Tag Archives: Geoff Donaghy

Geoff Donaghy is CEO of the International Convention Centre Sydney, which recently announced a naming-rights partnership with superannuation industry fund First State Super. He chatted to The Siteseer about what this means, and what else is new and exciting at Sydney’s premier, state-of-the-art events venue.

Siteseer: Geoff, what will the partnership mean in practice for the parties, and how will you both benefit?

Geoff Donaghy: [It’s] a commercial arrangement with mutual benefits. For First State Super the partnership gives their brand the opportunity to be in the heart of Darling Harbour and significantly increase their visibility while providing benefits for their members.

But the relationship runs much deeper than that, and shows their confidence in our operation. First State Super is an existing equity partner in the ICC Sydney project and we both see this as a great way to align our values, cultures and businesses. It’s this aspect we’re very excited about exploring and advancing.

ICC Sydney_Convention_No Highway_20190324-578-2SS: How successful was the recent PCO Roundtable and what key lessons did participants take away?

GD: Our PCOs are a very important client group for us, and in March this year we held our second PCO Roundtable. PCOs act on behalf of many of our major international and national clients so it’s immensely important we communicate with them our developments, improvements and advances on a regular basis. [Afterwards clients such as] the CEO of Associations Forum and panel moderator John Peacock applauded us for establishing such a close relationship with PCOs, as did WALDRONSMITH Management Managing Director Kate Smith.

SS: Would you mind pointing to a couple of what you consider to be some other important events at ICC Sydney in the past year or so and why, looking back, they were successful?

GD: Over the past twelve to eighteen months we’ve delivered many major events that have been successful in their own right. [For example] the ASEAN Australia-Special Summit held in March 2018 saw twelve heads of state attend our venue for a high profile and high-security event, which our team delivered seamlessly. In October 2018 we also delivered Sibos, the world’s biggest financial services event. This saw us welcome more than 7,600 business leaders, academics and entrepreneurs from 150 countries.

Exhibitions are an equally important business segment for us and we’ve a number of major repeat events returning to us annually. The Sydney International Boat Show, which uses all of our exhibition space and event deck and builds a major temporary jetty facility in the adjoining Cockle Bay area to display yachts and super boats, is returning to us for the third year in a row next month.

320SS: What are your most important business segments? Do you still see big opportunities in the Asian incentive business?

GD: ICC Sydney was designed to [host] a broad range of market segments – from national and international conventions to trade and consumer events as well as important local events like gala dinners and sales meetings. We’re also the major down-town entertainment venue for the city, which sees us arrange live concerts, musicals and comedy shows.

In terms of economic contribution, venue capability and city reputation, international events are [obviously vital] for a convention centre like ours. Earlier this year we held our second annual CEO Asia Roadshow visiting Japan, China and Singapore as these are markets in which we see enormous growth and potential. We’re also ramping up our activities in North America [resulting in] significant success for both corporate and association events.

SS: Would you mind sharing some facts and figures about how important the integrated ICC Sydney has become for the state and national economy?

GD: Sure. Our first two years of operation saw events we hosted delivering a significant impact for the economy of New South Wales. According to a Deloitte Access Economics study in 2018, delegates attending ICC Sydney generated $820 million in direct expenditure for the state, an increase of $35 million on the $785 million direct contribution of the previous year. International and interstate visitors helped generate 72 percent of the total expenditure, resulting in more than 1.57 million overnight stays in Sydney accommodation and the creation of 5,248 full-time equivalent jobs for the local economy. Next month we’ll be releasing our 2018 and 2019 figures, and we expect these results will further show our contribution to the local economy.

320SS: Does ICC Sydney represent value for money and why?

GD: It has a burgeoning reputation for the highest quality of operation and with both client and delegate satisfaction ratings at 99 percent, yes, we believe we offer very significant value for money.

SS: How well have the people of Sydney embraced it?

GD: ICC Sydney has become the venue of choice for Sydney. As a landmark venue in the city we run a wide range of public events from children’s shows and exhibitions to those hosting international artists such as Kylie Minogue and Seinfeld. We also support events for charities like the Variety Children’s Charity Annual Christmas Party and Stand Tall event involving over 6,000 high school students. Earlier in the year we hosted the inaugural VIVID School, which brought together STEM students and budding artists from years nine to twelve from across the state.

SS: What are the priorities for you and your team right now?

GD: It’s a given that success will attract competition and our industry is immensely competitive, across the globe.

[So] the most important priority for our team is to maintain the highest-possible standards at the highest-possible level of consistency, ensuring we’re constantly reviewing and refreshing what we offer to clients across all our market segments.

SS: Are you still enjoying what must be a hugely challenging job? What pleases you most?

GD: Opening and establishing a world-class venue does come with challenges. What pleases me most is watching the team come together and receiving recognition for their extraordinary efforts across Australia and around the world. This is what I find most gratifying as a CEO in the venue business.

More info: sales@iccsydney.cominfo@iccsydney.com


Geoff Donaghy is Director of Convention Centres for venue management specialist AEG Ogden, which operates convention facilities in Australia, Asia and the Middle East including the International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney).

CIC Portraits 100914.CEO of ICC Sydney, Geoff DonaghyHe is CEO of the ICC Sydney, which opened in December 2016 and established as one of the world’s leading convention, exhibition and entertainment facilities.In addition to his role at ICC Sydney, Geoff is Director of Convention Centres AEG Ogden and the immediate past President of the Brussels-based International Association of Congress Centres. He is on the executive committee of the Joint Meetings Industry Council.

Geoff’s experience in the business events industry was born from his airline and hotel industry experience. He headed the Cairns region’s successful tourism and convention bureau for five years before managing the 1996 opening of the Cairns Convention Centre. He also served for five years as Chairman of the Business Events Council of Australia. He has been awarded the Australia Centenary Medal by the Federal Government, the Australian industry’s Outstanding Contribution Award, and the Joint Meeting Industry Council’s Global Power and Profile Award.




A Chinese banquet for over 2,000 people, an incentive event for 8,000 already done and dusted, and 500 future bookings secured. You could say things are going pretty well for the new International Convention Centre Sydney.

“It’s clear we’re making an impact,” says CEO Geoff Donaghy (pictured below).

Though the ICC (International Convention Centre) Sydney only opened in December, some early successes have pleased organisers and clients. Take the Amway China Leadership Seminar 2017 in January. It was the centre’s first-ever incentive event and it welcomed an astonishing 8,000-plus international delegates.

The local team had the daunting first-up challenge of hosting and catering for this huge audience, some of whom had little English.

TDP_Oct172016_ICC_01_3621They tackled it by planning carefuly, working closely with Amway China’s people to ensure no issue was left unresolved that might potentially cause problems when guests were on site.

Ultimately, over 13 days organisers used many of the spaces, including the 2,500-capacity Darling Harbour Theatre and the convention centre’s meeting rooms (for breakout sessions). Organisers cited great AV equipment, a 10 gigabits-per-second optical fibre backbone, the layout and organisers’ counsel as helping support a “seamless” experience.

The show also offered visitors the chance to explore the broader precinct, with The Hunger Games: The Exhibition and Brickman Wonders of the World Exhibition, held concurrently in the exhibition halls.

“We received terrific feedback on how proactive our team was in advising the best solutions for our venue as well as how responsive they were to changes from the client,” says Geoff.

The Darling Harbour Theatre, which is also a performance space, became the setting for big presentations while staff hosted the banquet in the grand ballroom, set in the convention centre itself.

CIC Portraits 100914.Associate Director of AV and Events Production of Amway China Bert Li was happy. “Every event comes with its own opportunities and complexities,” he says, “and every detail here was anticipated and delivered to a five-star standard.”

Examples of attention to detail included bilingual signage throughout the venue from theatres and meeting rooms to toilets and lifts, and exclusive routes to ensure large groups could get to sessions quickly and easily. “The team was easy to deal with and quickly addressed our needs” adds Bert.

Memorable feast

According to surveys afterwards, delegates especially appreciated the Chinese banquet. The feast kicked off with prawn and vegetable broth, then moved on to steamed barramundi with ginger and soya, steamed Asian greens, sweet and sour pork with tomato, pineapple and capsicum, braised lamb with stir-fried ginger and spring onions, bok choy, mushrooms, bean curd and fruit.

Delegates arrived in four groups. While in town they sampled Sydney’s attractions and hotels including Luna Park, Sydney BridgeClimb, Sheraton on the Park, The Star, Sydney Tower Restaurant, Captain Cook Cruises and the Opera House.

CEO of Business Events Sydney Lyn Lewis-Smith says it’s clear the centre will boost the city’s reputation as a business meeting destination. Moreover it will inject an estimated $5 billion into the New South Wales economy over the next 25 years.

“As the centrepiece of the AUD3.4 billion, 20-hectare transformation of Darling Harbour it’s generated huge interest from international organisations and played a significant role in Amway China’s decision to return to Sydney for a third time,” Lyn says.

“In the past decade we have seen 20% year-on-year growth from the lucrative Asian incentive market. The centre will drive this further and deliver major cultural and economic benefits.”

Does it represent value for money for events planners? Geoff Donaghy observes that ultimately clients will be the judge of this question. But so far, results speak for themselves. “We’re already receiving return bookings from clients who’ve held events over the past two months, and see this as a strong indication they’re happy with the venue and service.”

For more information, go here. And go here for a virtual tour.



Geoff Donaghy (pictured, below), CEO of the new International Convention Centre Sydney, which opens in December, talks to The Siteseer about the imminent opening of a vast state-of-the-art precinct that will help pump billions into a nation’s economy.

Siteseer: It’s been much heralded; but why is ICC Sydney so important for the events industry in Australia?

Geoff Donaghy: ICC Sydney will be Australia’s premier convention, exhibition and entertainment precinct, and will emphasise that Sydney is one of the world’s most desirable business event destinations. Over 340 events have now been secured at the $1.5-billion venue, which is expected to provide $5 billion in incremental economic benefit to New South Wales over the next 25 years.

The variety of facilities we offer will put ICC Sydney, and the city itself, at the top of the list for many event planners the world over. Indeed we expect it to play a pivotal role in increasing Australia’s market-share of the business events industry.

CIC Portraits 100914.SS: But in an ever-more-competitive market, what really makes it special?

GD: It’s been built from the ground up on a 10 gigabits-per-second digital backbone, so it’s one of the most technologically advanced venues in the Asia Pacific. Moreover it’s the centrepiece of the 3.4-billion-Australian-dollar transformation of Darling Harbour, set over twenty hectares, that will help revitalise the way business events are delivered in Sydney.

The venue covers more than 200,000 square metres – three city blocks –  and it’s flexible enough to allow for any number of space configurations. It will be capable of hosting three major conventions simultaneously with capacities of 2,500, 1,000 and 800 delegates, each with their own dedicated plenary, exhibition space, meeting rooms and catering areas. Plus there’s a dedicated support team to assist through every step of an event.

It also has 35,000 square metres of internal exhibition space, 70 meeting rooms, hospitality suites, a 2,000-seat ballroom – which is the biggest in Australia – and an impressive 5,000 square-metre open-air event deck with spectacular views.

On top of this it’ll be a major draw for entertainment seekers, as we have the ICC Sydney Theatre with 8,000 seats – 9,000 in GA mode – the Darling Harbour Theatre with 2,500 seats and Pyrmont Theatre with 1,000 seats – all of which will contribute to a terrific experience for delegates.

SS: Could you tell us a bit more about the venue-testing schedule?

GD: From the end of this month the centre will undergo three months of intensive operational testing to ensure it’s fully functioning to its world-class benchmark. This will have the added benefit of ensuring staff are trained in-situ for every type of event, as well as previewing the venue to businesses and local communities ahead of the official launch. This is a crucial phase because major international events, such as The Hunger Games: The Exhibition [celebrating the blockbuster Hunger Games movie franchise] are already contracted for the very first day of operation on 20 December.

SS: That sounds exciting – could you share some details with us about this and any other interesting events snagged for next year?

GD: The Hunger Games: The Exhibition will be an experience like none other. It’ll run for 45 days and immerse visitors in the inspirational story of the cult films’ heroine, Katniss Everdeen. It’s the largest build and installation in the first wave of exhibitions to be held at ICC Sydney. It’s also the first time this extraordinary event has taken place in Australia – all thanks to the exceptional facilities and flexible floor space we offer.

ICC Sydney Theatre Hero_.2Oct15The Reed Gift Fairs, OZ Comic Con and Beauty Expo are among Reed Exhibitions’ events that are also gearing up for a huge season at the centre in 2017. Further down the track we’ll host other major business events including Sibos 2018, a world leading financial services event, and the robotics event RoboCup International Symposium and World Championship 2019.

Thanks to the broader entertainment offering at the integrated precinct, we’ll also host performances from international superstars Keith Urban, PJ Harvey and José Carreras.

SS: Your recruitment strategy has been the subject of interest. Could you tell us a bit about that?

GD: Our reputation precedes us. As an organisation we know that preparation and an unwavering commitment to setting world-class standards is key. At the heart of this is our people, who’ll define our offering. We’re currently on a comprehensive recruitment drive to fill 1,500 casual and 300 full-time roles.

Our specialist human resources team has dedicated more than 6,000 hours to recruit these vast numbers before the December opening. To streamline our approach, we’ve developed a specialised digital interviewing platform that allows us to “meet” candidates and assess their suitability for our job requirements and culture. This will save approximately 1,440 hours in group and one-on-one interviews.

SS: What’s the key selling point for Sydney, in your view? Where does the value lie for events visitors, mostly?

Sydney is Australia’s commercial powerhouse and the gateway to its distinguished research, scientific and technology communities. Over 600 multi-national companies run their Asia Pacific operations from here and the burgeoning ICT and digital economy in Australia is attracting even more international attention.

The new centre is pivotal to the unprecedented infrastructure revitalisation taking place that’s positioning the city as a global technology and innovation hub. Beyond this, our venue is located at the heart of all it has to offer. Sydney is a destination international travellers dream of visiting, offering sandy beaches and cultural icons. It’s also filled with green spaces and natural beauty spots with a great choice of outdoor music, theatre, art, history, dining and entertainment outlets.

ICCSydney_Exhibition_cmykQ: Are you mainly focusing on inbound business?

Not at all. The architectural design means we can cater to multiple events concurrently. As mentioned we can host three conventions concurrently and, depending on their size, we could also host several exhibitions and entertainment acts all in the same week.

We set our sights on the longer-lead, inbound events when the team first came together to market ICC Sydney more than two years ago. Now we have a strong pipeline of national business, public, B2B and B2C exhibitions, the full spectrum of the local market. On top of that, when the main 9,000 capacity-8,000 seat theatre isn’t hosting very large conventions, it’s doubling up as the city’s new heart of entertainment. Entertainment events are being booked in spaces across the venue.

Be assured, when you attend an event at ICC Sydney, you’ll be visiting a dynamic waterfront destination.

More info: sales@iccsydney.cominfo@iccsydney.com


In addition to his role at ICC Sydney, Geoff is Director of Convention Centres AEG Ogden and President of the Brussels-based International Association of Congress Centres. He is the latter’s representative on the Joint Meetings Industry Council.

Geoff’s extensive experience in the business events industry was born from his airline and hotel industry experience. He headed the Cairns region’s successful tourism and convention bureau for five years before managing the 1996 opening of the Cairns Convention Centre. 

Geoff also served five years as Chairman of the Business Events Council of Australia. He has been awarded the Australia Centenary Medal by the Federal Government, the Australian industry’s Outstanding Contribution Award, and the Joint Meeting Industry Council’s Global Power and Profile Award.