BILT ANZ 2021 Chairman’s Wrap

It is with a deep breath and a long pause that I start to write this event wrap.  I’d have written it sooner but I was one of a handful of people who were lucky enough to come home with more than just their luggage, following the event.  But more on that later. 

I am relieved that the event is now part of history. Past tense. Not fingers-crossed territory. It happened. It was. Immutable. 

It nearly wasn’t, multiple times.  It nearly fell victim to many of the forces working against it, like the bushfires of 2019-20.  Like this new thing called SARS-COV-2 and the border closures, social gathering restrictions and the lockdowns that were implemented as a result. Like the floods of early 2022.  However, we prevailed.  Any by ‘we’, yes, I mean the event committee and our new conference management team (Arinex), but moreover, I mean the BILT community. 

We did have some last-minute dropouts, mostly due to those in the eastern states battling an excess of water. We had a late reprieve on border closures, with the opening of travel to West Australians (remember those?) and our Kiwi cohort.   

Most pronounced though, among those who assembled on site in Sydney, was the profound sense of gratitude and relief just to be there.  Mixed with it were some inevitable feelings of weirdness, due mostly to lack of practice, socialising around large groups. 

It was not the COVID-dominated event it might have been, had it been held only weeks earlier.  We were facing mask mandates, social distancing and no dance floor on the Saturday night.  As much as it still would have been good to be able to gather, it just wouldn’t have been the same.  The one thing I’d most been looking forward to was seeing smiles on the faces of those present.  We got to see those in spades, and I’m so grateful. 

Amongst our ‘regular’ sessions, we had several this year that were delivered by remote presenters; mostly those inhibited by travel issues, and most of those from New Zealand.  We trialled some shoestring-budget AV setups that even MacGyver would be proud of, and for the most part, mercifully, they worked well. We’re hopeful we won’t need to repeat that setup at future events, however, as we hope to have the speakers there in person. 

We have the Royal Pines Resort booked out exclusively, and expect to return the program to 8 concurrent sessions rather than the 5 we ran with for this Sydney event.  We already have a host of names and sessions in mind to anchor the program, and abstracts for the conference will be open for submission within the week.  

The event epilogue directed that a handful of those who attended would catch ‘the Rona’, which, all things considered, was always a chance.  For myself, despite this, I felt the event was well worth it, and I am topped up with hope that our November event will be a great success.  I’m very much looking forward to the event, and in the meantime having multiple conversations with industry partners about how we continue to broaden our event demographic.

For those that attended, session recordings are now available through the DBEI community portal.

Chris Needham
Region Chairman

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