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Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre’s largest conference since covid

Case Study: International Childhood Trauma Conference


An extraordinary undertaking by all parties involved, the post-pandemic return of the International Childhood Trauma Conference saw the event's highest attendance to date.

The biennial International Childhood Trauma Conference has chosen Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) as its home since its inception, taking place in 2014, 2016, 2018 and this year, 2022.

Held between 31 July – 5 August, the latest event was our first large multi-day conference since the pandemic began. Year after year, we see attendance continue to grow, with an average of 2,200 pax per day in 2022. With a large number of dietaries to accommodate, Covid anxiety still rife, high-tech requirements, plus thousands of delegates through the door each day among two other large events, our team had several challenges to tackle.

Collaboration and Growth

As Australia’s home of knowledge, ideas, collaboration and innovation, we are proud to host the International Childhood Trauma Conference. We maintain a good relationship with Joe Tucci, CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation (ACF), who has worked in the field of child abuse intervention and education for more than 20 years, as well as the Professional Conference Organiser (PCO), ICMS Pty Ltd, who help us bring these events to life.

Maxine McIntyre, Event Planner at MCEC, says: "From the planning and delivery perspective, working with Sarah Markey-Hamm of ICMS makes our job easier. Sarah has been working with MCEC for many years. As global president elect of the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO), she is an advocate for the industry. And she is extremely practical in all her event requirements.

"Sarah’s key word is, we are the experts on our venue and delivery. For example, she trusts us to craft a menu that will be suited to her delegates, ensuring they are satisfied. Likewise, Sarah changed her bump-out plans on our requirement, so that we could ensure all the logistical work Sarah wanted could be executed within a tight turnaround. This solution ensured delegates got the result they wanted too.

"The moral of the story is, if we give Sarah a solution that works, she is willing to amend her plans for the betterment of the event. The long-term working relationship we have with PCOs like Sarah make working collaboratively on large events such as this one second nature. This was a great celebration for the customer but also for MCEC."

A Logistical Triumph

"Combined with resourcing the AGHA and Reed Gift Fair exhibitions that were on at the same time as this event, ensuring everything went smoothly for everyone was a mammoth team effort," says Maxine.

"The logistical challenge meant we needed to work with our customer in the pre-planning stages to ensure smooth movement of people. For example, all International Childhood Trauma Conference delegates were directed to park at the Siddeley Street car park to minimise congestion and crossover from the other events, enhancing the visitor journey."

This was also the first event since Covid of this catering volume and duration. The high volume of dietaries - 657 of 2,200 pax - made the service uniquely challenging. Our team served 10,500 morning teas, 10,500 lunches, 10,500 afternoon teas and 3,900 cocktails and canapes across the entire event. Maxine says: "Working with the customer and our catering delivery team we ensured that all dietaries were allocated their own dedicated foyer within the main foyer ensuring ample opportunity to access dietary options. "Also, as the event has grown, we were unable to accommodate all delegates in one main area. Therefore, we worked with the customer to find innovative solutions that didn't impact the visitor journey. On this occasion, we split the catering 70/30 across two spaces, ensuring both catering areas were positioned within key traffic areas as delegates moved around the streams between sessions."

Sensitive Content and Employee Wellbeing

The International Childhood Trauma Conference is the leading gathering for professionals who work with people affected by trauma associated with abuse, violence, and relational disruption. Bright minds and industry leaders come together to hear from world experts and pioneers in neuroscience, trauma, attachment, and therapeutic intervention. And the event offers an important opportunity for local practitioners, researchers, and policymakers to exchange ideas and learn from each other.

It is an event of undoubted importance and interest. Equally, the sensitive topics need to be handled with care.

Maxine says: "Due to the nature and sensitivity of topics presented and discussed, we had due diligence to take care of our employees' wellbeing first and foremost. We advised all employees on the sensitive nature of content before rostering them, and we provided a wellbeing quiet space where they could take a break away from the event."

Hybrid Conference Solutions

From a tech perspective, the International Childhood Trauma Conference 2022 was one of the largest streaming events we have ever conducted, with 7 concurrent streams across the entire Melbourne Convention Centre (MCC). On the Wednesday, every room in MCC was in session to accommodate the workshops. Maxine says: "Our virtual event solutions were a key backup to ensure that should any speakers become unwell during the event they could connect virtually. This was also offered to any delegates who were unable to attend in person."

One of the main reasons we had to be hot on our tech was that in the lead-up to the event, some delegates expressed hesitancy and concern to attend in person due to a spike in Covid cases.

Maxine says: "To combat this, the customer reiterated MCEC’s VenueSafe practices in their communications to reassure attendees, plus we added a virtual participation option. This was also supported by the PCO's proactive and realistic approach to getting back to events and ensuring that delegates can get back to meeting face to face."

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