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The future of events is now

08 November 2021
buddhist monks undertake ching ming ceremony
Our community gathers for our COVID-safe Ching Ming festival

As we head into the holiday season and look to gather with friends and family, we stopped to think about how celebrations have needed to adapt throughout the pandemic. Our Events and Experience Manager, Michelle Stewart, talked us through how the events industry has innovated in response to changing conditions and found ways to continue to serve the community in an engaging and supportive way.

How has the pandemic impacted the events and experience space?

The pandemic has had both negative and positive impacts on the events industry. On one hand, it has had a domino effect on suppliers to the industry and the artists who bring soul to our events. However, it has also accelerated the next evolution of events. Before, we imagined a slow transition to digital and online events, but the pandemic has accelerated this technological shift and demonstrated that the future is now.

What has been the biggest challenge?

I would say the digital learning curve has been the biggest challenge. Attending an event often puts people into new or unknown situations and a good event aims to ease that tension. Now that we are asking people to use technologies, software and platforms they may have never heard of before, we are pushing our audiences well outside their comfort zone. Managing that challenge, while balancing the experience for those who are more comfortable in the digital space, is a tricky line to walk.

How have we adapted?

I think SMCT did a great job of shifting events to an online platform in the past two years. Many of our events are annual traditions for our community and being able to offer something familiar and meaningful, albeit different, was a great way to connect with our community during challenging times and a demonstration of our solidarity and support.

As we begin to open again, we are striving to find new ways to welcome our community back on-site in a way they feel comfortable. The recent All Souls Day reflection space at SBC is a great example of this. We worked with the community and a team from right across the organisation to understand what was truly important to the community. The result was an inspired design by the Horticulture and Infrastructure teams, driven by insights from our Strategic Engagement team to create a peaceful outdoor memorial that honoured Christian and Catholic traditions in a COVID-safe environment.

father fragapane blesses All Souls Day cross
Father Fragapane at SBC, blessing the cross installation and team for our All Souls event.

What is the biggest positive to come out of our new approach?

Being forced to break the mould. Stepping outside the familiar is a very scary thing at first, but it offers us a rare chance to ask the question, ‘does this event still meet the needs of our community?” or, “is there a better way to do this?”

Events can become stale over time if you don’t stop to review and reflect. By focusing on the evolving needs of the community, we can reinvent our events to best support our community year on year.

What does the future of events look like?

The events space is in a very exciting time right now. We are looking back on the year to understand how we have met the needs of our community in terms of honouring tradition, culture and religion. We are also looking forward, in order to understand how we can use events to further drive strategic change. Events are a fantastic tool to lead engagement, communicate messages or solve organisational problems. They help reframe how our community interacts with our beautiful locations and leads them to discover new ways to experience and interact within our sites.

What are you most looking forward to, both personally and professionally?

Professionally, I’m keen to engage with our community again and I’m eager to bring a design thinking approach to how events are planned at SMCT. This will help us understand events as both collective and individual experiences, so we can continue to tailor and evolve our events over time.

Personally, I’m looking forward to creating more events in collaboration with different areas of the organisation. There are some very talented people at SMCT who can help inform and guide our events to take them to the next level. The dedication of our teams and the interactions they have with our community tells me there are some incredible ideas tucked away just waiting to be discovered.