Sue Ryman-Kiernan, Director of Wise Connections with over 25 years experience is a consummate Professional Conference Organiser (PCO), Sue is an active member of Meetings and Events Australia (MEA), she holds AMM (Accredited Meeting Manager) accreditation and Treasurer on the MEA Board of Directors. Sue sat down with me to share a story or two…

MJD: Hi Sue, thanks for sitting down with me for ‘Meet the Meeting Makers’ Interview Series. Can you tell us about how you came to be a PCO in Australia & director of Wise Connections?
SRK: Hi MJ, it’s a pleasure to share some insights with you. I worked as a PCO in the UK before moving to Australia in 1996. The plan was to stay here for a couple of years but instead we decided to stay indefinitely and become Australian citizens. My first job in Australia was with Carlson Marketing Group, where I worked for a couple of years before venturing out on my own. At the time I had two young children and wanted to have more flexibility at work. I established Wise Connections in May 1998, and we recently celebrated our 19th birthday.

MJD: Congratulations on your 19th work anniversary – your baby is all grown up! How does the Australian meetings industry compare to the UK meetings industry?
SRK: The meetings industry is very similar in the UK and Australia. The main difference is in the range of short haul destinations UK PCOs can consider for their clients. We have been very lucky in that we work with a diverse portfolio of clients, which has taken us to some amazing destinations around the globe.

MJD: What do you think are the exciting new destination ‘hot spots’ & products for group travel?
SRK: We have some great destinations here in Australia, where suppliers are really ‘thinking outside the box’ when it comes to ‘wowing’ groups. As an offshore destination,  Canada offers an excellent opportunity offering an exciting & diverse itinerary. Whether it’s the eclectic range of restaurants with amazing cuisines, to local suppliers who are offering something different with team building activities, the cutting edge conference technology or the beauty of the landscape itself. I recently read about a great device called a ‘mini travel router’ that can convert wired networks at hotels or WiFi cafes to your own private secure WiFi connection. In the tech world, it’s been around a while but a brilliant idea for groups.

MJD: What are some of the challenges and trends in our industry?
SRK: There are many challenges facing our industry. A few that spring to mind are:

  • Ensuring clients achieve a strong ROI is critical, whether that is learning or reward or increased sales.
  • Keeping ideas and programs fresh.
  • Creating new experiences for delegates and incentive participants.

MJD: What makes a great event or incentive?
SRK: A great event or incentive is more than just achieving the financial goals, it’s about delivering a quality product in all aspects of the event and most importantly about understanding your client’s objectives and their outcomes.

MJD: What makes a great client & supplier?
SRK: Having a great client relationship doesn’t happen overnight. A great client is one where you have built a high level of trust. You can share honest and open exchange of information and ideas. We work very hard to create and deliver fantastic events for our clients and only possible if we work in close collaboration with them. It is exactly the same with a great supplier, I love to work with people who are excellent at what they do, who understand my expectations and high level of service we deliver, and work with us to make it happen. Again it comes down to trust.

MJD: What are the current trends, key challenges and changes you see in the future of our industry?
SRK: Engaging people through mobile technology is critical, and virtual reality & augmented reality are emerging as exciting event experiences, with the new emphasis on creating something truly unique for every attendee. People are generally registering later for events, and their decisions can be financial or time based. They are always expecting healthy options at events they attend now, which is a nice change! Sponsors are looking for solid ROI: moving forward they will be looking for specific data on which they can base their decision to invest.

MJD: I love that – engagement & experience in high tech digital world. What do you enjoy the most about creating memorable conferences, incentives and events?
SRK: I guess it comes down to the reason why I’m in events…I love helping people. I know that sounds rather cliché but to be able to work with clients to achieve their goals for their business is very rewarding. I enjoy being able to bring a fresh new approach to their events.

MJD: Helping clients is never cliché and a great reason loving what you do! Sue, you have been on the MEA national board for 6 years and involved with MEA since 1999- what do you enjoy about representing MEA nationally and how is 2017 shaping up for MEA?
SRK: I am passionate about the Meetings & Events industry and believe it is important that we are represented by a strong industry association. I am committed to building the professionalism of our industry and my involvement in MEA reflects this. Professionalism and the image we present to the wider business community are vital to our longevity in an increasingly competitive environment. My involvement in MEA has allowed me to help foster this through sharing lessons I have learned, to hopefully help develop the next generation of industry professionals.

MJD: So true Sue that our industry’s senior event professionals are involved industry association. What advice would you give to someone at the start of their career in incentives and events?
SRK: I think one piece of advice I would give is to take every opportunity you can. Sometimes it is the least interesting looking projects or experiences that will provide you with great learnings and open the door to further opportunities.
It is also important to broaden your network. Our industry is one of strong relationships, and having an extensive network is an opportunity to not only make industry connections but to learn skills that will hopefully make you a better event professional.

MJD: What is on the horizon for Wise Connections?
SRK: 2016-17 has been a huge year for us. We have had more events for more clients than ever and in response to that our team has grown. One exciting new development is that we will be moving into a new office in mid-July. We have also recently launched a new website and are now using this as one of our main marketing tools to build the business further.

Thank you Sue for your thought-provoking insights, you are a great example of working with our industry association to support all suppliers & clients with MEA. We look forward to working with you in the future and seeing these very exciting developments for Wise Connections for 2017 and beyond!

If you are a PCO and would like to share your insights for our next edition, contact Mary-Jane