Disrupting traditional medical conference delivery in Melbourne

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In September 2022, Melbourne showed the world its capability in disrupting traditional medical conference delivery when it hosted Coda22 – a climate neutral-certified global healthcare event attended by more than 800 delegates across four days at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC).

Becoming a climate neutral-certified event was a huge achievement in itself, yet Coda also persisted in challenging and debunking traditional formats of medical conferences with their program.

With support from the Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB), Coda took a human-centred approach to designing their program format. They conducted pre-surveys with their audience, and actively sought ways to achieve exceptional delegate engagement – treating their delegates as a community rather than an audience.

MCB CEO Julia Swanson said that Melbourne is the perfect inspirational springboard for business event planners to get really creative with their programs.

“We’re seeing more and more event planners ask us for ways to optimise their meeting formats,” said Swanson.

“MCB’s consistent ‘Team Melbourne’ approach to supporting the development of innovative event programs is resulting in new and exciting conferences and exhibitions turning away from ‘cookie cutter-type’ formats, which not only result in greater delegate satisfaction, but demonstrates why Melbourne is a global leader in hosting healthcare events such as Coda22.”

MCB regularly provide business event planners with tools to achieve successful, creative programs like Coda22, offering free assistance to bring programs to life; access to the best local talent; connection to engaging and influential speakers; and introductions to MCB Knowledge Partners in the medical, technology, engineering and entrepreneurial sectors.

“The Melbourne Convention Bureau has been particularly helpful in facilitating financial, marketing and logistical support – in every aspect. For a charitable organisation like ours without this, we would not have survived,” said Dr Roger Harris, Co-founder of Coda

Overcoming challenges

Originally confirmed for 2020, the path to success was not straightforward. Coda faced some challenges in their planning with rescheduled dates, before eventually taking place in Melbourne in 2022. MCB played a pivotal role to in supporting Coda22 through this uncertain period.

Swanson said it was wonderful to see the event come to life after two difficult years of postponing and dealing with the unknown, in addition to MCB being in a position to support Coda throughout the whole process.

‘’MCB didn’t go into hibernation through Covid-19, rather, we invested our resources into ensuring events that were meant to go ahead stayed alive, ready to launch the moment it was possible,” she said.

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Why Melbourne was chosen

The successful bid to bring Coda22 to Melbourne was led by MCB and supported by the Victorian State Government, competing on a national basis with Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane.

Multiple factors contributed to Melbourne being chosen as the host city, including the city’s reputation as a leader in the medical and technology sectors as well as outstanding sustainable business event infrastructure including:

  • The ability to offer incredibly short walking distances between preferred hotels and the MCEC, eliminating the need for delegates to use transport between venues
  • If delegates wished to catch public transport, they had readily accessible solar powered trams, e-bike and e-scooter options to explore the city further
  • Access to a six green star-rated convention and exhibition centre to hold their event
  • Significant access to carbon friendly business event suppliers across all touchpoints of their event.

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From the outset, MCB supported Coda’s sustainability goals, introducing them to local sustainability champions such as MCB strategic partner Harry the hirer.

As Coda’s exhibition build partner, Harry the hirer significantly contributed to Coda22’s sustainability goals, wrapping all of Coda22’s exhibition supplies (eg. rugs, lighting, furniture) in biodegradable plastic and paper alternatives to reduce landfill.

They also set up an Eco Café for coffee fixes, providing Coda with ‘closed-loop’ furniture made from 100 per cent recycled materials, to be re-used by Coda once the conference was finished. The café itself served coffee in an edible, made in Melbourne, ‘Good-Edi’ cup to reduce landfill. Each cup was made of 100 per cent edible oats and grains and was 100 per cent vegan friendly.

Swanson explained that Melbourne is now able to take this one step further, since Victoria banned all use of single-use plastics across the state less than six months after Coda22.

“Melbourne’s sustainability credentials and initiatives speak for themselves, with Melbourne ranked the #1 Most Sustainable City in Australia in the GDS Index,” she said.

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“We are really excited about the sustainable possibilities business events can deliver Melbourne, how more event planners are embracing those possibilities, and how Melbourne can enable that to happen.

“The thought-process and conscious choices behind Coda’s event elements, and their achievements, were outstanding.”

If you want to achieve similar outcomes for your business event, contact the Melbourne Convention Bureau to receive free support in everything from venue and supplier searches, site inspection coordination, sustainability tool kits and marketing support for delegate boosting.

MCB has also recently launched the second edition of their popular interactive Melbourne e-Guide, designed to inspire event planners about Melbourne’s highlights and to consider new ideas.