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Sydney-based Emma Bowyer, widely respected owner and Managing Director of successful professional conference organisers ICMS Australasia, has been involved in the events-management industry for the best part of two decades. Emma has personally managed some of Australia’s biggest conferences, winning Event of the Year on three occasions for events under her directorship. She previously held a tenured position at the University of Technology Sydney in the Faculty of Business. She spoke to The Siteseer about how business is evolving as the pandemic recedes.

Siteseer: What do you see as the key priorities for event organisers as we appear to be, finally, moving away from pandemic-induced challenges?

Emma Bowyer: We didn’t lay anyone off during the pandemic; I made the decision early on, before JobKeeper was announced. Our thirty-five staff have been with me for quite a while. They are mostly in their twenties and thirties and have given me their loyalty, and I believed I needed to support them in turn. Initially the outlook was that the pandemic might last six months.

Then, as the situation became worse, we switched to virtual meetings very quickly. By June 2020 we were among the first companies in Australia to be running a major meeting on-line, which we did with the University of Melbourne, for 1,400 people. At that time there was no virtual conferencing platform; we needed a technical person, almost like a film producer, to give us what we needed.

So with that as background, one of our key priorities is to fast-track some of the technologies we’ve been talking about for years. Another is to continue to use the technology that’s available to us to serve and retain clients. We’re working with clients on events for 2022 and 2023. How can we retain and expand on the skills we’ve learned in respect of virtual conferencing to suit them, we ask ourselves? How can we digitally capture some of the content that’s being produced, and monetise it? That’s a priority too.

There’s been great restructuring in our industry that has helped us  recover. Well before the pandemic we were thinking more and more about how we can work with clients in partnership models, rather than taking a blanket approach; rather than just saying these are our services and these are the prices.

Now we’re doing much more customising, with clients working closely [and more productively] with us and the technology providers. For example we’ve got an international engineering conference coming up in May, with seventy countries and over seven hundred delegates.

And for the first time, the Sydney Convention Centre has come to us with a customised package covering cuisine, AV and layout. So we’re customising, and as we move forward we’re reconfirming with industry stakeholders, convention centres and hotels what the priorities are for us as a business, organising international delegates to come to Sydney, and internally continuing to use the technology that’s helped us get through the pandemic.

SS: The convention you’ve just mentioned; can you tell us a bit more?

EB: It’s a hybrid, which is interesting, an event that got rescheduled. It was supposed to be delivered in late 2021. The local host had spent ten years securing the meeting for Australia and was devastated when they had to contemplate going virtual. He’s an Emeritus Professor from Newcastle, and really didn’t want to do that. But as the weeks and months passed his international community said they were grateful for having a virtual alternative for those who couldn’t travel. The content is obviously not free; it’s seventy five percent of the normal registration cost, and conversely if you come in-person you’ll also get access to the virtual platform.

This is a strategy that’s working really well for the business community now, especially for people under thirty-five. In conferences in the past we’ve often had a younger student cohort among representatives. It’s been around ten percent generally, but it’s more than doubled for this event. Their employers realise it’s good for their growth and for their learning; they see it as investing in them.

SS: What new skills are needed to manage the virtual and hybrid meetings environment?

EB: In a way we’ve all become television producers. In the TV world you have second-by-second breakdowns, you pre-record material to mitigate risk, with strict production quality control, you can do things with animation, and the bigger your budget the better it looks.

So we’ve learned new skills in these areas, in event technology production and animation, and we’ve learned how to do things digitally that were never previously in our vocabulary. It’s affected everyone across the company. Even the receptionist hasn’t got away with not learning new skills.

SS: How can associations in particular monetise these new styles of business events?

EB: Good question. So first they must put a price on their content; they must never have any part of a conference offer that’s free. During the pandemic all of our clients have had a paid registration model. Social interaction’s not great on virtual, everyone concedes that. But if it’s the best that’s available, it’s great, and there’s so much you can offer. We’ve done quiz nights, hired people from overseas who can run things in multiple time zones and so on.

You must also capture content. We’ve been pre-releasing some content, for example, for a conference coming up in 2023. We’ve pre-recorded our plenary confirmed speakers, of which there are six, having told them to give us a three-minute grab of what they’ll talk about at the congress, reinforcing why people should register. That’s been unscripted and a huge success. We tell delegates that if they register by a certain date we’ll send them thirty minutes of great content. In incentivising in that way you can monetise.

Then the conference comes. Post-event you can go back to your membership and can couple-up, what we call splice, key content, highlights and even two-minute sections and earn money that way. That’s the future for associations, digitising content in a way that’s appealing for all of their members.

SS: How have target audiences changed?

EB: They’ve become more discerning. That’s why some of the mid-level events are dropping off. Audiences are saying, if I’m going to travel I’m going to make my decision based on how good and significant the event and content is. What are the networking opportunities, and is there a special factor?

SS: How would you define mid-level?

EB: It relates to the subject matter. Take pathology. We’ve organised some pathology events, but there are divisions within that category, like forensic pathology, or genetic pathology for example. So you’ll typically have a world congress and people will divide up to meet to discuss their specialty, and all come together for a plenary. Now more of them are saying they’ll go to the big event, gain some extra knowledge, and for their own specialty they may access the virtual content. So whereas in the past someone might go to two or three conferences a year, they now might go to one instead, and do the other two virtually.

What kind of additional support for the industry would you like to see? 

EB: In our industry many have talked about a central industry body that represents everyone. I understand the drive to represent parties is key but I think there are too many competing interests to do this well at the moment. In the end, the saying where there’s a political will, there’s a financial way probably rings true here.

SS: What in your view are the other major challenges facing businesses like yours?

EB: Maintaining quality. We’re in a maintenance period after a time of major change and working out where we grow from here. We’ve got our own staff conference in Alice Springs in July, and re-energising is a challenge for us and others. Everyone’s tired. But it’s not a bad challenge!

SS: Any other lessons you can share about your business and academic career?

EB: As you get older managing energy is important. I’ve found over time you sometimes put energy into things that could be better directed. Everyone has the same amount of time; it’s very democratic [in that sense], but the way you occupy it is vital. Stepping up into more of a consultancy role has been great for me personally. I’ve really enjoyed it. Prioritising and understanding the global and national landscape are very worthwhile directions for one’s energy.

SS: The recent international toxicology conference that was relocated to Sydney. Can you tell us a bit about that?

EB: We first ran the international toxicology meeting in 2015 in Brisbane. Then in 2018, a while ago now, I travelled over to Washington DC for an unrelated client, working on a space conference. While we were there we got an email from the toxicology client based in Melbourne. He learned I was in Washington and suggested I go to dinner with the president of the toxicology board. So off we went to the dinner in Washington with the president whom we’d never met before. We got on like a house on fire; he was with the FBI and very interesting to talk to.

I passed on his details to my colleagues and in late 2021 we got a phone call from the client in Melbourne. He told us they were planning to have their meeting in South Africa, but after holding out for as long as possible, had decided to go virtual.

The association had never done anything virtual before, so the client asked us if we could help them. They said that even if fifty percent of their membership came on board and if we could construct something funky and fun like eighty talks in eighty minutes, we could construct a program.

So they set off with a target of three hundred participants and thirty thousand dollars in sponsorship. That was all over the Christmas period. In the end we had over eight hundred delegates, over a hundred thousand dollars in sponsorship, and three extraordinarily good days of programming and networking events. Each board member had ten minutes to talk about their country, so there was a tourism aspect. Someone walked through a gallery in Tokyo for example; it was very interesting.

The feedback they’ve had from their own communities has been outstanding. It blew away their expectations of what could be done with virtual conferencing. Now we’ve been appointed to do an event for them in 2023 in Hobart, and their world congress is coming to New Zealand in 2025 and we’ve been appointed for that.

SS: Also shows how valuable personal networking can be.

EB: It does.

SS: What’s your outlook now?

Very positive! People internationally have a fantastic appetite for coming to Australia. The Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne bureaux we’re working with are pushing strongly to emphasise that it’s safe to travel, which is important to people. The fact we don’t have to have negative tests before getting on a plane any more and that COVID variants are becoming less virulent is a strong sign of recovery.

In the space we’re in it’s more important than ever to have conferences because scientists can innovate and share research. One of our clients was involved with developing the AstraZeneca vaccine at Oxford University, which has had fantastic outcomes. That can be highlighted across many disciplines. There’s good stories everywhere and conferences can reflect them.

Moving forward, for us, I see us helping clients get their message out better. Pathologists talking to pathologists is one thing but if you can let the world know what conference delegates do, through public lectures, media releases and advertising, that will be wonderfully interesting, informative and productive.

To contact Emma or ICMS Australasia, please click here.


Where can you stay for business or leisure, an hour-and-a-half’s easy drive north of Sydney, and pay between $99 and $145 a night for outstanding, functional accommodation? Accor’s Ibis chain may provide the answer, as The Siteseer discovered.

To see first-hand what customers get for these low prices, I headed off north from Sydney for two nights: first to the basic but convenient and comfortable Ibis Budget Gosford on the New South Wales Central Coast, then to the ritzier, full-service Ibis Styles at The Entrance, 30 minutes further north.

These properties were a revelation. The Gosford property, on sale online for as low as $99 a night, and which has recently been refurbished, has 78 quiet rooms well set back from a major thoroughfare, comfortable beds and plenty of parking. Some of the rooms overlook a gorgeous green corridor separating hotel and river. Naturally there’s free wifi, USB charging points in all rooms, and block-out blinds to sustain a good night’s sleep.

Ibis Budget Gosford’s cheerful and welcoming General Manager Karen Gibson (left), who’s worked at Accor hotels in Broome, Canberra and Newcastle, is enthusiastic about her property – and the surrounding attractions of the New South Wales Central Coast. “There’s a reptile park nearby, which many guests visit. It’s fascinating and fun for all; I don’t care how old you are! And right next door we have the race course, which is also an attraction for many groups.”

Beautiful beaches, great shopping and dining variety are among the other drawcards, she adds. “An RSL club is a five-minute walk away from here, and there’s a great pub five minutes away in the other direction. You don’t come here to spend time in your room. It’s not a resort obviously. You drop your bags off, you go and explore, you go to bed, get up and go out again. It’s an ideal base for that.”

Many group visitors are from sporting and musical organisations, and the hotel is getting busier, despite covid’s omnipresent impact, Karen says. “We’re expecting a big year ahead. There’s lots happening at Gosford and the Central Coast and we’ve built up a great family of guests.”

From AUD99 a night

While Karen says the Ibis Gosford offers consistently low rates all year, at peak times they may increase because of demand.

More information, click here.

Email: H5442@accor.com

Phone: (02) 4325 7692

Meanwhile, at Ibis Styles, The Entrance, the ebullient young General Manager Aaron Ficyk (below) presides over a different kind of arrangement, and not just because Ibis Styles is an Accor “full-service” brand with more facilities than the more basic Ibis Budget.

Here the new, 52-room hotel, set on a hill overlooking the dreamy waters of Tuggerah Lakes, exists in an integrated relationship with the Diggers RSL club next door. The Diggers is a recently refurbished restaurant and conference complex whose guests typically make use of the hotel’s accommodation, and where hotel guests likewise meet and dine.

“Some people have a bit of difficulty getting their head around our integrated relationship with the Diggers club,” says Aaron. “But once they’ve had a site inspection and see the conference facilities, we find it’s very easy to seal a booking.”

The arrangement represents outstanding value for money, he says, with a $49 full-day conference package that includes room hire, morning and afternoon tea, lunch and basic AV hire.

The Diggers manages many local conferences where guests don’t need accommodation, but when people come from Sydney and elsewhere they can get the complete package, explains Aaron. “They can room-charge back to the club and get one seamless invoice at the end of their stay. Plus they can access the club from the hotel and don’t have to leave the premises. And by showing their room key they can get the members’ discounts for food and drinks. This connection with the RSL club is pretty rare in the Accor group.”

The Pavilion Events Centre at The Diggers is a big space that can comfortably seat up to 200, overlooking the lake, and there are a variety of boardrooms for smaller functions. The club is recognised as a specialist wedding reception venue, and is “perfect” for any type of celebration including weddings, anniversaries and business functions, Aaron says. An events coordinator is always on hand.

“One of the greatest advantages for conference and events organisers is the proximity to Sydney,” adds Aaron. “It’s only an hour and fifteen minutes by car, and once you’re here it’s like you’re a million miles away. This entire Central Coast area represents untapped potential.”

The Ibis Styles at The Entrance has 52 rooms, including eight family rooms that sleep four people or five with an optional rollaway bed. Some have views of the lake, and there are wheelchair-accessible rooms on every level. “People generally recognise that we represent great value, even over Christmas and Easter peak seasons when the rates are a bit higher.. We’re four-star rated and guests who come here for the first time are surprised by the quality of the property. You’re getting a beautiful view, and the rooms are modern and fresh.”

Originally from the Blue Mountains, Aaron was involved as part of the opening team for nearby Magenta Shores for Mirvac in 2017. Then he moved to Newcastle to open a Novotel at Newcastle Beach. (Earlier he’d worked as a casual at Ibis Styles.) He was offered his current role of General Manager three years ago when new owners bought the property.

From AUD 125 a night

The hotel has “some fantastic offers” in off-peak times, Aaron says. “We do a winter promotion which is room and continental breakfast for $125. In 2022 we’re doing a devonshire tea offer. People come back every year, they know the package is there.”

More information, click here.

Email: reservations@ibisstylestheentrance.com.au

Phone: +61 2 4336 0400


Where do you stay when you’re planning a road trip with an incentive group and want to take your dogs with you? More and more hotels are meeting pet-lovers’ needs, The Siteseer discovered. Here are some New South Wales suggestions.

The Grove at Clifton Grove, near Orange

Heather Dunn and her husband Terry (below), who’ve lived in Orange, four hours’ drive west of Sydney, for many years, can cater for groups of up to five at their leafy property on the outskirts of the rural New South Wales town – eight kilometres’ drive from the Orange Post Office. Not only do visitors get an effusive welcome from their little dog, Lancelot, when they arrive, they discover that their own canines are welcomed equally enthusiastically.

“Ozzie just came and had a cuddle with us,” said Heather one winter afternoon after I’d checked in to their snug B&B, The Grove, for a couple of days. “Then she came with us for a walk when we went to feed the rabbits, and has had a marvellous time.”

While the extent of their tolerance for having dogs to stay and roaming their property may be unusual, demand for such pet-friendly service is growing, says Heather. “We’re getting more and more people interested in doing so,” she says.

In addition to people holidaying with their pets, travelling to the area to sample local food and wine, many clients are temporarily in town because they’re picking up puppies or new dogs from country properties nearby, Heather adds. “Since the lockdowns began, school holidays have been really busy. I think the fact that we’re pet-friendly gives families the peace of mind that comes with having their loved dogs with them.”

Rooms here, featuring beds with electric blankets, are AUD170 per night, with breakfast included.

For more info, click here.

Email: heatherbdunn@bigpond.com


Oasis Motel, Peak Hill

The managers of this discreet property in the small town of Peak Hill, set on the main road between Dubbo and Parkes, allow dogs to be brought into some rooms, which are all ground-floor with easy access to a grassy area, barbecue facilities and swimming pool.

The rooms are small and compact with the conveniences guests need in summer or winter: aircon, microwave, toaster, fridge and so forth.

The town has several shops and cafés, and an ex-services and citizens’ club with a good Chinese restaurant, a great Australian country tradition.


Among the local attractions are walking tracks, fishing and an defunct open gold mine, legacy of a gold rush at the end of the nineteenth century.

Rooms here are AUD90 per night.

For more information, click here.

Email: oasismotelpeakhill@gmail.com


Moonraker Motor Inn, Parkes

At the edge of the pretty town of Parkes, five hours west of Sydney, the Moonraker Motor Inn welcomes dogs and is in the process of renovating its 24 rooms to do so more effectively.

“We’re half-way through the renovations,” explains General Manager Vaseem (Vas) Ahmed. “The pet-friendly rooms will be the best in the motel once we’ve completed [the work].”

The rooms here are significantly bigger than those in standard motels and have easy access to a large grassed area, security-lit at night, where hounds can exercise. The licensed restaurant, Clarinda, does a brisk trade with a traditional Aussie menu with such staples as crumbed chops and mash, steaks and salads. The property is a couple of minutes’ drive from the town centre.

A well-known local attraction for incentive groups is the giant Parkes radio telescope, 20 minutes away, which is still operating and was one of the antennae used to receive live pictures of the Apollo moon landing. The staff in the facility’s shop allow dogs to be brought onto the premises.

Also nearby, at the airport, is the Parkes Aviation Museum whose exhibits include a variety of commercial and military aircraft. Visitors can enter the planes and look around at their leisure; admission is free.

Rooms at the Moonraker start at AUD 100 per night.



For more information, click here.

Email: info@moonrakermotorinn.com.au


Bathurst Explorers Motel

With a marketing tag of ‘spend a night not a fortune,’ this double-storey property in the city of Bathurst, three hours’ west of Sydney, welcomes dogs in its ground-floor rooms and is clean and comfortable, with a number of room configurations. The dining room represents great value for money, with continental breakfasts for $5 and a full breakfast plus coffee costing me $12. Electric blankets are a welcome feature in Bathurst’s notoriously chilly winters.

Rooms at the Bathurst Explorers Motel are AUD100 per night.

For more information, click here.

Email: info@bathurstexplorersmotel.com




Like a tapered candle rising 88 storeys above the harbour, the Crown Sydney skyscraper is the city’s newest landmark. In every way, it’s an events location that towers above the ordinary.

Completed in four years and opened last December, the Crown Resorts-owned, black-glass-clad building houses 349 hotel rooms and suites and 82 private residences – each of which has a view of the water – and a variety of outstanding events venues.

Each interior space, including the bedrooms, has a unique floorplate because architects Wilkinson Eyre have forgone traditional symmetry for an unconventional building shape that resembles intertwined glass petals.

The interiors exemplify smart design and the latest in six-star hotel gee-whizzery. Rooms and meetings spaces alike are an amalgam of layered textures: custom fabrics, marble, pristine bedding; and carpets, fittings and metallic detailing whose greys and sea-blues reflect the sparkling crushed-diamond surface of the harbour below. In the bedrooms, curtains and blinds can be swept open and shut at the touch of an icon on a bedside control panel.

When a guest approaches the lavatory and bidet arrangement, the lid opens automatically – as if by legerdemain – in a whimsical welcome.

Naturally, because they’re so new, the various event spaces feature the most advanced meetings technology like wireless internet connections, data tech, webcasting and video-conferencing facilities, according to Food and Beverage Manager Events, Jodie Ringma (pictured below). “Organisers love the attributes of our venues,” says Jodie.

Strong interest

Not surprisingly, Jodie adds, despite the Covid-19 pandemic local PCOs are showing significant interest in Crown Sydney as they slowly regain confidence, especially for smaller events.

“For planners seeking a venue that has ‘more’, this is ideal,” explains Jodie, an events specialist whose experience includes several years at the Sydney Opera House.

“Crown Sydney is home to eleven restaurants and bars, a luxury Crown Towers hotel and one of the best spas in the city. That means you can create a multi-faceted event without guests ever having to leave the property.”

Many events here at present comprise weddings and, until international borders reopen, mostly Sydney corporate business, usually a combination of high-end company gatherings and product launches, says Jodie.

Because of the pandemic corporate planners are tending to book with shorter lead times and hosting smaller functions. And Jodie and her colleagues expect changes to restrictions and capacities at very short notice are likely to be an ongoing impact on their business.

“Due to the pandemic PCOs are typically saying you know what? We’ll just do something for forty and see what kind of response they have with that. They’re being mindful that they’re going to ease back into the market place. There’s also a lot of last-minute booking.”

The Crown Sydney events team has adapted to these circumstances by being extra-flexible in booking terms and conditions, offering quick turnaround times. “We’ve recently hosted a number of events for luxury brands across fashion, automobiles and electronics and private dinners for A-listers,” says Jodie.

The prime Crown Sydney meeting place is the high-ceilinged and column-free Pearl Ballroom (left). With pillowed and patterned walls, this space accommodates up to 390 guests cocktail-style or 340 seated, with an expansive pre-function area that helps create a seamless space for galas, receptions, award ceremonies and conferences.

And it can be divided into three areas for more intimate events.

A broad variety of spaces are available for smaller functions. The Opal Suite, for example, can accommodate 20 people seated or 50 cocktail-style and has been much in demand for business presentations and special events, says Jodie.

It features a private bathroom, powder alcove (popular with bridal parties), hanging closets and a private kitchen and like all the hotel’s facilities it has spectacular views over Darling Harbour.

Likewise the Pavilion can accommodate 50 in ceremony seating or cocktail-style, and is in regular use for romantic ceremonies and cocktail receptions.

Sky Deck, another private event space, is set to open soon. Located on level 66, it will take up to 25, cocktail-style, and features an external viewing platform.

From AUD112 per person

The question PCOs ask first: how much will it cost me? A daily meeting package here starts at AUD112 per person, says Jodie Ringma, which, given the quality of the property and its jaw-dropping location is arguably highly competitive.

While it’s obviously at the higher end of the pricing scale, with hotel room rack rates at around AUD869, it still represents great value considering what you get for your dollar, Jodie insists. “From the venue, views, menus, execution, service and experience point of view it’s outstanding.”

Moreover she and her team seek to ensure they offer the broadest variety of options possible; rather than stipulate a price, they consider what clients want, then design an event specifically for them. So the offer includes bespoke menus, flexibility, and a swag of options – for instance three styles of charger plates, three colours of napkins and tablecloths, silver napkin rings and coloured water glasses. “It’s those small details that our team never overlooks,” she says.

The menus can draw on the Crown Sydney restaurants including Nobu (the Japanese fusion eatery named after acclaimed Chef Nobu Matsuhisa) and Silks (Cantonese fine dining) which can really set the event experience apart, Jodie says. “I also think our central location, in the heart of Barangaroo, adds to its appeal.”

Indeed it’s this newness and location that are driving most interest. “Crown Sydney is Australia’s most exciting new event space and there’s a desire to be one of the first to hold an event here,” Jodie adds. “The venues have facilities designed not just to frame the views of Sydney Harbour’s icons, but to stand alongside them as a defining landmark of the city.”

More info, click here.

Email: events@crownsydney.com.au

Why do so many people smother their prose with unnecessary words? Most MICE communicators would agree that writing simply is the best way to get written messages across, but many find comfort in boring verbiage.

That’s why for many PCOs and others in our industry, being short on time translates into being long on text. It’s easier to fall into the comfortable ruts of using overworked adjectives (“unique and outstanding,” “best-in-class,” “boasts world-class facilities” and so forth), or stock phrases (please do not hesitate to contact me with any queries, concerns or considerations you may have . . .) than to think of snappier alternatives.

Supporters of the more-is-more school of thought argue that dense text suggests you’ve got your subject surrounded. You mean business and you sound knowledgeable. Some think if you pack words in and include strings of adjectives you improve your chances of hitting the mark at some point.

Strip clutter

You can make your written word as palatable as possible for readers by heeding the advice of great writers. Make a conscious effort to strip clutter. Like most people, your MICE readers, no matter what role they play, are short of time. Keep them in mind.

They’re not waiting to be impressed by your seniority or erudition. They’ll be grateful if you tell them what they need to know clearly and quickly. As Churchill said: “Short words are best.”

True, some find it more difficult to be disciplined in their writing than others. Nathaniel Hawthorne correctly said, “Easy reading is hard writing.”

Getting the tone right

It’s often hard, too, to strike the right tone. Practised writers can do it by choosing words carefully.

One way to get the right result is to edit your own work before you submit or send it. And remember, a good self-edit can weed out a tone that may have unintended consequences.

Take this message, written in four different tones:

  1. It would be appreciated if all conference delegates could be informed that the new policy, under which all future arrangements will be promptly and effectively considered, will come into effect on Monday.
  1. You should communicate the new policy to all delegates before it comes into effect on Monday.
  1. Please let all delegates know about the new policy that’s being introduced on Monday.
  1. Hi team, we have a new policy! Please make sure your delegates know about it before it hits the deck on Monday.

Example one would be interpreted by most as impersonal, pompous and bureaucratic. People generally react negatively to this tone because it’s neither direct nor inclusive. The writer disappears: “It would be appreciated” not “I’d appreciate it”. For some people, example two would be seen as polite and to the point. Others may interpret the “should” as an order – you must, or else!

Most would agree that example three is simple, pleasant and clear, like a firm handshake or good eye contact. We prefer this form of business writing, though many still feel more comfortable using the tones in examples one and two.

Example four is colourful and conversational. The danger here is that it’s so informal that recipients may not take it as seriously as they should.

So, how do we ensure we get the tone right? First, choose the one that’s most direct and succinct. Favour personal pronouns such as “you” and “I” in MICE business writing.

If you’re after a tone that’s pleasant, informative and precise use the active voice: “We will provide more detail when the convention centre managers have accepted the proposal,” instead of “Details will be provided once the proposal has been accepted by the convention centre managers.”

Use short sentences that capture the rhythm of conversation and identify who’s doing what. Compare “The managers discussed your proposal. They were most impressed” to “This is to inform you that the proposal was discussed at last week’s meeting and received favourable comment.”

If you’d like to introduce a friendlier tone, use contractions – I’m, she’s, won’t, can’t – and direct questions to the reader. “Can you image having $50,000 to spend on your dinner?”

Circumstances can obviously alter the tone you could use. Sometimes it’s wise to be forceful; at other times it would seem rude. Sometimes being upbeat and colourful is appropriate; at others it might seem careless.


Let’s talk some more about waffle. While there are times to be more formal than informal, the formality shouldn’t stray into windy pomp. Take this:

The answer is that the motivation for circuitous and obfuscating written communication is the temptation that often arises for people who would otherwise normally write clearly and distinctly, to attempt to demonstrate to others their commanding knowledge of the more obscure recesses of the English language, resulting in the distraction of attention from their message, rendering it accessible only to those with the considerable intellect needed to decipher it.

Still with me? Some people can’t resist trying to impress others when they write, and their message is lost. English is so rich that we can convey information with extraordinary subtlety and precision. But if that richness is abused you’ll sound as boring and pretentious as I just did, bore people and confuse or lose your audience.

On the subject of waffle, use words to communicate, not impress. Beware too the temptation to impress, not with long words and complicated sentences, but jargon.

Business-speak can be a trap. It often begins as a catchy new expression that attracts attention. Fine. But catchy new expressions have a short shelf life. People who use business jargon to impress often end up sounding dated and clichéd: when all is said and done at the end of the day you can try sending your jargon down the runway, but it will never fly or think outside the square. And that’s the bottom line.

So in the interests of the dwelling place of the universal deity, make sure at all times to set your thoughts on paper as if you were vocalising them to another party.

I mean, for heaven’s sake, write like you speak.

For help with your strategic communication needs, contact BWD Strategic by clicking here. Their clients attest they’re among the best in the business.






You’re a hotelier. With terrifying suddenness, the Coronavirus decimates your events and leisure business. What do you do? Swiss-Belhotel International’s people did some lateral thinking.

Patrick LaybuttWith occupancies plunging everywhere, and recognising that any crisis can represent opportunity for those flexible enough, the General Manager of Swiss-Belhotel in South Brisbane, Patrick Laybutt (left), and colleagues sat together to put action plans in place.

“It was after the introduction of the various Covid-19 restrictions had been introduced in New Zealand,” Patrick explains. “One of our decisions was to look after clients at our Australasian properties who can’t work from home, people who need an office space, or have come back from overseas and need to stay longer.”

With 134 generously sized spaces ranging from hotel rooms to suites with galley kitchenettes at the South Brisbane hotel, for example, they realised they could adapt their apartment-style set ups to include the attributes of an office space.


The result was a “live-stay-work” package, which gives much-needed help to guests while generating revenue for the hotel to continue supporting staff and owners through a difficult time, says Patrick.

The live-stay-work campaign has targeted corporate as well as past and loyal customers seeking longer stays, who were approached via the hotel’s database. It was also aimed at expats returning home. “We worked closely with our extensive network and association connections,” says Patrick.

In South Brisbane, hotel-living package guests can choose, inter alia, a superior room with king-size bed, ensuite and walk-in shower; a river-view suite overlooking the city and Brisbane River towards South Bank, or across the Kangaroo Point cliffs to the city; or a “Swiss SuperSuite”.

SSRV519-Swiss-BelhotelBrisbane-1“Living at Swiss-Belhotel Brisbane in South Bank is like having a permanent office with a feel of home as you experience everything luxury and have a personal haven of relaxation and comfort,” Patrick says.

That means in-room dining, breakfast deals at $17 per person from a selected menu, Uber eats delivered to rooms, in-door pool, gym, unlimited Internet access, 10% off laundry, hand sanitisers in rooms and optional daily or weekly housekeeping.

The response has been great, says Patrick. “People appreciate us being proactive and coming up with a tailored offer that meets current demand. We especially see good pick-up at our Swiss-Belsuites Victoria Park [Auckland] hotel as it’s only five minutes’ walk from a large supermarket and has spacious suites – all apartment-style with balconies.”

Meantime events are obviously on hold given the current clamp-down on gatherings. “Next to general cleanliness, social distance is currently on our mind,” says Patrick. “The health of our guests and associates is our number-one priority.”

POOL-GYM-Swiss-BelhotelBrisbane-2From AUD1,950 a month

A superior room at South Brisbane is available from $90 per day, $560 per week and $1,950 per month. A “super-suite” starts from $120 per day, $805 per week and $3,300 per month.

The hotel is adjacent to the Mater private and public and Lady Cilento Children’s hospitals and the newly opened Ronald McDonald House is directly opposite. It’s ten minutes’ walk to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and 14 minutes’ walk to The Gabba stadium. The CBD is 3.6 kilometres – eight minutes’ drive – away.

If, as Czech writer Milan Kundera observed, business has only two functions – marketing and innovation – the Swiss-Belhotel is doing both well.

More info, click here.

Email: reservations-brisbane@swiss-belhotel.com





Organise an event at Papua New Guinea’s Stanley Hotel and Suites, a towering landmark a five-minute drive from Port Moresby airport, and you can be sure of one thing: you’ll meet Niko Parman.

IMG_1932The Director of Conferences and Events for the “Stanley,” one of few five-star hotels in the wild, exotic territory of PNG, lives on site and puts in as many hours per day as required to keep his clients happy.

“For the client I’m invariably the one-stop-shop,” says the dapper, energetic Australian (pictured left) who’s been here for three years, since the hotel opened. “Large events represent good turnover in Port Moresby, so you have to deliver, and it’s all about inter-personal relationships and trust. They want to see the face who sold the event space executing the event. That’s where I come in.”


The space he has to offer them is, he points out, the largest and most flexible in PNG. The hotel’s centrepiece ballroom is complemented by eight smaller meeting rooms which can be set up in a myriad combinations, anywhere from 10 to a thousand people seated banquet-style. The meeting rooms are on the same level; one has an open-air balcony that can accommodate 450 people.

The vast majority of delegates and clients can be accommodated on site in 420 well-equipped rooms (all with work desks), including 80 one- and two-bedroomed apartments, and a Presidential suite which has hosted the likes of President Xi of China. The hotel is targeted very much at business, primarily comprising local and international governments from the US or elsewhere working with PNG authorities, oil and gas mining enterprises, and NGOs such as the International Monetary Fund or Asian Development Bank. “The country is still largely dependent on aid from these bodies, and markets like these are our core. The majority of our business is sourced locally but funded from overseas.”

HyperFocal: 0Why hold an event here? For a start the events management at The Stanley, top-heavy with expatriate talent knows what it’s doing. Its conference-driven MICE business is “massive,” according to Niko, dwarfing food and beverage. Much of it is inbound, and people flying in have to be accommodated. The property typically hosts opening cocktails and dinners, and its F&B outlets are like satellites. Accommodation comes with breakfast, and if delegates have a free night they’ll automatically fill up the restaurants and bars, Niko says. Indeed delegates don’t have too many options about places to go outside the property other than a range of eateries in the big adjacent shopping mall.


And that’s a positive for many PCOs. “We’re in a closed environment, so we have a captive market in a sense,” says Niko. “For many conference organisers that’s a perfect business model. They want to concentrate on the business at hand, with few distractions.”

Plus it’s good value. The Stanley charges for venue hire, depending on the size of the space required, and the full day rate is 155 Papua New Guinea kina – about AUD60.

Though Port Moresby has relatively few hotels, Niko says he and his colleagues don’t take business for granted. “In these days of social media, good service or bad service goes viral. If you dazzle people you get repeat business! It works, which is why we have great occupancy rates and we’re the market leader in the city.”

171006-2054The reason for that, too, he says, is consistency. You can have wonderful product but if you’re not consistent a hotelier can run into trouble, he adds.

Niko tries to help ensure that consistency extends to the F&B outlets. The café in the grand, cavernous lobby serves coffee, freshly squeezed juices, sandwiches and pastries, operating from early till 6pm. In addition to the main restaurant, also on the ground floor, the Monsoon Bar is open from 3pm till midnight and the Silverleaf fine dining eatery seats 40 people on the nineteenth floor. There’s an executive lounge, with a clubby feel and excellent canapés after five.

For pre- and post-conference events, Niko can refer clients to trusted suppliers for everything from exhibition booths to entertainers, having attracted well-known names including James Morrison and Samantha Clarke.

From AUD60 per day

The conference rate includes buffet lunch, arrival tea and coffee with pastries, and morning tea with a choice of sweet and savoury items, which more and more guests want. “I can guarantee it’s on par with what Sydney and Melbourne can offer,” says Niko.

More information, click here. Or email dce@thestanleypng.com.



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.




After malt whiskies in the club lounge, we return to our room on the thirty-third floor of the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, and find a note from the concierge. It’s a follow-up to a request my wife made earlier in the day.

“We have checked with the silversmith in the convention centre, and they can fix your silver necklace,” the message says, “but it will take seven to 10 working days.”

Richard Greaves 1 squareIt then lists another jewellery store that can fix the broken clasp the same day, 30 minutes’ cab ride away.

It’s the kind of obliging assistance we received continually during a recent four-day stay at arguably the finest meetings and convention hotel in Hong Kong.

Our 40-square-metre club room, with its vast white bed, muted carpets and colourings and classy artworks, had panoramic views of Victoria Harbour – and, everywhere, the city’s slim, towering skyscrapers which at night gleamed and twinkled like a giant jewellery box.

The food, service, facilities and proximity of this property to the pulse of the city may help explain why it’s won a swag of industry awards – such as best business hotel in Asia, best meetings and conventions hotel in Hong Kong, best city hotel for business events and others.

But there’s plenty of competition in the luxury hotel category in Hong Kong. Why should PCOs favour the Grand Hyatt? Richard Greaves (pictured above), Area Vice President and General Manager, is clear on this. A key factor that sets the hotel apart is attention to detail and emotional engagement with clients and guests, he explains.

“We strongly believe that to create exceptional event experiences for guests, we must first make the effort to get to know them beyond a mere superficial level, more like a friend,” he says.

Seafood & Oyster Bar + Salad Bar_3mb“How else can we expect to exceed their expectations and create the special details that make an event memorable?”

It’s a familiar theme, often-repeated by hotel operators, but the Grand Hyatt’s success suggests that it’s not just talk. The hotel has 22 flexible event venues which are much in demand for repeat business for meetings, incentives, conferences and private parties, catering for anything from 12 to 1,600 guests. The Grand Ballroom is one of the largest in the city, while the Poolhouse, an outdoor venue overlooking the swimming pool and gardens, can be set up to handle welcome or farewell cocktails.


In particular the hotel is a sought-after spot for weddings, of any size up to 888 people. Accommodation is included in wedding packages and there are preferential rates in its 542 rooms and suites for the guests. “We’re honoured to be regarded as the hotel for glamorous events,” says Richard.

“Our service team has always been our most recognised asset. It takes years of training and expertise to take care of the logistics of week-long events, as well as the everyday needs of conference guests and others staying at the hotel at the same time.”

Attendees have much to choose from pre- and post-conference, Richard adds. “The city, especially Wanchai where the hotel is located, has a lot to offer.”

Grand Deluxe City RoomFor example they can visit the Wanchai wet market for a glimpse of local everyday life. Or take a tram for a slow tour around Hong Kong Island, visit heritage buildings and temples around Wanchai, hop on the Star Ferry to cross Victoria Harbour, or shop in Central and Causeway Bay (10 minutes by taxi).

There are 11 restaurants and bars in the hotel, and a great spa (The Plateau) atop the building.

Grand Hyatt Hong Kong’s clientele typically includes financial and tech companies, and it hosts many medical and pharmaceutical conventions. Because it’s located next to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, it’s naturally popular with people attending trade shows.


From USD 245

So, what everyone considering arranging an event immediately wants to know: how much does it cost to book this gem of a property? Room rates online start from around USD245, and the Club rooms – offering access to the big club lounge with its jaw-dropping views of the harbour and sunsets – start from around USD 500. The conference full-day rate is from around USD154 per person, but the operators stress that PCOs and other event organisers should contact them to start a discussion about prices and venues.

Siteseer says:

In the pantheon of good hotels in the former British colony, this is up there with the best. To help celebrate its thirtieth anniversary this year, most of the event venues have been renovated, as have the classy, understated rooms and suites. The club lounge, to which we had access, offers drinks all day and a free-of-charge, sumptuous buffet in the evenings. The eclectic mix of Asian and western fare here included pastas, patés, dim sims, seafood, soups, salads, hot and cold savoury taster dishes and much else. The staff were smart, charming and never missed a trick. Because it was my wife’s and my wedding anniversary, a bottle of champagne awaited us in the room when we arrived. And a charming card. We look forward to returning.

More information:

+852 2584 7068


Click here for more prices.

IMG_9071HK highres straightLobby 2018 2mbGrand Club Lounge - Night timePoolhouse exterior med res


Karmina De Ungria, an ebullient young marketing executive at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Manila, says The Peak is like nothing else in the city of 13 million people. She may have a point.

“It’s something very new to the market and sets a whole new standard in dining and entertainment,” says the enthusiastic Karmina (pictured below), Director of Marketing Communications for the Grand Hyatt hotel in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Manila.

IMG_1872Why? The Peak is a dining and bar complex atop the towering Grand Hyatt building – said to be the tallest structure in the Philippines at 318 metres. Occupying the sixtieth to the sixty-second floors, The Peak is a classy amalgam of interconnected, enticing indoor and outdoor terrace drinking spaces and cosy indoor eateries, most with sweeping views of the Manila skyline and the blue waters of the bay. Indeed its design, conceptualised by Tokyo-based international design firm Nao Taniyama & Associates, was inspired by penthouse living, with one room flowing to another, says Karmina.


It includes a grill restaurant, music lounge, whisky bar and The Peak bar, each flagged as a destination on its own. The centrepiece of the grill is an open kitchen where guests can view their food being prepared by Chef De Cuisine Manuel Baenziger.

“I think it’s what many guests are seeking right now,” Karmina adds, standing on a deck on the sixty-second floor, looking at the ramparts of the city below. “The views are exceptional [which helps to make it] an experience in itself.”

GHM The Peak VerandaHere, events organisers could consider the cosy Speakeasy restaurant (main picture) and waterhole which can be booked privately and accommodate up to 30 guests with a minimum total spend of PHP 80,000 (about USD 1,500). That’s about fifty bucks a head – reasonable given the attributes of the venue and the quality of the food and drink, ranging from Bordeaux to Bollinger and Maryland crab cake to Aussie wagyu beef. The hotel itself is spanking new, opened last year, which gives the entire complex a fresh, swanky appeal.

“We see a lot of the local market, as well as visitors who are looking for premium dining and entertainment,” says Karmina. “Of course Hyatt’s a well-known and established brand and we’re very pleased with how our rooms, restaurant concepts and event facilities have been received by the market. Everything’s been designed to give our guests a grand experience.”

The Peak is incorporated in the Grand Hyatt Manila hotel. For reservations and more details, call +632 8381234 or email thepeak.manila.grand@hyatt.com.

GHM The Peak Music Lounge 1

GHM The Peak Music Lounge 2

Newsletter pic 1

GHM The Peak Whiskey Room