‘People want to get out’; why Gary Bender and Donna Kessler launched a new show during a pandemic

Get Local co-founders Gary Bender and Donna Kessler.

CIM spoke with Get Global founders Gary Bender and Donna Kessler about the launch of their latest trade event Get Local.

What gave you the confidence to launch a new show in the current environment?

Gary: We have actually been working on plans for a local show, due to the success of Get Global, it was just a matter of timing. We started seriously planning a couple of months ago as we had dates for the venue confirmed for Get Global. We knew that Get Global was off the radar for 2021, so we are going local.

Being in July 2021 does provide some time for borders to fully reopen, in New Zealand and even the Pacific. In the last three weeks we have seen confidence grow following the government’s announcement of a $50 million boost for business events, some borders reopening and cases in Victoria slowing.

Donna: From the very beginning of Get Global there was demand from industry for a domestic-only show that followed the same formula. Open plan, cost effective and educational. Companies have a desire to meet and with the international borders closed we felt it was the perfect opportunity to showcase what we have in our own backyard – person to person!

What do you think buyers will be looking for in 2021 and conversely how should exhibitors pitch in a ‘new normal’?

Gary: Generally, buyers will want to seek flexibility in contracts with all parties involved. There will be still be a few ‘what ifs’ around.

The incentive buyer will be looking for those ‘wows’, so I suggest exhibitors go straight to the top in your offerings, these guys want to have the best. For event and conferencing – sustainability, access to destinations, styling the conference room and getting the best out of the venue and the destination.

The new normal – I have been doing things I’d never thought I’d do (like collecting toilet rolls) but it’s time to get back to business and Get Local is the perfect way to boost Australian businesses; particularly regional businesses, who have had a tough go this year.

Donna: Company focus will be in upskilling and education. Get Local will provide that for the buyer. The value of the relationship and business exchange will never be more important. The open show format and the flexibility to design your own appointments on the day will encourage time poor buyers to maximise this opportunity.

For regional product this will be a unique platform to connect with this often hard-to-reach market.

Buyers will look for new destinations and products as well as re-engaging with suppliers that provide them with the confidence, flexibility and meet the compliance and protocol required to host their conferences and events.

How are you planning in an environment that is still so uncertain?

Gary: Slowly does it – but we want to be thorough as there are too many ‘what ifs’. We wanted to go out with a Save the Date first, for which we got a terrific response. We are nearly there with the exhibitor prospectus, which I have to say is taking into consideration the sole traders and getting them in front of buyers at the top end of town.

Donna: Launching a show is a brave step but I strongly believe if we listen to the negative talk it’s self-perpetuating – there’s a flow on effect.

Australia has done a great job with managing Covid-19. We see no reason for concern – the numbers are heading in the right direction and continue to remain low. It’s positive.

Get Local will comply with the necessary protocols. Our international show, Get Global, pretty much ticks that box already. It’s sustainable, paperless, no brochures and our App is designed for one touch follow up. We are also mindful of tighter budgets from industry and our pricing structure is in line with this.

What we know for certain is there is an appetite from industry to reconnect person-to person even in the current environment. By July next year we feel confident of the show’s success, the timing is perfect.

What shape will the local industry be in for 2021?

Gary: I can only see it being in good shape, leisure travel will kickstart with family reunions and holidays etc. Association and corporate meetings will follow. Virtual had its day and was a band-aid – people want to get out and meet if they feel safe.

Donna: Our industry is a robust one however the recent pandemic and bushfires have taken their toll. Events will take place with stricter compliance and protocols around them. It will be important that, as an industry we provide the confidence to return. The support from government to assist and support in this will be critical.

What has been the personal impact of the pandemic on you both and how will it change the way you do things in the future?

Gary: Obviously, my other business being an agency with 75 per cent of business being international, we’ve been smashed so we are in hibernation for a while. I’ve kept staff on thanks to JobKeeper, released my office lease and looked at every cost – which I’m sure a lot of our friends and colleagues have been doing too.

Personally, I’ve been keeping busy in the garden, my golf handicap has come down, and I’m fitter than ever with two Labradors needing daily exercise.

For the future – a new office space as we will still need a central hub. I think the industry will be closer as a community, maybe some mergers and acquisitions.

Donna: The value of good partnerships, working through the challenges together.

Having a close look at the day-to-day business and reassuring my staff all will be okay if we work through this together. Looking for new ways of doing things and having the time to do that. Stepping back a little, not feeling guilty about taking some time for me, slowing down, mindfulness – it’s been a good reboot in many ways.

I will make every effort for this to continue as we emerge from this.

Save the date for Get Local – Friday 30 July 2021.