ABEA’s Emerging Leaders program: Fostering future talent in events

ABEA’s Emerging Leaders program is unearthing events industry stars of tomorrow, such as Sharna Greig, who will help lead the sector for decades to come.

The Australian Business Events Association (ABEA) is the leading industry body that represents people and organisations in the nation’s business events sector. It was formed in July 2023 through the unification of three organisations – Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB), Australian Convention Centres Group (ACCG) and Exhibition & Events Association of Australasia (EEAA) – and its aim is to promote the business events industry and drive member prosperity through industry development, networking, research and advocacy.

As part of ABEA’s charter to promote the industry, it founded the Leading Well for Emerging Leaders program to help nurture the next generation of business events talent. The program had its beginnings before the merger, but has been honed under the new banner, attracting the brightest sparks from industry who are keen to establish their credentials as future top brass.

Following a competitive application process, the 2023 winner was Business Events Adelaide team coordinator Sharna Greig. A relative newcomer to the business events industry, she joined the Business Events Adelaide team in 2022 and has enjoyed sinking her teeth into a sector that wasn’t at the forefront of her learnings while at university.

“I studied tourism and events management at UniSA,” she says. “I wanted to get into events but wasn’t sure what type. I hadn’t considered business events as a pathway because they didn’t really teach us about it at uni.

“I studied a bachelor of business in tourism and events management so there was a lot of accounting and business admin-related topics – including sustainability and how that affects events – but in terms of business events, it wasn’t on the radar.”

When a job opportunity came up at Business Events Adelaide, Greig experienced a workplace awakening, discovering a multi-layered industry overlooked in the educational curriculum.

“I was blown away when I started working at Business Events Adelaide,” she says. “I was thinking, ‘You guys do so much, such as bidding for events and bringing them here.’ There are so many factors that go into it, such as convincing the government they are worth funding.

The beautiful city of Adelaide, Sharna Greig’s hometown.

“At uni, they never mentioned there are convention bureaus around the world, which is such an important thing to not cover.

“There is a lack of awareness outside of the industry because it was barely touched on at university. There can also be a lack of information and openness from industry leaders to say, ‘This is what I do for a living, and this is how I got into it.’

“I feel the industry can be a bit conservative about how people got to where they are.”

This is where ABEA’s Emerging Leaders program is providing a valuable pathway for young people in the events industry to be heard and to help build an army of next-generation talent that will take the sector forward.

While the program is helping shine a spotlight on leaders of tomorrow, the industry at large still has some work to do – in partnership with tertiary institutions – to spruik business events as a rewarding career that will attract talent, offer mentorships and prove it is more than a highly casualised industry that offers carer stability and growth.

“Once you are in the industry, it is so well connected and opportunities are endless, but there is room to do more to show that planning, attending and coordinating events is great work,” says Greig.

“The fun should be celebrated.”


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