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Return to events! 7 events, 7 cities, 7 weeks

On my to-do list recently, was the item “Write blog post for website, about our successful return to in-person events” which made sense, given that at the time, our team had just completed seven Gala Dinner awards presentation events in seven cities, over seven weeks!

An achievement that we are immensely proud of! It was the culmination of our 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards program for 2021.

But whilst I thought this would be a fun task, to look back at the events we have managed and how great it is to be back to events…I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Why is that? It should’ve been a fun task and rewarding to look back at our long-anticipated return to events!!

Well, you see…as we completed our 7th and final event, which was held in Perth, it coincided with Melbourne going into yet another lockdown. As our head office and team is based in Melbourne, it was a difficult time and writing this article during a lockdown took some of the gloss off the occasion.

So I started writing this during the first seven-day lockdown here in Melbourne. I’m finishing it off as two weeks later with hope that we are coming out of lockdown and that restrictions will be eased further.

It is actually quite funny to think that our team has travelled around the country between April and May and holding events for 300-400 people.

It has been easy to think that we were safe from the global pandemic in recent times. But the fact is that during these last few months, the COVID situation has been ever present in our minds.

Returning to events was not a simple decision for us. Because we were running an event in each state and territory of Australia (although ACT was incorporated into our NSW event) we had to be fully aware of the restrictions and guidelines right across Australia.

We had to carefully balance the constant see-sawing of ever-changing rules, as well as the endless enquiries from guests, event sponsors, venues and government representatives who all needed to be guided through the process of attending a large, indoors event.

Those “endless enquiries” were completely valid by the way! For many of our guests and in fact several the venues themselves, our events were the first of their scale since early 2020.

Throughout this highly challenging, but equally rewarding period, our staff were absolute champions! Our three event managers and their teams delivered their Gala Dinner awards presentations beautifully. A huge congratulations to Hanna, Demi and Stephanie.

If you have been to an Awards nights before, you’d recall that there are a lot of presentations, videos on the big screens and important timings to execute. So for an event manager, there are so many moving parts, people to coordinate and if we’re being honest…things that can go wrong!

For example, the flags and banners from our Adelaide event were required to be brought back to the office in Melbourne, so they could be taken to the event in Perth the following week. We accidentally left them in the venue at Adelaide!! But a few phone calls later and a courier was arranged. Crisis averted!

The great work by our team to rectify this little mistake just goes to show how much of event management is actually the background work. The administration, the attention to detail, the hours and hours on the phone, the checklists and the extensive documentation.

I was the benefit of the incredible work done BEFORE the event for the Gala Dinner in Adelaide. Our longest tenured Event Manager Stephanie returned to work from maternity leave in February 2021 and was immediately handed one of our biggest programs, the 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards for SA. Part of Stephanie’s return to work arrangement was that she would manage the program, but that travel for the actual event could be handled by someone else…as an Adelaide boy and the one handing the program over to Steph, I was very happy to handle the travel and manage the event itself.

Steph is highly organised and an excellent Event Manager, so I simply attended the briefing meeting with her, received my “Event Bible” and off I went to Adelaide. The event setup was so smooth and everything went off without a hitch, all thanks to the hard work that Steph put in during the leadup.

This is the case for all our events. On average, there are 40-50 presentations to make, by 10-12 different presenters, plus other key speakers. There are meals (including dietary requirements…so many dietary requirements!) for 300-400 guests, the photographers and videographers, coordinating media and social media announcements. And so much more!!

Given our team was somewhat out of practice, with no in-person events at all in in 2020, I was so impressed with their work.

So a big congratulations to the whole team, who were ALL instrumental in making this whirlwind of 7 events, in 7 cities across 7 weeks such a successful experience. Here’s a snapshot of our team and their roles:

  • Geoff: Director and chairperson of each judging panel for the Young Achiever Awards. Geoff’s experience and expansive knowledge of events and awards programs is always appreciated by the events team!
  • Annette: Director and chief “making stuff happen” officer!! Annette does everything and is a go-to for solving problems.

Side note: Geoff and Annette attended each and every one of the 7 events

  • Hanna: our Senior Event Manager and resident red wine connoisseur. Hanna is excellent at thinking on her feet and dealing with situations quickly and decisively…as outlined in some pretty extreme examples below.
  • Demi: our newest Event Manager but a long tenured Awards Australia team member. Demi managed her first physical event this year (read here about how this was delayed by more than a year due to COVID!) after working on more than 25 of our events previously. She smashed it of course!
  • Steph: our very experienced Event Manager recently returned from Maternity Leave. Steph slipped right back into her groove as the most organised member of the team. Steph did all the hard work for our Adelaide event and made me look like a star, as all I had to do was follow her instructions to manage the event! We can’t wait to have Steph back onsite running events in due course.
  • Jemma and Tori: our awards coordinators worked their first physical events for Awards Australia and did a fantastic job! Their hard work in the lead up to the event was crucial, as they do so many things behind the scenes. Tori in particular has waited a long time to work at her first awards event with us, after we weren’t able to hold any physical events in 2020.
  • Holly: our digital and social media specialist (Holly is actually a specialist in so many areas it’s kind of ridiculous) has moved away from the events side of things, but that didn’t stop from working two of our events this year. Holly epitomises the spirit of working hard but having fun doing it!
  • Nat is new to the team and didn’t get to attend any events in the front half of 2021, but her great work in arranging things for Geoff and Annette made life much easier for them and we look forward to having Nat at one our events towards the end of the year.
  • Pat: our designer was VERY busy and worked to extremely tight timelines! Thanks Pat!!


Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing!

There were a few hiccups along the way…here’s a quick summary of some of the challenges faced and obstacles overcome:

  • Melbourne event: tickets were selling so fast we had to close off the online booking form two weeks early! This was our first in-person event working with COVID restrictions and we were VERY wary of ensuring we remaining under capacity. But we hadn’t anticipated just how excited Victorians were to attend events again! Our Event Manager Demi expertly managed the guest list from there and ensured all the finalists and their supporters were able to attend, whilst keeping within the guest limits and as per government guidelines.


  • Darwin event: we were excited to host the Governor General of Australia and after meetings with the AFP, briefings with the venue, etc. we were all set. However less than 10 minutes into the event, we were faced with an emergency situation! The Governor General had flown into Darwin from Perth and it was very unlucky timing, as there had been COVID cases just announced and the Governor General was deemed to be a close contact of a case and attendee of an exposure site! So the Governor General and the guests seated with him had to immediately leave the event and go into quarantine. One of those guests was the NT Administrator and our “Official Guest” who was making several awards presentations on the night!! Our Event Manager Hanna is a fast thinker and was quickly organising other key guests to step in and make presentations and speeches. Hanna even quickly wrote down some speech and briefing notes for them to facilitate everything and the remainder of the event went off without a hitch!


  • Perth event: a medical emergency almost stopped the event in its tracks and at that time, the event itself was the last thing on our team’s mind. A guest was crumpled over and unresponsive and again demonstrating quick thinking and an incredibly calm demeanour, our Event Manager Hanna (who knew her guest list and seating plan back to front) rushed to grab one of the guests, a Semi Finalist in the 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards, who is a paramedic. The young paramedic was attending with some friends who were nurses and the group leaped into action! They performed CPR and managed the situation, whilst Hanna alerted the venue staff who were able to retrieve the onsite defibrillator. Their combined efforts kept the guest, who had suffered a heart attack, stable and alive and until emergency responders arrived on site. The guest survived the ordeal and was told by doctors in hospital that his life had been saved by their actions that night. After that intense situation, including the entire ballroom being evacuated to provide ease of access for emergency responders, the event was able to resume with the knowledge that the guest was ok and stable.


As you can see event management is a damn hard gig!! You never know what will be thrown your way and that’s even without COVID in the mix.

But at the end of the day, we hold events to share the incredible stories of inspiration young Australians. We believe that young people are not only the future, but that they are crucial to positive changes and leadership in the present.

The 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards provide a platform for young people to be heard and we are honored to play a role in showcasing their talents and achievements.

If you too are passionate about Australia’s young people, there are a few ways to get involved:

Written by Josh Griffin, Partnerships Manager at Awards Australia