Adrienne Readings: ‘Memorable Immersive Experiences are High on the Agenda’

Australia’s first female GM of a convention center, Adrienne Readings, shares how the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in Queensland, Australia is leveling up to meet the changing needs of groups.

Author: Jennifer N. Dienst       

Adrienne Readings

“Our in-house tech team continues to upskill to ensure a seamless online conferencing experience,” said Adrienne Readings, general manager at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in Queensland, Australia.

The business events industry, at large, is comprised of women — 77 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But some spaces are quite the opposite, particularly facility management, where just 21 percent are women, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We’re spotlighting women who have worked their way up to the top spots at convention centers around the world, and up next is Adrienne Readings, general manager at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in Queensland, Australia.

In addition to your skills and capabilities, to what would you attribute your success in a male-dominated sector of the business events industry? What attracted you to this side of the business?

Working with a group of experts from the center’s design, construction, and operations teams gave me the opportunity to be involved from the ground up. I believe I bring a different view of what matters in a convention center, and I have always had great support from the team around me, as well as our government and management stakeholders.

Although I was initially intimidated as Australia’s first female general manager of a convention center in a male-dominated sector, I’m glad to say that I was very welcomed and over time we’re seeing more women in senior roles.

In business events, the results are immediately tangible and highly rewarding. Personally, I’m very proud of the part we play in attracting hundreds of thousands of business event visitors each year and the integral contribution that brings to the local business economy.

Gold Coast Convention Exhibition Centre at night

Located in Broadbeach on Australia’s Gold Coast, the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre has a prime waterfront location just a stroll away from the destination’s famous beaches.

Now that groups are coming back, what’s different? For example, are you noticing that groups are using the space differently than pre-pandemic? Are groups offering different programming (maybe fewer sessions and more white space)? Or are there other kinds of different attendee behavior that stands out to you?

After at least two years of not meeting, delegates are seeking more than the typical education and networking opportunities. We are seeing a leaning towards event organizers offering more meaningful experiences and sessions, particularly around issues such as mental health. Memorable immersive experiences are high on the agenda. A recent conference here added an outdoor embassy area where delegates could enjoy local indigenous experiences during meal breaks and multiple opportunities for memorable breakout sessions. We have also seen a peaked interest in sustainability and CSR.

How are you accommodating groups with hybrid programs? Can you share any changes or investments you’ve made in new technology to meet this need?

We have upgraded meeting rooms to permanently offer built-in streaming equipment that supports hybrid events. Our in-house tech team continues to upskill to ensure a seamless online conferencing experience for small meetings through to multi-destination streaming with multiple presenters across many platforms.

We also have created a dedicated AV data network to segregate streaming and hybrid event data from each other and the rest of the business. This eliminates network bottlenecks and adds to efficiencies. We have invested in dedicated streaming equipment, vision switchers, cameras, streaming controllers, and monitoring equipment to service all levels of hybrid events in all spaces of the center.

How are you navigating the rise in costs and working with clients who have a stricter budget (especially F&B)?

The rising cost of goods is an ongoing problem. We are working together with clients to find solutions to stay within their budgets. That may mean being more agile and scaling back where possible or looking at slight changes in menu selection. Opting for local and seasonal produce can have a valuable impact. By installing built-in equipment in our meeting rooms, we are able to help manage costs for hybrid event setups.

Jennifer N. Dienst is senior editor at Convene.

More Women Leaders