In Conversation With Nicole Walker, Managing Director At Arinex Pty Ltd

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Can you tell us a bit more about Arinex? What are some of the key services offered by Arinex that sets it apart from others?

Nicole Walker. Arinex is an events management company based in Australia and New Zealand, with a strong history of nearly 50 years. With a focus on careful event planning and astute financial management, we offer a full range of services including virtual event management with an in house DCO (Digital Conference Organising) Team, in-person conference management, social programs, corporate events, incentive and destination management, registration, accommodation, marketing and sponsorship & exhibitions. We have a particular focus on sustainability and are working towards becoming Australia’s first carbon-neutral certified Professional Conference Organisation (PCO).

Give a brief overview of your background and your role in the company. What were the past experiences, achievement or lessons that shaped your journey as a successful leader in this industry?

Nicole Walker. I am the Managing Director of Arinex and took over ownership of the Company from industry stalwart Roslyn McLeod OAM in mid-2021. I was also recently made President of the industry group Exhibition & Event Association of Australasia (EEAA). I started my events career at a Sydney venue before joining Arinex in 2014 – this gave me an appreciation from two very different perspectives early on in my career. I then progressed through Arinex’ Conference Organising team, working on some interesting and major events such as the Institute of Internal Auditors Global Conference 2017 for 2,000 attendees and The International Conference on Liquid Natural Gas LNG 18 in 2016 for 8,000 participants. These experiences helped build my organisational skills and grew my understanding of the intricacies of event management and the need for attention to detail in all facets of event delivery. I have also found that active participation with organisations such as IAPCO, INCON and EEAA is very important, both to connect with global events professionals and to share knowledge.

“The pandemic was the catalyst in the surge of Event Technology. Arinex was well prepared for these changes having strong development of event technology products for over 10 years, however they became increasingly valuable in the last two years and provided Arinex the immediate ability to run virtual and hybrid events for our clients.”

Has the role of technology become more prominent in the post-pandemic world? If yes, why do you think so?

Nicole Walker. Yes it certainly has. The pandemic was the catalyst in the surge of Event Technology. Arinex was well prepared for these changes having strong development of event technology products for over 10 years, however they became increasingly valuable in the last two years and provided Arinex the immediate ability to run virtual and hybrid events for our clients. The biggest change was the adoption by industry, associations and the world in this technology and the understanding that this will be a complimentary element of business events moving forward.

How do you personally perceive the cancellation of trade shows? How has your company adapted to the new normal?

Nicole Walker. It has been disappointing to see the cancellation of trade shows, but completely understandable given the evolving circumstances in the post-pandemic world. However I feel we have now reached a point where we can plan with confidence and everyone is more equipped to accept new processes, procedures and safety measures in order to limit further cancellations. Bringing people together is in our DNA and we need to focus on ways to facilitate this in a safe way to ensure business can return.

How do you see the industry developing over the next five years when it comes to hybrid events?

Nicole Walker. I believe hybrid events will only become more prevalent – they allow event hosts to plan for an in-person event with the security of a virtual element, should circumstances change. Additionally, hybrid events extend the audience reach for an event and have been known to increase attendance numbers, the quality of keynote speakers and the critical element of inclusivity and diversity.

The event industry and its many sectors are still in a difficult situation. Can you give our readers your perspective on the event sector in the global market?

Nicole Walker. There is still some way to go before we completely recover from the pandemic and the business world becomes not only free to travel globally, but do so with the assurance and support by the company, association or employer. A sense of confidence is filtering throughout the sector and we will see things really pick up in the back end of 2022 and beyond. There is a long lead time with international events, so it may be 2-3 years before we return to our pre-pandemic levels but I am confident we will get there.

How have you adapted to the new reality of the meetings industry, which is much more digital and hybrid? How has your company played the role in fulfilling the requirements of the industry?

Nicole Walker. We were fortunate to be able to adapt quickly to virtual event management given our existing in-house technology expertise and partnership with eTechSuite. We established a Digital Conference Organising (DCO) team as a direct response who manage all virtual events and provide advice, guidance and 24/7 support to clients who may be hesitant or lack the knowledge about moving online.

What should organisers look for when appointing a PCO? What are the biggest challenges for organising a quality conference that a good PCO can assist with?

Nicole Walker. Experience, reputation, risk and safety management expertise and an alignment of values are incredibly important when selecting a PCO. A PCO must work to build a relationship with the client and listen to their objectives instead of immediately turning to the event project plan. Having a PCO partner with similar values is also a huge advantage, as that is carried throughout your event – often in ways that are not obvious!

What edge does your company hold over other players in the industry?

Nicole Walker. We are close to becoming Australia’s first carbon-neutral certified PCO. We see the genuine need for sustainable event management and we have the will and the ideas to make this a reality for our clients. Our long history as an award winning company is another important differentiator, providing us the expertise to design event solutions that accelerate events for our clients into the future.

Any message that you would like to share with us.

Nicole Walker. The past two years have brought the global industry closer together and the collaboration across borders has been a wonder to watch. I hope to see these collaborations continue for the betterment of our industry.

If you could bring any change into force what would it be and why?

Nicole Walker. Global accreditation of PCOs is an important focus and we are proud to be accredited through IAPCO. Knowing you are in a safe pair of hands when partnering to deliver events is so important and will ensure our industry reputation is protected from new emerging entities who don’t have the decades of experience behind them.