmed at the challenges faced by the Australian industry, such as the NSW Government’s ‘War on Festivals’ and Sydney’s moribund night-time economy caused by the lock out laws that stop patrons entering a venue from 1.30am in the city.

Stories were circulating about Madonna and Bruce Stringsteen with their tour parties being turned away from Sydney’s Ivy. It was frankly embarrassing for this writer, hailing from Sydney.

“How can your industry be so at odds with your Government?,” a NZ Government events professional asked me with complete confusion painted on her face. “Surely they count the value of live events and festivals like we do. Don’t they?”

Now that NZEA hold the reigns, the conference enters a new era. It certainly was worthwhile.

Conference session

NewsSept CX Magazine p.11.


Publisher of CX Magazine Julius Grafton was a keynote speaker at Eventing the Future and spoke about what event professionals need to know about tech – what can go wrong, how event design and technical production can work better together, and what’s new, great, and not so great in event tech. 2019 Conference program here



Lead image courtesy Eventing The FutureFB page

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