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Creative Innovation not quashed by C2 failure

Event entrepreneur, Tania de Jong, explains why some event models succeed and others fail.

Strategic creativity is increasingly valuable to businesses, communities and governments looking to foster innovation and knowledge-based economies.

Reflecting this trend, more and more corporate events and meetings are embracing immersive event format and ‘design thinking’ to stimulate creativity and nurture meaningful connections at events.

The C2 International model seemed to gain traction in the business events industry at just the right time, but the recent cancellation and collapse of C2 Melbourne has left a bad taste in the mouths of many event professionals across APAC.

But we shouldn’t let this incident stifle creative innovation in events. In fact Melbourne-based event company, Creative Universe, is proof that experiential formats can survive – and thrive – in an increasingly competitive market.

Creative Universe founder and executive producer of the Creative Innovation (Ci) event series, Tania de Jong, believes competitive success depends on the implementation of creative ideas, and the ability to keep up with an ever-changing world.

While de Jong admits her business took a hit when C2 Melbourne entered the region, she insists the industry must rally together and continue to embrace innovative event formats.

As she prepares for the eighth edition of Creative Innovation, Ci2019, we sit down with de Jong to discuss why some event models succeed and others fail, and the importance of creating a supportive event ecosystem across APAC.

What inspired you to start the Creative Innovation event series?

I have attended, performed and presented at thousands of conferences and events over the past three decades. Witnessing the success of innovative event formats such as TED, I thought it would be interesting to create an immersive experience that connected innovative thinkers with business leaders, government and academia to help solve challenges brought about by accelerating technology and demographic change. 

We launched Creative Innovation as an experiment in 2010. I never imagined that today we would be planning our eighth edition. Our event is now regarded as one of the leading innovation events globally and has twice been named Corporate Event of the Year in the Global Eventex Awards, and Corporate Event of the Year in the Australian Event Awards.

How did the ‘launch’ and eventual collapse of C2 Melbourne affect your business? 

We were surprised that the first attempt of C2 Melbourne in 2017 was scheduled run two weeks after our Ci2017 event. This caused significant confusion in the marketplace.

The C2 event was then cancelled (downgraded to a preview event) three weeks before Ci2017 took place, giving our team insufficient time to recover ticket sales and partners we had lost. Moreover, many of these partners and potential delegates lost confidence in partnering with major events of this kind as a result of the cancellation.

In any case, we did our best to produce what many delegates considered the most successful Ci event so far, from a creative and content perspective.

Then C2 announced they were going to present the event in October 2018, which again was very close to our Ci Global event in Melbourne. We decided to withdraw from running a Creative Innovation event in 2018 as we did not wish to compete with C2 and its seemingly massive marketing budget.

We only decided to launch Ci2019 after the C2 event had collapsed. The cancellation of C2 Melbourne across two subsequent years was very disappointing for those who worked hard to secure this event. We empathise with those suppliers who are out of pocket as a result.

Despite this, Ci has continued to thrive. When it comes to sponsorship, what is your ‘secret sauce’ to creating mutually beneficial partnerships?

Ci events are community-wide, multi-generational and cross-sector, as opposed to traditional industry-based conferences and events which have a single industry (vertical) focus.

The format is largely collaborative, featuring short keynotes and Q&A sessions, and attendees can really engage with speakers in small ‘hot spot’ sessions and master classes.

Tania de Jong at Ci2016

Throughout the event, knowledge-sharing and creative leadership tools are combined with visual arts, opera singers, performers and live musicians, graphic artists, projection mapping, and interactive technology. We also work with universities to provide up to 10 scholarships for emerging entrepreneurs to business leaders on the main stage.

In 2017 we curated a range of events across three days and nights, including 13 masterclasses, 38 hot spots, 40 speakers, 90 performers, a gala dinner for more than 500 guests, 130 partners, 25 different backdrops and 10 scholarship winners.

As a result of attending Ci events, many partner organisations kick-start innovation labs, think tanks, and new innovation pipelines. A great example of this is the creation of the Mondelez & Monash Food Innovation Centre, which stemmed from conversations and collaborations that began at CiGlobal.

What can event professionals learn from the longevity of Ci, and the collapse of C2 Melbourne?

As event producers, managers and suppliers we all need to support one another to build a great events community which is inclusive, innovative and collaborative. 

Governments, businesses, organisations and event professionals need to carefully survey, understand and support locally-grown events of a global calibre. We must work together to build event ecosystems that complement, cross-promote and support one another.

The APAC region is home to some of the best event creation and production talent in the world. Let’s celebrate and nurture that!

Tania de Jong AM is an Australian soprano, award-winning social entrepreneur, and global speaker. Named among Australia’s 100 Most Influential Entrepreneurs for 2018, Tania is the founder and executive producer of award-winning events series, Creative Innovation Global. She is also the Founder of CreativeUniverseCreativityAustraliaPot-PourriMTA Entertainment & Events.

Ci2019 will take place in Melbourne on 1-3 April, 2019. For more information visit: www.ci2019.com.au

Main image: Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University presenting at Ci2016.