ICC Sydney conquers a summit

The most critical government event Australia will host for years to come has picked the young ICC Sydney, and the centre delivers.

Event brief
Australia’s newest convention space ICC Sydney had 18 months to organise the ASEAN Summit, a politically significant event for Australia – which was playing host for the first time – and had nine ASEAN heads of state in attendance.

Intensive planning was crucial to meet logistical and security requirements for government VIPs, 500 delegates and 200 international media representatives. The three-day summit included a complex multi-day programme including a Counter-Terrorism Conference and Business Summit and multiple sub-events. ICC Sydney was commissioned to work with a special government taskforce to ensure all requirements were met.

There wasn’t much room for error with international media descending on the venue and high security expectations. While ICC Sydney had recently hosted events for the prime minister of Israel and the president of Indonesia, the summit was anticipated to be the most high profile government event that Australia will host for several years.

Security was one of the biggest challenges. The venue had to be isolated not just from the public but from the other events that were running in parts of the centre at the same time.

ICC Sydney’s CEO Geoff Donaghy explained: “We exist in a very busy precinct (and there were arrivals) by boat or by cavalcade accompanied by police escort. So the logistics of making sure they all arrived and left on time, in the right order, and in the right place took an enormous amount of planning. In fact, on the final day when the delegations left as the event was closing and they were leaving for the final lunch, it undertook the largest official cavalcade that the city of Sydney has ever seen.”

The next challenge was to physically facilitate the requirements for multiple meetings, simultaneous translations and meeting accreditation requirements. Donaghy recalled: “To a great extent, we (had to build) almost the United Nations’ standard convention centre within our own convention centre.”

Yet another challenge was the culinary requirements. A diverse representation of cultures needed catering and this had to be coordinated with the government’s protocol taskforce.

ICC Sydney set up working groups to liaise with relevant federal and state authorities from the get go. Internally the teams met almost weekly for intensive planning to address security issues and all staff including part-timers were put through an intensive police check. The centre also undertook a wide recruitment exercise to fulfil the number of security officers necessary to police the event.

The teams worked with various external groups like harbour ferry authorities when it was required that some of their services be shut to accommodate the movements of VIPs.

New rooms were built within the ballroom and other major meeting rooms to meet high-level protocol requirements expected of government meetings, including simultaneous translation facilities. This took up 25,000m2 across all five levels of the centre.

Culinary and dietary requirements were determined with the federal government’s protocol department from which menus were created.

Donaghy recalled: “There was also a number of formal sit-down lunches, as well as providing for individual catering to individual offices set up… (ensuring) we met all cultural and individual menu requirements.”

Key takeaways
“(It was) probably the largest and most intense convention we’ve had,” said Donaghy.

“The importance of planning just can’t be stressed enough (including planning for) all the contingencies. Also important was a very close, collaborative working relationship with the client, in this case the federal government and its various divisions. And then to be prepared on the day to respond immediately and professionally to changes.”

Event: ASEAN Australia Special Summit 2018
Organiser: Australian Federal Government
Venue: International Convention Centre Sydney
Date: March 16-18, 2018
Number of participants: 500 plus 200 media

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