Australia is a constant on the global vacation destination hit list. Well, not all of Australia. There’s that giant uninhabitable desert in the middle that you’re best to stay away from. But the ‘land down under’ offers some bustling global centers of commerce, powerful industries, and amazing sights. Which makes it a natural choice for a b2b event, where a good mix of business and leisure are key.
Though planning an event in Australia can feel like a big endeavor. The differences in timezone, seasons, and business etiquette present a range of unique challenges. And despite the closeness many Americans feel towards Australia, there is still a cultural divide to consider. But we’re here for you. Here’s our quick guide to when, where, and how to plan and execute your first (or next) field event in Australia.
Top Cities and Venues
As a nation, Australia has a wealth of strong industries, but none as large as the services industry, and no cities as economically thriving as Sydney and Melbourne. And chances are, the majority of your clients are located within one or both of these locations.
Sydney is Australia’s center for spectacular attractions—from urban sights like the iconic Sydney Opera House to natural landmarks like the Great Barrier Reef. As both a major tourist destination and the country’s hub for financial and professional services, this is an ideal location for corporate events within all of the Asia-Pacific region. Here are a few venue ideas:
Small Events (Under 100 guests): For a cocktail party or business lunch, the Cellar Door at Cakes Wines offers a range of spaces—suited for small and large groups—a full catering menu, and (of course) an impressive wine list. For something more button-up, try Dexus Place, or Here Coworking, a collaborative, creative workspace perfectly suited for ideation and relationship building.
Medium Events (100-500 guests): Consider The Retro Space in central Sydney for an eclectic arrangement of meeting spaces, a great atmosphere, and a central location. Or for an elegant evening event, book The Calyx in The Royal Botanic Garden or the Cell Block Theatre at the National Art School.
Large Events (500+ guests): Sydney is full of world-class hotels and conference spaces. Event Manager recently posted its favorite event venues for 2019, which features excellent options for both creative and conventional corporate gatherings. Beyond that robust list, we also recommend GPO Grand for a gorgeous private dinner or party, and The Roundhouse at the University of New South Wales for a modern conference space.
Cosmopolitan Melbourne is Australia’s cultural capital, home to rich and diverse ethnic communities, progressive subcultures, and some serious sports fans. Due to its booming economy and a rate of growth that has set Melbourne on track to supersede Sydney as Australia’s largest city in the next decade, this capital city is a premier place to do business.
Small Events (Under 100 guests): For a hip, after-hours function, reserve The George Lounge in St. Kilda. Or if you’re looking for a functional coworking office space/events venue, Exchange Workspaces in Richmond has meeting rooms for hire as well as a large industrial event space for crowds up to 100.
Medium Events (100-500 guests): Coworking spaces are all the fad in Melbourne. Check out One Roof, a women-run coworking space, and Creative Cubes for sleek workspaces with multiple locations. For a larger space, Woolshed in the Docklands offers a variety of space options in a happening location. Still looking for more? Woolshed’s parent company, Atlantic Group, has a range of other event spaces to choose from.
Large Events (500+ guests): The Royal Exhibition Building, a UNESCO World Heritage Building, is one of the world’s old exhibition venues. It’s a gorgeous setting for trade shows, conferences, or dinner/cocktail events, with space for nearly 3000 guests. Also have a look at the Melbourne Museum and the Australian Events Centre at Hyatt Place for other large-capacity venues.
When (and When Not) to Schedule Your Australian Event
Weather plays a factor when choosing your event date. First thing to know: On the opposite side of the equatorial divide, the seasons are...opposite. So winter in North America is summer in Australia, and vice versa. Next: Australia is HOT. Though California’s Death Valley still tops the charts as one of Earth’s hottest places, Sydney recorded a high temperature of 47.3° (117°F) in January 2018. While in general Australia has a mild, warm climate, it’s prone to spikes in temperature. So unless you want to risk intense heat—and the potential infrastructure issues caused by it—schedule around the summer months.
Otherwise, when choosing the best and worst times to plan a meeting, consider other big events that may monopolize local venues or create travel issues for attendees. The biggest annual events include Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras—one of the largest LGBTQ events in the world with 70,000+ attendees—and the Melbourne International Film Festival in August.
How to Plan for Success
In short, don’t make any assumptions. Because Australia may feel familiar and accessible to Americans, it’s easy to take a few things for granted. Here are a few points to be diligent about:
Yes, you need a visa to enter Australia. Don’t overlook that, even if you’re only going for a few days. U.S. Passports holders entering the country for business or tourism for under 90 days apply for a visa at the Electronic Travel Authority.
The Language Gap
Australians speak English. Americans speak English. Easy! Yes—and no. Of course, there are the charming lexical differences between the two forms, but that’s not where the language divide stops. There’s the cultural side of language, as well, meaning (in this context) communications etiquette. Knowing the basics of Australian etiquette can help form fast business bonds in an unfamiliar environment.
Australian Business Culture
In general, Australia culturally differs from America in some unique and lovely ways. (We’re particularly fond of their penchant for abbreviating everything. Yes, we would like a brekkie sanga, thanks.) And regarding business culture, Australians have a ‘way’ that may be surprising. Despite a joking and casual manner, Aussies can be disarmingly straightforward. And while that may suggest a fast deal, don’t be fooled. They are known for a leisurely pace in decision making (and life).
So there you have it, a quick resource guide for planning an Australian event. We know that organizing any event is challenging enough without adding a different culture, currency, and season into the mix, but we promise that it will be worth your while. So grab your carry on bag and sandshoes and get going!