Roundtables with event managers aboard ‘The Jackson’

The roundtable discussions from the recent Event Organisers summit aboard the Jackson on the 11th August certainly involved everyone

The idea of a roundtable, you’re likely aware, whether from history or movies, is originally traced back to famed legends of King Arthur. The early Briton-Celtic King had the table intentionally designed without a hierarchal, traditional head so that all who had a seat were equal; none considered taking precedence or priority over another. Not even himself.

Later, roundtables became adopted into academia and public forums as a mechanism inviting healthy, equal, fair discussions on topics for engagement or of great importance.

It’s hardly surprising the principle behind such discussions has become more widely accepted and popular in business arenas and corporate practices. Especially in an age where the traditional power structures have, to some degree, been turned on their heads.

As top down dictatorial approaches have waned in popularity theories such as servant leadership have been equally elevated and embraced. Round table discussions make sense when you consider four underlying principles commonly associated with servant leadership are:

  • Encouraging diversity of thought and ideas
  • Creating a collaborative culture of trust
  • Approaching with an unselfish mindset
  • Fostering leadership in others

Roundtables, done well, invite diversity of thought, freedom of expression (the good, the bad and the ugly), collaborative, safe discussions and encourage collective wisdom from all present. They certainly seem to have become a welcome addition to the format of the Event Organisers summits. Not just because all attending, perhaps somewhat starved of face face interactions, head back into live meet ups with eager gusto and a healthy appetite for banter!

The roundtable discussions from the recent Event Organisers summit aboard the Jackson on the 11th August certainly involved everyone. Mind you, there was a higher than a typical ratio of attendees with Christian names beginning with the letter ‘L’ serendipitously also wearing some form of tartan patterned winter wear.

Which is kind of perfect really. It means we can surmise the Arthurian inspired collaborative discussions of equality by attributing all inputs to Lauren or Laura. Essentially someone like you, with first hand experience of the highs and lows of an event organisers role.

The outcomes from the roundtable:

1) On the increased use of tech

In the rush to survive and thrive amidst COVID and the post pandemic era, the use of technology exploded. From live to fully virtual then back again to hybrid.

Tech tools and platforms rushed to improve or regularly update their offerings. Whilst a majority of people shared they’d become super familiar with common platforms like Zoom or Teams, there was also overwhelm.

When you add the variety of expanded choices, significantly superior studios, virtual walk through conference halls or countless additional apps designed to enhance user experience, selecting tech became akin to a shopping spree scanning all isles and stacked shelves at an IKEA store with exceptionally limited time. Spoilt for choice, where to start and what to select! Here’s the collective wisdom to filter through your options.

  • Consult your client and stakeholders, find out what’s core and truly important for the event at hand.
  • Elect best technology for the significant priorities and technology with proven tested reliability.
  • Depending on the event purpose, audio was collectively seen as more critical than video alone.

fact you may find funky tech with an ability to do quirky things (like insert faces into powerpoint!) a better question to ask is: would you use such features?

If you wouldn’t usually, don’t rush to do so simply because you can. As they say in good design, best is often simple.

Once you’ve landed on reliable quality tech and apps, practise, practise, practise! And, in case you didn’t get that, Lauren suggested practice some more!!

2) Mitigate the risks of travel

 In a pre pandemic world it wasn’t unusual that talent, attendees too, may fly in on the morning of an event with a couple of hours buffer.

It’s clear that any advice suggesting ‘everyone just needs to get travel fit again’ came from someone called Alan. Event organisers, especially called Laura, know first hand the headaches and risks to events now and wouldn’t sweep concerns aside with such condescending abandon.

Any additional costs associated with ensuring key people (events-teams, talent, key in house presenters or the likes) arrive earlier were agreed as either minor or a current cost of doing good business when compared to the current risks of success relying on flight schedules, cancellations and routes in some disarray.

That’s wasn’t a dig at travel or any specific carrier either, Alan. Everyone respects there are bound to be some pains as airlines also ramp back up to travel fitness: which is perhaps a more appropriate context for use of a genuine, heartfelt expression.

  • Allow a minimum buffer of four hours (or more!) for your typical interstate trips (Sydney – Melbourne – Adelaide – Brisbane)
  • Get key people in the night before if they are required in the morning or where events are located further afield and regional
  • Additionally try to procure commitments and bookings early: associated costs ramp up swiftly or become trickier the later it’s left.

3) Live versus hybrid

If it were a vote it was pretty much a unanimous one! It’s probably no surprise given the strong general consensus in market that it’s high time to get back to live in person.

In the early stages of events re-emerging, hybrid became common place. You know, amidst chaos of state premiere’s doing their own thing, last minute lockdowns, chopping and changing of minds  and goalposts or a general feeling of uncertainty even in the presence of strong willingness!

Hybrid events, whilst serving a great purpose, also come with increased costs, risks, stresses and headaches.  Hybrid events certainly serve well strong principles such as inclusivity and encouraging remote attendance.

As more people return to live the associated costs of hybrid (which may not always vary so much regardless if 5, 50 or 500 are attending) don’t necessarily meet the robust criteria required for a solid business case.

The general consensus was, heading into 2023, you may want to bet a few chips on seeing a bolder move back in favor of live. Additionally hybrid will still serve a purpose yet a preferred option may be to invest in a quality recording that can be viewed on demand later by those unable or unwilling to attend. In some case this may even be commercially monetised.

A later viewing may even be a great experience with tight edits and minimising those increased risks associated with significantly greater use of tech.

  • Consult with key stakeholders and refine your own ability to present a solid business case
  • Make a stand as a professional in your field. Be a strong voice for whichever option you feel serves the ideal event outcomes best: regardless if live, virtual or hybrid is your choice!

4) Supplier capacities and quality for all aspects of events

 This was a very meaty conversation.  Even Alan would have enjoyed and likely gotten a lot out of it!

With talent shortages, tight job markets and a significantly lower number of overseas visitors on working visas, there’s been an impact to third party suppliers and contractors. Think hotel staff, hospitality and catering professionals as obvious examples.

This puts further tricky stresses back onto event managers. The idea of controlling all aspects of an event is an illusion (even if you don’t wish to admit it) yet trying to control overall quality with these additional burdens was highlighted as nail biting at times.

The collective Laura club offered several practical contributions to help maintain a greater level of optimism, confidence and, go on then, an illusion of control.

  • Be specific with contracted details and expectations and have transparent, candid conversations with your suppliers upfront
  • Check in more regularly than previously you might in the lead up to events to better manage risks with time to brainstorm suitable contingencies
  • Empathy and patience go a long way, as does building relations with suppliers. When you’re on great terms with them, they’ll be the first to make sure they don’t let you down

There may even be minor things you, or some of the extended team, can help with which allows suppliers to focus on delivering core aspects as only they can and must.

If King Arthur invented or inspired round tables, it’s fair to say the collective Laure club certainly refined them. On behalf of Russell, Event Organisers Summits and all attendees It’s fair to say you can likely expect to see more of them at future forums. All you have to do is turn up, an equal amongst peers, then know it’s a safe space to lead, join in and offer insights to discussions.


Round table discussions facilitated by Mark Carter: an international keynote speaker, trainer and coach with over 20 years’ experience as a global learning and development professional


The Melbourne Event Organisers Summit takes place on the 20th October 2022 at the Victoria Pavilion, where Mark will facilitate another round table for event organisers. Apply for a free place here