Behind the scenes at the 850 pax RANZCP Congress in Hobart

WaldronSmith Management's Kate Smith shares the challenges and successes.

The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Congress took place in Hobart last week, bringing together a large delegation of medical professionals for face-to-face learning and networking.

Held on 16-20 May 2021 at the Hotel Grand Chancellor Hobart, the congress comprised keynote presentations, nine concurrent meeting streams, workshops, an offsite gala dinner, an exhibition of 40 organisations and a virtual offering.

Delivered by WaldronSmith Management, the event attracted 850 in-person attendees and an additional 500 virtual participants.

Controlling the uncontrollable

Speaking to Spice News, WaldronSmith Management managing director Kate Smith said the biggest challenge for an event of this size, was “not being able to control what we couldn’t control”.

“The congress has a rich history and is a complex event in terms of the extensive education offered, the social program and the exhibition and of course this year we added a virtual component into the mix. However we knew we could manage those aspects,” she said.

“The real challenge was what would occur if we faced a COVID outbreak and the impact this may bring to the entire delegation or part thereof.

“We had to consider the scenarios if individuals were unable to travel or particular states were locked down or if we had an outbreak whilst onsite, how this would be managed?”

The WaldronSmith Management team
The WaldronSmith Management team

To combat this, WaldronSmith Management worked closely with the college on a risk mitigation plan, while detailed response management plans were developed to cover potential scenarios.

A virtual component was also included, catering to those who couldn’t travel to Hobart but also as a back-up plan should it have been required.

“The necessary preparations were in place however I’m pleased to say the congress proceeded seamlessly without having to call on our emergency response plan,” said Smith.

Developing a safety plan

The team also worked with Public Health Tasmania to develop and implement a COVID-safety plan that was aligned and compliant with their guidelines.

Smith said every aspect of the event was covered, from contact tracing, communications, catering breaks, cleaning protocols, staff training and a detailed emergency response plan.

“However some of the measures taken were simply what we do in relation to event management in any case,” she said.

“For example providing non-touch registration check in, managing people movement to minimise queuing, documenting a risk management plan, as well as working closely with our key suppliers to bring about a positive customer experience.”

Communication was key to ensuring the safety plan was implemented and understood by suppliers and delegates.

“Communicating the safety measures also provided confidence and comfort to delegates travelling from across country to Hobart,” said Smith.

“The team at Hotel Grand Chancellor in particular were outstanding in working with us to support these elements right from the early stages of planning through to the on-site delivery.”

Congress highlights

Smith said simply having 850 participants wanting to meet face to face once again was a real highlight for the team.

“We saw a terrific response at the time of early bird registration closing which demonstrated an appetite to meet once again and it kept growing,” she said.

“For the first time in the college’s history, we had to close face-to-face registrations because of the COVID capacity restrictions however we were able to offer a virtual experience for those unable to join us in Hobart.”

More than 800 delegates attended the congress in person

Seeing delegates on-site catching up with colleagues and friends, some for the first time since 2019, was another highlight. 

“To be able to facilitate these connections and the knowledge that was shared in a safe and comfortable environment was fantastic,” said Smith.

“There was little to no obvious compromise to the customer experience as a result of necessary COVID-safety plan.

“The detailed planning and considerations we undertook ensured a great experience was enjoyed by all involved.”

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