While Australia may lack the mega-convention centers found in the U.S., its meetings infrastructure rivals any country in terms of sophistication of equipment and services. Here's a roundup of its major cities and centers.
Sydney: Going for the Gold "The sole purpose of a convention center is to provide a platform for communication, and we are committed to ensuring our clients have the best possible technical support to achieve this aim," says Ton van Amerongen, general manager of the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre. He was talking as workmen put the finishing touches to the Convention Centre South expansion in August.
Sydney, site of the 2000 Olympics, will have new hotels and venues to attract the most savvy of technology staffers. The center's new 1,000-seat auditorium has a communication system built into every seat, providing digital microphone, voting, and interactive capability between presenter and audience; the system also handles simultaneous interpretation.
Says van Amerongen, "Technology is changing so fast that we prefer to let the specialists bring in their equipment. What we have done is provide the infrastructure to support the technology. We have fiber-optic cable throughout the center, including the exhibition area." A bank of computer terminals at the entrance to the center provides constant Internet access for delegates.
The heartbeat of the center's communications is the Centre Video Production (CVP), which is equipped with digital editing suites and production facilities. The center also has access to sophisticated "smart card" registration systems.
Sweet Adelaide The Adelaide Convention Centre, built in 1988, has announced a major expansion that will add a three-level convention center and exhibition hall, nearly doubling its capacity by September 2001. Today, the center offers a plenary hall of 21,630 square feet, divisible into five halls, each with its own tiered seating, plus another 11 breakout rooms. The exhibition hall has 25,090 square feet of space.
Wired with a fiber-optic network that leads directly to Telecomm Australia, the facility has ISDN lines, routable anywhere in the center; and Category 5 cabling is available.
Adelaide is famous for its location near the Barossa Valley wine-growing district, and the center is on the landscaped banks of the Torrens River. The city's airport is scheduled for a complete upgrade by mid-2001.
Brisbane: Techies Welcome Located on the South Bank of the Bris-bane River, in Queensland, the country's northeastern state, the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre is among Australia's most modern convention centers. The Great Hall has seating for 4,000, and there are another 16 meetings rooms and 215,000 square feet of exhibition space.
It recently hosted Microsoft's 1999 Asia-Pacific technical education program, which enjoyed the center's upgrade to 45 Mbps (with 512K and ISDN uplinks) for Internet connections. It sports fiber-optic and Category 5 cabling behind every wall and under every floor. Fast Ethernet is standard.
And don't think the Brisbaners lack finesse. In fact, the center won the bid for the International Conference for Information Systems, coming in 2000, in part because it presented its bid over the Internet.
Cairns: Meeting Eden In Far North Queensland, Cairns now offers event planners the same level of technical expertise that is found in the Australian state capitals. The city recently won the bid for the International Herpes Virus Conference, which will attract upwards of 1,000 physicians (and guests) for a week in July 2002.
The location--a hop and a skip from the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforests of Far North Queensland--as well as the meeting facilities were the keys to his selection of Cairns Convention Centre, says organizer Dr. Tony Simmons, senior medical specialist at the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Sciences in Adelaide. "The center has the technical facilities we need as well as flexible space. Audiovisual facilities are top notch."
The center, known for its inviting space, has completed a major expansion. It has added exhibition and plenary hall space for up to 5,000 guests, just three years after opening.
Melbourne: Hosting an ISP "Whereas the U.S. meetings market is mostly concerned with domestic conferences, Australia has had to attract international meetings to its convention centers as they cannot be sustained by the relatively small domestic market," says Gary Grimmer, head of the Melbourne Convention &Bureau and former CEO of the Portland (Ore.) Convention Center. "The result has been the development of infrastructure and services to meet the needs of the most discriminating of international conference delegates."
One example: the Internet Service Providers Conference (ISPCON 99), a two-day event in April 1999. Sessions were held in two areas of the center's You Yangs Hall, each seating 200 people. The in-house technical services department looked after all requirements and supplied, installed, and operated a high-powered LCD projector, which was flown off truss in the ceiling to maximize seating capacity.
One banquet for 260 was themed "2000 Megabytes under the sea," with a creative underwater feel created by blue velvet drapes on the walls and ceiling vaults enhanced with blue neon tubes.