Society of Ecological Restoration World Conference
Case Study: Summary of Event Services Provided
The Society for Ecological Restoration staged the 10th World Conference on Ecological Restoration (SER2023) in Darwin. SER is an international non-profit organization. With over 5,000 members in more than 110 countries.
Theme and Focus
The 2023 conference theme was ‘Nature and people as one: celebrating and restoring connection’. With a focus on the important connection between culture and nature.
Attendance and Venue
The Darwin conference was a sell-out. With close to 1000 delegates attending from 85 countries.
We chose the mangrove leaf as the inspiration for the conference logo. Its adaptability and importance for ecological health and ecosystem services influenced our decision. The ochre colour scheme honoured the strong Indigenous culture of the Northern Territory.
Support and Sponsorship
SER received strong support from Northern Territory Business Events (NTBE). NTBE are the official convention bureau for the Northern Territory. It also received support from Tourism Australia. Through its Business Events Bid Fund Program.
The conference organizers held pre-conference half-day and full-day training courses. Occurring on the two days before the official commencement of the conference.
Hosting and Events
Hilton Garden Inn Darwin, and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Esplanade Darwin, hosted the conference. A Global Forum was also staged. Along with a UN Decade Advisory Board meeting.
Sessions and Workshops
SER held 750 concurrent symposia, workshops, field trips, plus poster and training sessions. Exploring restoration issues across all continents and ecosystems. Topics encompassed indigenous and local restoration knowledge. They also included field-based restoration innovations, global databases, and innovative eco-technologies. Additionally, they included community projects and inspirational approaches.
Plenary and Exhibition
Conference plenary sessions were live-streamed each day. A trade exhibition was held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Esplanade Darwin.
During conference lunch breaks, the organizers staged several more events. The Darwin Entertainment Centre held them at The Playhouse. They were also held in the lobby and foyer space of the Hilton Garden Inn Darwin.
The conference organizers arranged a total of 12 field trips. Some occurred before and some after the conference. Providing an opportunity for delegates to see some of the innovative restoration projects. The projects are being undertaken in the Northern Territory.
The single and multi-day options were Kakadu National Park and Litchfield National Park. They included a visit to the former mine site known as Rum Jungle. Also, a 3-day Katherine River Safari. Additionally, a cultural wetlands visit. Finally, the iconic Central Australia locations of Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and Kings Canyon.
Image credit: Instagram @serestoration
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Diving Deeper into the Event Management Details
How we approached the content planning for the event.
At our recent event on Larrakia Country, we emphasized the importance of incorporating Larrakia voices into both the scientific and social elements of the program, including entertainment aspects. The event began with an impactful Welcome to Country by Richard Fejo, which featured a performance group delivering a culturally rich welcome.
Additionally, we showcased a contemporary dance performance by the renowned Dance Company, led by a local Larrakia man.
Highlighting the depth of our welcome, Richard Fejo also delivered a heartfelt greeting to the First Nations attendees present. This event welcomed an international assembly of nearly a thousand attendees from 85 countries, including numerous First Nations delegates, enhancing the global cultural narrative.
This rich tapestry of cultural backgrounds guided the content and planning of our event, ensuring that the complexity of cultures was not only recognized but celebrated, fostering a profound and inclusive experience for all attendees. – Britta
A two-year interrupted planning process.
This project was a journey of resilience and adaptability, beginning amidst the uncertainties of COVID-19. We embarked on the planning process two years prior, with the actual work starting in mid-2021. The lingering question of whether international travel would resume by September 2023 added a layer of complexity.
In organizing the event, we faced the considerable administrative challenge of issuing invitation letters and assisting international delegates with their visa processes, ensuring their smooth arrival. – Britta
How technology was used to enhance engagement.
Spanning over five days, with additional pre-conference workshops, the program’s scale and comprehensiveness were unparalleled.
The program was shaped by the client. Once we received the initial draft, our focus shifted to the intricate logistics, particularly surrounding the technology and operational flow managing the large event program.
Navigating the complexity of this program was a colossal task, so vast that it was impractical to manage on a standard printout. To keep track of the myriad logistics, I resorted to printing oversized posters of the program every few days, creating a visual map that I could reference. These posters, plastered on the wall, became the guiding framework for what was undoubtedly the most extensive program we’ve ever managed.
The operational complexity was amplified by the simultaneous execution of nine breakout rooms. To ensure a smooth flow, we brought in our specialised contacts from Brisbane to manage speaker preparation from a central hub. This team expertly coordinated the presentations, linking seamlessly with each room, and readying the technology for each presenter’s scheduled slot.
As is typical with conferences, many speakers delivered their presentations, complete with videos and audio elements, moments before their session. Despite these last-minute additions, the entire program ran astonishingly smoothly throughout the conference’s duration, a testament to the careful planning and coordination of the event. – Britta
Managing event sponsor benefits.
Given the US base of the event organisation, we engaged with numerous US sponsors, each bringing their unique requirements and expectations. Our role extended beyond simple coordination; it involved ensuring each sponsor’s needs were met, from the initial stages of issuing invoices and gathering essential collateral like logos and other materials.
To deliver on the promises made to our sponsors, we worked closely with them, ensuring that their benefits were not just met but exceeded. This collaboration was a cornerstone of our approach, ensuring each sponsor’s presence at the conference.
Each sponsorship package, whether it was the opening welcome, a reception sponsor, a dinner sponsor, or the morning and afternoon tea sponsors, was carefully planned. The platinum sponsors received special attention with custom-built exhibition booths, ensuring their brand stood out. – Britta
Navigating through a period of global uncertainty and logistical intricacies embodies the core values of our team. It wasn’t just about being unflappable in the face of unpredictability; it was about proactive problem-solving, collaboration, and maintaining a steadfast commitment to the vision for the event. – Britta
Combining multiple venues.
Securing Darwin as the event location was initially met with jubilation, marked by announcements and celebrations. However, the excitement was quickly tempered by the chair’s hesitation to sign the venue contract due to the high investment and uncertainties about attendee turnout. This pivotal moment demanded a solution that was both innovative and practical.
We leveraged our intimate knowledge of local venues to propose an unconventional yet viable solution. We combined the Darwin Entertainment Centre with the Doubletree Hotel, a strategy we were familiar with and had successfully executed before. This decision not only addressed the capacity requirements and demonstrated our ability to adapt and innovate under pressure. – Britta