Behind the Scene of ICC Sydney’s Success

19th September 2023

In an interview with Boardroom, Geoff Donaghy, ICC Sydney CEO and Group Director – Convention Centres, ASM Global (APAC), reviews last year's performance of the centre and discusses ICC Sydney's pivotal role in supporting international associations, its sustainability initiatives, and its commitment to driving economic and social contributions in the future.

Can you elaborate on ICC Sydney’s strategy to deliver excellence to its clients? 

ICC Sydney’s vision is to be the best performing convention, exhibition and entertainment centre in the world and we achieve this by actively practicing the three principles of successful events; planning, observation and anticipation. By meticulously planning the details, observing and reacting to requirements along the journey and anticipating our clients’ needs – we believe we have the formula to deliver extraordinary events. 

Our success is that of our clients, and our people are at the heart of the extraordinary events we deliver. Last year, our clients told us our strategies continued to resonate, awarding ICC Sydney with a 99% satisfaction rating alongside a 96% delegate satisfaction score. 

Investing in people is critical to maintaining our standard of excellence, setting them up with the tools and confidence to run events and provide a warm and inclusive environment where clients, delegates and guests all thrive. Rebuilding and training a bolstered workforce have been a key focus over the last financial year. We welcomed 923 new employees, delivered over 7,000 hours of training, and celebrated 61 internal promotions and 21 casual progressions into permanent roles – reflecting our commitment to supporting meaningful careers, not simply jobs.

We also strengthened our talent pipeline, partnerships and influence across the industry, relaunching our AV Graduate Program, welcoming interns from Breda University in The Netherlands, launching our new internal High Performance Program for our senior leaders, and supporting another two ICC Sydney team members to graduate from the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC) Future Shapers program

ICC Sydney delivers excellence for event organisers as we intertwine our investment in our people with our community engagement and social justice strategy – stemming from our diversity, equity and inclusion pillars and our industry leading Legacy Program. Specialised learning opportunities that have been delivered include accessibility and hidden disabilities training with the Sunflower Program, Ally for Change LGBTQIA+ training developed through a partnership with Pride & Diversity and measured against the Australian Workplace Equality Index, and supplier diversity training provided through First Nations partner Supply Nation. Aligning our skillsets and unique venue opportunities allows ICC Sydney to meet client expectations while making a difference.

To what extent does ICC Sydney’s excellence in many fields help international associations achieve their mission and vision? 

International associations are a critically important market, and with the support of our diverse and talented team of events professionals combined with our award winning event management, culinary, audio visual, and technology services, ICC Sydney is equipped to meet the complex and dynamic needs to achieve their visions. 

ICC Sydney is More Than a Venue – and as a prime location for association events, we also lean into our social infrastructure proposition by being a welcoming, inclusive home for events that provides planners with the tools and resources to deliver informative, accessible and innovative events for their delegates, while supporting them to connect with local community partners to drive positive social and environmental impact.

Sustainability is increasingly a central event planning consideration – particularly among association event organisers, and ICC Sydney demonstrates industry leadership in this space. Our corporate social responsibility strategy is underpinned by the ASM Global ACTS framework that identifies three pillars to invest in people, protect the environment and strengthen our communities.

ICC Sydney considers the City of Sydney’s Sustainable Sydney 30-50 Plan, its State Government Net Zero Plan and National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting scheme. ICC Sydney is a founding supporter of the JMIC (Joint Meetings Industry Council) Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge, founding member of the former Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia’s (EEAA) Sustainable Events 2030 Pledge, Australian Business Events Association (ABEA) Sustainability Council and local government City of Sydney Sustainable Destinations Partnership. ICC Sydney’s 2023 Menu Collection was reviewed to feature carbon friendly menu options denoted for easy selection. 

ICC Sydney’s social impact extends to its economic investments, supporting diverse and local suppliers to deliver unique experiences. ICC Sydney purchased A$10 million of food sourced from NSW providers. 

Our industry leading Legacy Program continues to connect event organisers and delegates with local talent, including First Nations, emerging entrepreneurs and creatives and sustainable suppliers, with an increase in Legacy Program activations during events, from 23 in FY2022 to 115 in FY2023. 

ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy

What significant achievements are you the most proud of? 

I am proud to see ICC Sydney grow from strength to strength. Over the last year, the team hosted events that would double our economic contribution and attendance despite the broader challenges our industry faced in its recovery. Our commitments to strong sustainability leadership, culture of innovation and focus on community impact drove our success of attracting over one million visitors up from 470,000 and contribution of A$600 million to the NSW economy up from A$190 million in FY2022. 

Off the back of delivering a successful Sydney WorldPride Human Rights Conference, we sought to be the most inclusive venue possible. We built on our Accessibility and Inclusion Guide for visitors and launched a client tool kit to ensure all events delivered at ICC Sydney are as inclusive as they can be, empowering clients to be part of this journey too. 

After being the first convention centre to release a Reconciliation Action Plan in 2018, we progressed our second iteration to reinforce our commitment to reconciliation with Australia’s First Nations Peoples. Expanding the Legacy Program with new partnerships and experiences, including additional First Nations cultural service suppliers, gave event organisers more avenues to reach their corporate social responsibility objectives through their events. Most activations over the last year were for First Nations cultural experiences (over 70%), an outstanding reflection of the rich cultural engagement we are uniquely positioned to provide. 

I am most proud of our extraordinary people who are at the heart of maintaining our world class reputation and standards. Our team won 17 national and international awards last year, including the International Association of Convention Centres 2022 Innovation Award, the Exhibitions and Events Association of Australasia Awards for Excellence 2022 Sustainability Initiative Award, and the TTG Travel Award.

What does the future hold for ICC Sydney? 

ICC Sydney remains committed to fulfilling its dual purpose of driving economic and social contributions. With our extraordinary results over the last year, ICC Sydney is now on track to deliver A$1 billion to the local economy over the next five years. 

Investments in venue sustainability and driving leadership in the space will continue, and we are currently targeting 75% of waste to reused or recycled, beyond the Sustainable Destination Partnership target of 70% which we are already on track to achieve. 

We are also undertaking a campaign to reduce our energy use by 15% (from baseline year 2019) by 2025. As a founding supporter of the Joint Meetings Industry Council’s Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge, ICC Sydney will continue education campaigns including the carbon friendly ratings for core culinary menu meals, promoting green travel, trialling pre and post event carbon reports through new partnerships and reporting and reducing scope 1,2 and 3 emissions.

ICC Sydney is proud to strengthen its commitment to First Nations communities through the development of its third Reconciliation Action Plan. Clients and delegates will enjoy an even richer Legacy Program offering through new partnerships. Building back relationships with the local cultural community will be a major focus over the coming year, most notably within Sydney’s Chinatown in Haymarket. In our mission to be as inclusive as possible, we are also developing more tools as part of our Disability Inclusion Action Plan, working with Autism Spectrum Australia to create picture-based maps and communication and dedicated quiet spaces to assist those with hidden disabilities. 

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