‘The ability to pivot is crucial’: Helen Fairclough, MCEC

Fairclough shares how the venue is thinking outside the box to adapt to new ways of meeting.

According to Helen Fairclough, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre’s (MCEC) newly appointed director of business relaunch, the business events industry can expect a ‘new normal’ on the back of COVID-19.

MCEC is hard at work evolving its business and exploring new ways of meeting, through new working teams which Fairclough describes as “mini start-ups” within the business.

Here, she shares how the venue is preparing for relaunch:

What are you most looking forward to in this new role?

MCEC directory of business relaunch Helen Fairclough
Helen Fairclough

I’m firstly looking forward to fast tracking the re-opening of our doors (sensibly and safely) and welcoming our wonderful employees and customers back to MCEC.

Secondly this role brings with it an amazing opportunity to think outside the box, fully adopt new ways of working and positively disrupt our industry.

How is MCEC preparing its team for relaunch?

We’re looking at everything we do as a business and this fits in two streams.

Stream one is focused on restoring, retaining and sustaining our traditional business, which includes any work that restores our operations, retains and grows the business we’re already so well known for and helps us recover from the current environment. Basically, anything to do with supporting the sales and planning teams secure bookings and deliver the traditional events we’ve all come to know and love at MCEC.

However, stream two is focused on how we can shift and shape our business for new opportunities, which includes exploring new ideas for how to use our spaces and expertise, tapping into new markets and creating new revenue streams.

To achieve this we have brought together 100 of our employees from across various disciplines, who are using new agile ways of working to explore the many ideas identified as part of our business recovery process. In this way, they’re all operating like mini start-ups within the business.

While I can’t share details yet, there are a lot of ideas in development that I will be excited to share more news on soon.

What measures are being put in place to ensure the venue is a COVID-safe environment for delegates moving forward?

Safety has always been MCEC’s number one priority, and will continue to be as we make future decisions. We have a team focused on operational readiness, who are working hard to develop our own COVID-safe plans. This will ensure MCEC can continue to be Melbourne’s destination for big ideas and inspiring events, by ensuring we have the right public health measures in place when we re-open.

Do you think meetings and exhibitions will look a lot different in the year ahead? How?

I think our industry is undergoing a massive change. Aside from the obvious impact social distancing will have, our industry is also facing financial challenges. We should absolutely expect a ‘new normal’. I’m sure there is a lot we don’t yet know but there are some things, I think, that we can reasonably expect. The ‘hybrid’ event (virtual and in-person) is here to stay, now more than ever partnerships and collaboration are going to be critical to success, and the ability to pivot to new opportunities and innovate is crucial to survival.

Will MCEC look to incorporate virtual elements into face-to-face events in the future?

MCEC has the technology and expertise to bring virtual and hybrid events to life and are exploring ways to offer these experiences to our customers very soon. Virtual events is a component of the bigger body of work happening as part of our business relaunch process and we have already begun showcasing our capabilities with some of our industry partners.

More reading

Industry reacts to tourism and events restart timetable
How event companies are adapting to a virtual landscape
MCEC launches COVID-19 recovery plan

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