Evolution of the Australian Festival Industry Conference with founder Carlina Ericson

festival industry

CIM spoke with Carlina Ericson, founder and event director of the Australian Festival Industry Conference, about how the conference has evolved since lauching in 2019.

This year marks the third conference – what lessons from last year did you apply to this one? The format changed from last year – it was initially expanded from 1.5 days to 2.5 days last year but I found 2.5 days to be too long. This year we pulled it back to just two full days and that seemed to work really well. People also place a high value on networking opportunities so we also changed the format of those events, too. The amount of positive feedback we received throughout the event was unreal!

Has the conference evolved as you expected? It’s certainly evolved from its first event in 2019. We’ve also grown the event’s overall attendance level each year and our geo-attendance has evolved from purely domestic at the inaugural event in 2019, to then include South Pacific nations in 2022 and this year to include attendees from Singapore and the UK.

festival industry
Carlina Ericson, founder of the Australian Festival Industry Conference.

What was new this year? This was our first time in Sydney and it was spectacular. There was the introduction of a harbour cruise networking function to finish off the event and people loved it! We also introduced a brand-new content on demand platform where people can purchase one or all of the recordings from this year. It will be a great educational resource for those who were unable to attend or want to revisit some of those key topics of interest.

Has the festival landscape changed post Covid?  I think we will definitely see a stronger sector – it’ll just be a slightly different looking one. In the context of NSW, we heard from John Graham, the newly appointed Arts & Tourism Minister who has the festival sector within his portfolio. His speech covered the NSW Government’s plans on moving the industry forward and I think there was a lot of optimism felt in the room once he’d finished.

Any advice for those planning to set up a new event or festival?  Do your research on whether it actually fills a gap in the market – there’s a lot of competition back online again. Plus, be sure to explore your legal and compliance obligations, including insurance. So many festivals have been stung recently with unexpected costs or fines that nearly broke them because they didn’t plan properly.