Q&A with our Architects: Ashleigh Duggan, Project Manager

Name: Ashleigh Duggan

Job title: Project Manager, Conference Operations

Office: Brisbane

I enjoy my job because: There is no greater moment than standing onsite, in the middle of the first plenary session, when the lights go down and the first speaker comes on stage and the event has started. There are people in the room, their brains are sparking new ideas and those new ideas go on to shape the world we live in. What a moment to be a part of! It is an incredible feeling to help shape something much bigger than myself and knowing that I’ve played a part in helping to make it all happen.

The event I’m most proud of is: The International Conference on Radar 2018. I had fantastic clients who were really passionate about their industry. We worked together when we faced various challenges in order to come up with different solutions for the benefit of the delegates. For example, it was important for the organising committee to encourage youth and women into STEM roles and demonstrate diversity; however, at previous events attendance at Women in Engineering lunches and Young Professionals events were dwindling. We developed a Women in Engineering and Young Professionals Panel session which was extremely well attended and has potential to be rolled out at future events. It was also great to see a lot of the Arinex technology products in use bringing even greater value to the delegates.

Three must-haves while on-site are: Comfortable shoes (not new shoes!), snacks and coffee. I could rule the world with snacks and coffee.

My top things to remember when on-site are:

  1. Expect the unexpected. We pride ourselves on planning ahead and planning for any scenario that could happen onsite. Sometimes the unexpected happens and the most important thing is to resolve the issue quickly and discretely, so the delegates never suspect a thing!
  2. Support and preparation – by the time we are all onsite, our clients have put so much time and effort into the event they need to enjoy the onsite experience instead of sweating over small details, like whether there is enough food. We are there to ensure all the little details are planned in advance and to do the worrying for our clients should anything arise onsite. It means our clients are able to enjoy what they have worked so hard for.
  3. Don’t overlook small actions. A smile, a joke with a delegate, remembering someone’s name, walking someone to a room instead of just pointing – things like these are what we pride ourselves on when working onsite. Small actions often change someone’s entire day and overall experience of an event.

The biggest challenge in managing and delivering events (in my experience) is:

  1. Increasing delegate numbers. There are so many events taking place and they are becoming more and more niche in their subject matter. We constantly need to be making our events more compelling for delegates to attend. A relevant program is so important in the delegate’s decision making process and having experts who can manage the marketing campaign for you is the best way to ensure the highest number of delegates.
  2. Budget. This is constantly a challenge for events. It’s important to engage someone experienced with drafting event budgets as they will always think of things you may not have. We find whilst cutting items out of the budget helps with the bottom line, it can also significantly reduce the delegate experience and can affect future events. It’s important to look at ways to increase revenue (through sponsorship and marketing efforts) so as not to sacrifice the overall delegate experience.

My two favourite venues are: I’m going to be biased and nominate two Queensland venues.

  1. Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (BCEC). What a great convention centre! There is a reason our clients keep wanting to return; it feels like my second home sometimes. It is clean, professional, the space is perfect for some of our smaller events as well as for really large groups. BCEC have such a high level of care for our clients and events – nothing is ever too much trouble. It’s always a pleasure working with them.
  2. Howard Smith Wharves (HSW). This is a relatively new precinct in Brisbane which has incredible event facilities, as well as an unbelievable view of the Brisbane skyline! It is hard to believe the whole precinct was derelict for so many years – now it’s a vibrant part of the Brisbane community. The event spaces are so versatile and can cater for large and small groups – and they brew their own beer onsite, so that’s always a win!

Three tips for anyone hosting an event are:

  1. Remember why you are running this event. It can be very easy to get bogged down in the details of the event. Remembering the purpose of the event is a powerful motivator and will only serve to improve the event overall.
  2. Don’t be afraid to use technology! Introducing new technology can seem daunting or risky – particularly if you are about as tech savvy as a goat. The world is moving forward at a rapid pace and your delegates will thank you for embracing change. Technology can be a great asset for any event – not only to make things easier and more accessible for your delegates, but it can provide you with valuable statistics that will help you plan future events.
  3. Surround yourself with experts. One of my favourite quotes is ‘if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room’. Experience is invaluable and whilst it may come with a price tag, it is one thousand percent better than trying to figure it out on your own. If you want a successful event, hire experts to help.

When I’m not delivering inspiring experiences, you’ll find me: Googling ‘best places to take your dog in Brisbane’ and heading there. I love my dog (almost more than my husband!). During the warmer months we are always at Currumbin dog beach.  When we aren’t outdoors, I am usually indoors planning our next holiday. A big bucket list goal of mine is to make it to 30 countries by the time I turn 30, which I am on track to achieving!

In 5 years’ time events will be: More relevant than ever. People will always need interaction with other people and technology can never take over entirely. We will still be planning events in 5, 15, 50 years’ time. Events will continually evolve and I can’t wait to see what else we can incorporate into our delegate experiences.

Want to learn more about Arinex’ conference management team and services? Email enquiry@arinex.com.au to hear how we can work together.