Client: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI)
Event: The National Housing Conference 2022
Date: 2 – 4 March 2022
Venue: Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre with a hybrid platform through EventsAIR
The theme of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute’s (AHURI) flagship conference in March 2022 was resilience, connection and transformation. With a little help from Sprintr, the same could be said about their delivery of the event.
Deciding to stage their first large-scale conference of the pandemic in a hybrid format early on in the planning process – before Omicron was doing the rounds – paid off in a big way for AHURI: even with the floods hitting Southeast Queensland and Northern New South Wales the week before the event, thanks to their malleable model offering both face-to-face and online attendance, they notched up their highest delegate numbers, from all around the country, since 2009.
The benefits of going hybrid
“With the hybrid [format] we were offering people if they couldn’t travel to just switch over to a virtual [registration],” says Susannah Murray, AHURI’s Conference and Events Coordinator.
Apart from insuring the event against changes to COVID restrictions, by having a fully virtual back-up, Susannah says the hybrid model also made the conference more accessible for stakeholders in the housing sector, especially not-for-profits who may not have the funds to travel to Melbourne to attend the event in person.
Choosing to go hybrid had positive financial implications for AHURI too.
“It offered us a certain amount of versatility. If we’d just planned for in person and then something had happened…we would’ve had to change it all over and that would have been a lot more in terms of costs and a lot more stress,” says Susannah.
“We did get a lot of last minute changes to registration because people couldn’t travel because of [the floods].”
And while AHURI did get a lot of last minute flood-related registration changes, Susannah says they were also fielding requests to change registrations from virtual to in-person attendance as the Omicron COVID wave subsided and companies lifted their no-travel policies.
“There was a definite thirst amongst the delegates to actually be there in person.
“The largest amount of changes were in that last week. The phone calls were thick and fast. All three of us in the events team were taking calls and the phone was still ringing, almost for that entire five days of the last week.”
On event days, AHURI ended up with 1,267 registered delegates, with over 800 attending in person. The organisation also met all their revenue targets for the event, which helps financially support their research and other conferences.
How Sprintr helped
Although originally we were brought in for our registration kiosks, as a not-for-profit, AHURI was able to work flexibly with our Sprintr team to get the greater level of technical support they needed to stage a successful hybrid conference – without breaking the bank.
The AHURI events team did the vast majority of the build for their online platform themselves, using EventsAIR, and had Sprintr Production Lead Mitchell Horne review the build prior to event day to ensure everything was looking good.
“We really came in as that extra team member, expert, really doing the finessing at the end,” says Mitch Gaal, Sprintr’s Business Development Manager.
“Obviously it keeps the cost down for [AHURI] – they’ve got the skillset to do a large amount of it in-house, so we can just come in and make sure everything’s A-OK and going to happen the way it’s meant to happen.”
Susannah says Sprintr’s knowledge of EventsAIR was invaluable.
“They really helped us. We were asking Mitch and Mitchell and [Sprintr Production Manager] Rowena lots and lots of questions in terms of the virtual platform.”
Extra support during the event
Mitchell also ran the technical side of the virtual platform for AHURI during the event.
“On site Mitchell was particularly helpful and he was helping delegates with the delegate app as well,” says Susannah.
“They just helped relieve our stress and we knew that there were people there that we could go to if we didn’t know how to help someone.”
She says AHURI didn’t have the person power they needed onsite without the help of the Sprintr team. Mitch believes that’s how Sprintr can be helpful to organisations which don’t have the desire or the budget to hand over their whole platform to the Sprintr team.
“There are a lot of associations who are one or two team members and if they do want to run a hybrid event, then they don’t need to do it all themselves on event day. They can use us to help them in a small capacity pre-event, then when the event’s live, we can jump in and give them a hand.”
And a nice testament to us
Susannah says the Sprintr team were helpful, responsible and very flexible and the ability to scale our involvement in their event planning and delivery process works for NFPs like AHURI.
“I definitely would recommend them to anyone.
“They’re obviously passionate and they’re always keeping up to date…it’s refreshing to have approachable [collaborators] and we don’t get a hard sell, which is really nice.
“They were incredibly invaluable to us and the success of the event,” she says.
Ah, we’re blushing! And we’re pretty chuffed to be working with AHURI again on the National Homelessness Conference in August.
Sprintr are obviously passionate and they’re always keeping up to date…it’s refreshing to have approachable collaborators and we don’t get a hard sell, which is really nice. They were incredibly invaluable to us and the success of the event.
Susannah MurrayAustralian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI)