The Australian Water Association pulls off a successful hybrid conference and exhibition despite pandemic challenges
Ozwater’21 followed a very challenging couple of years for the water sector due to droughts, fires, floods and Covid-19. As part of its national rotation, Ozwater was originally scheduled to take place in Adelaide in May 2020, however Covid-19 restrictions forced last year’s event to move to a fully online format.
With the support of principal sponsor, SA Water, the South Australian Government and Team Adelaide destination partners, the Adelaide Convention Bureau and Adelaide Convention Centre, the event was eventually rescheduled to return to Adelaide in May 2021 at the Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC), representing the first time the industry had been able to gather under one roof in two years.
It was critical for both the Australian Water Association and the water industry at large that the event returned to a face-to-face format in 2021, not only in terms of financial sustainability, but to allow the industry to share, connect and inspire.
Ozwater’21 was a record event by all measures, demonstrating a strong appetite and support for the return of face-to-face events. It was the world’s largest water conference in 2021, and at the time of the event, represented Australia’s largest conference since the pandemic started.
The live, face-to-face conference at the ACC was complemented by an online programme to extend the event’s reach to offsite delegates.
This virtual component attracted over 85 individuals and four hubs, including international members from across New Zealand, Europe and South-east Asia. In addition to the conference programme, Ozwater’21 had an 8,338m2 trade exhibition, featuring 160 exhibitors, along with the announcement of the Australian Water Award winners.
From a destination perspective, Ozwater’21 reinforced South Australia as a safe destination for business events, along with the ACC’s capabilities, flexibility and expertise in delivering safe events. Confidence in the destination is evident not only the Australian Water Association’s decision to proceed with the event, but also in the event’s record in-person attendance.
“Ozwater’21 highlighted the value of business events to our state’s recovery. In addition to injecting A$5.7 million (US$4.3 million) into the local economy, Ozwater’21 provided South Australia with the opportunity to showcase its strengths within the water industry. The event’s significant exhibition component meant the opportunities for trade and investments were vast, which resulted in the strong economic tail and lasting legacy for both the Australian Water Association and the water industry at large,” said Damien Kitto, CEO at Adelaide Convention Bureau.
From a logistics and event planning perspective, the event was required to stay flexible and adapt to the government’s guidelines right up to its opening. At the time of the event, no state border restrictions were in place limiting delegate travel into South Australia, and density requirements stood at three people per four square metres, which enabled the event to run in a similar fashion to what it would have prior to the pandemic.
Covid Safe measures across the venue included the South Australian Government’s official QR code check-in for contact tracing, and the increased frequency of cleaning and sanitising public areas.
Food service during breaks and lunches was via staff-serviced buffets. Given the size of Ozwater’21, this required the ACC team to set up three large catering stations spaced across the exhibition floor to aid service speed, promote physical distancing and reduce wait times.
As a water industry event, a requirement of Ozwater’21 was that delegates were served tap water only. To accommodate this with strict serving requirements, four water stations were set up within the venue, with staff individually serving delegates water in 100 per cent compostable biocups. In addition to this, SA Water received special approval from SA Health to bring in their water caravan ‘Miss Isla’ featuring fruit-infused water stations.
In addition, the exhibition build took place over four days and was supervised by Exhibition Floor Managers and Covid Marshals to ensure it was completed in accordance with the venue’s Covid Safe Management Plan. Covid Safe information detailing requirements and expectations was emailed to all exhibitors in advance.
“This year’s Ozwater was our largest in Adelaide and the biggest water event in the world since Covid began. It was fantastic to safely bring together over 2,500 attendees from across the country and over 100 people online to reimagine our water future,” said Corinne Cheeseman, CEO at Australian Water Association.
Organiser Australian Water Association
Venue Adelaide Convention Centre
Date May 4-6, 2021
Attendance 2,500 in-person, 100 online