Behind the scenes at the Australian Defence Industry Awards

Behind the scenes at the Australian Defence Industry Awards

02 November 2019

Momentum Media’s head of event production, Jennifer Hardy, reveals the secrets behind the creation of a new awards program.

Momentum Media team at the Australian Defence Industry Awards

The Momentum Media team, including Jennifer Hardy (front row, centre) at the Australian Defence Industry Awards.

The world of events is not for the faint hearted. With so many variables that can go wrong and surprises that require you to think on your feet, so many people wonder – why do you do it?

The launch of the Australian Defence Industry Awards in September this year is a perfect case in point.

We're our own breed of adrenalin junkies us events types, who see stress and challenges as an opportunity for growth.

The rewards of planning, taking new creative risks and being part of a dynamic team behind a successful event surpass the stress of the unknown. I’ve grown to love the unknown and the opportunities it presents to take an event to the next level.

At times, I see the role of an events producer as being akin to the likes of illusionist Harry Houdini or the ’80s television protagonist MacGyver. We make the impossible happen and escape near-disasters with little more than a paper clip and duct tape.

At Momentum Media, we know the impossible is only an illusion. We raise our eyebrows at the words “not available” or “it’s never been done before” – challenge accepted.

We've grown to think outside of the box, weighing up options rationally and creatively, always looking for ways to maximise our budget to deliver our vision.

For example, when the MC you want and “need” is not available, you ask the question – Is he really unavailable?

Conjuring an MC out of thin air

At this year’s inaugural Australian Defence Industry Awards in Canberra on 26 September 2019, we encountered several roadblocks that threatened the delivery of our vision.

Our first must-have – MC Dave Thornton, a classy, funny performer who straddles the comedic line with jokes that bring on tears of laughter or a near collar jerk.

Dave is the perfect host and entertainer for what might otherwise be a very dry awards ceremony. However, due to the event date clashing with the AFL Grand Final in Melbourne, he was tied up with engagements. Getting him from Melbourne to Canberra in time seemed impossible.

But Dave was a non-negotiable element of our event. I knew its success relied on his witty humour, his familiarity with our event proceedings and his understanding of how the Momentum Media events team operates.

Untested MCs added an unacceptable layer of risk that accompanies working with new talent on a new event.

Perseverance and lateral thinking are key. Did you know that, under CASA’s guidelines, a commercial helicopter can only operate prior to sunset? We looked at all logistical options and, in the end, booked two inbound flights from Melbourne to Canberra as a contingency plan.

If Dave made his intended flight, we would have 60 minutes’ rehearsal. In case of a delay from his previous performance, traffic, a fallen tree or any other possibility that might prevent him getting on that flight, the later flight arrival would allow us 30 minutes’ rehearsal.

If you're familiar with working in events you’ll know, this scenario is tight.

To most people – considering how important rehearsals are for a brand-new awards event with 32 categories at a new venue with a new AV team – it’s a risk that one would not take.

Taking calculated risks, however, is an artform in events. It's about understanding the delicate balance that means one wrong decision can be a catalyst for a domino effect.

To mitigate these risks, it's imperative that all internal and external stakeholders have confidence in your team and your vision, and understand their role in the bigger picture.

This precision, transparency and efficiency allows our MC to walk into the room 60 minutes before curtain call, rehearse with confidence, change into his black-tie outfit and still have time to enjoy an espresso before the show commences.

It’s all about relationships and attitude

Hold your applause. We can't take all the credit. This scenario can only happen with strong relationships and trust built with key people in the events industry. Our trusted community of suppliers, agents and venues enable us to be nimble in operation.

In this case, without Inspire Speakers, we would not have been able to overcome the logistical hurdles and persuade our MC to re-evaluate his availability.

Dave Thornton knew that, whenever he works with Momentum Media, no details will be missed, even under seemingly impossible time constraints.

With our trusted AV partners, Austage, we are assured that the delivery of the technical production will be seamless, allowing us to focus on other important details on the event day.

For Momentum, an inaugural event selling out in three days is a good problem to have. It meant that we needed to find a new venue and that we had to rework the entire event six weeks prior to the event date. Our response – no worries! Bigger venue, bigger opportunities.

The mindset and attitude of the Momentum events team allows us to chase commercial opportunities to be bigger and better, exceeding the expectations of our sponsors and guests.

In 2019, we grew the Australian Defence Industry Awards from what we thought would be a maximum 450 guests to close to 800 in attendance in the first year.

The personal growth my team and I experienced in delivering this event is equally as rewarding as the satisfaction we saw on hundreds of our guests’ faces.

At the end of the evening, as we stood at the exit directing the flow of traffic, I heard the words that reinforced the reasons I love working in events: "The Logies could learn a thing or two from this event".

Queue bow – curtains close.