‘A large believer in the power of live events’ SA event company celebrates a milestone

South Australian corporate event production company Novatech celebrated its 19th birthday last month. CIM spoke with director of sales and marketing Ashley Gabriel about celebrating the milestone in such challenging times.

What’s it like to celebrate this anniversary in the current environment? We never thought we would be celebrating our 19th year while facing such challenging circumstances and an uncertain future given that live events have all but ground to a halt. But we’re extremely thankful to be able to gather the team (while socially distanced) to celebrate a milestone such as this.

What was the company’s first reaction to the Covid shutdown? We made a concerted effort in keeping all of our 70+ full time staff on board albeit with little to no event activity. The rise of virtual and hybrid events has been good but cannot replace the volume of traditional live and business events.

We had a strong financial position having just completed our peak summer season which included the major festivals in South Australia such as Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Fringe and the Santos Tour Down Under. We also took a consultative approach with our staff in quickly planning interim measures before JobKeeper was implemented with our staff being extremely flexible with reduced working hours and what projects they’re working on.

Are there any events happening in SA at the moment? There has been some activity in South Australia, however these are more on the smaller side and heavily on the virtual/hybrid side. In the virtual world, we’ve staged ASX listed company AGM’s, wine tasting for premium wine brands and launching new products to a national audience. Government restrictions still don’t allow for extremely large gatherings but it’s pleasing to see our partners State Theatre Company of South Australia and Adelaide Symphony Orchestra returning to live events in early September. SA has demonstrated it is safe to return to live events and that we’re very much open for business.

With borders for some states closed indefinitely how long can you hold out? Fortunately the NT/SA border reopened in early August which has allowed us to stage the Darwin Festival as well as providing projection services to Parrtjima in Alice Springs. We’re hopeful that the NSW border reopens to SA soon along with Victoria. It’s certainly a large restriction on holding events however the entire South Australian events industry is ready and safe for a return to live events.

Do you think more could be done for the event sector from government at both levels? Both levels of government have been supportive so far and we’re appreciative of the measures put into place. However it is certainly clear that the events industry in particular requires much more support to ensure it survives past the end of the year. There needs to be support at all levels of the events industry with many of our clients and event managers suffering the effects of the halt in trade. Similarly, we’ve invested heavily well above the government measures at great expense to support our staff & keep our business going. We feel that both levels of government need to look at a wide raft of measures to assist in reducing the ongoing impact on our industry.

How do you think the events landscape will be changed after the pandemic ends? The unpredictability of the pandemic extends right through to when it will end and how! The longevity of the pandemic will certainly impact how the events landscape is changed. The longer restrictions are applied, the more severe the impact on business and unfortunately the fewer companies that will survive. We all need to be flexible and adapt to a new way of holding events and we’re working with our clients and government to develop how this may look like.

There is much talk of virtual/hybrid events – will this be a larger element for events post Covid? It certainly is a large part of existing events and appears to be a way forward to at least surviving the interim period. We are still however a large believer in the power of live events and we’re determined to ensure a return to in person gatherings. Certainly there is a role for still connecting via an online platform, but based on our feedback from clients and audiences alike, there is a strong craving to return to in person events.

Are you optimistic about 2021? We’ve tried to remain positive throughout the entire past six months and be there for our staff, clients and colleagues around the country. We remain determined to survive into 2021 and are working hard with our partners to ensure that events do indeed happen in 2021.