We talked to Kristi Coombs, director of the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) International Conference, last spring, before the Institute’s 2017 International Conference, and again right after the event, about a challenge and a new initiative. Here’s how things worked out:
July 23–26, 2017
International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney
Pre-Con: The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) was expecting anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 internal auditors from more than 110 countries for its 2017 International Conference — everyone “from chief audit executives to internal audit staff,” said Coombs.
Post-Con: The IIA welcomed 2,100 attendees from around the world to the newly opened ICC Sydney.
Pre-Con: ICC Sydney just opened in December 2016. The beautiful, state-of-the-art venue is one of the reasons IIA chose Sydney, but also made the planning process a challenge because for much of it the building only existed on paper. Plus, IIA is headquartered in Lake Mary, Florida — half a world away. “I’ve changed my working hours two days a week to work remote due to the 12- to 14-hour time difference,” Coombs said. “This way I’m working online at night when they are coming into the office in the morning.”
Post-Con: “Late-night phone calls paid off and the staff at ICC was really attentive,” Coombs said. “They were very open to trying new things.” Indeed, each year the IIA aims to seat guests for lunch within nine minutes. “They did it in eight minutes,” Coombs said.
Pre-Con: This year IIA is introducing a “conference within a conference,” Coombs said — a one-day program for audit chairs. The organization is also looking into livestreaming keynote sessions and maintaining a more robust Twitter feed. And the gala event, usually a sit-down dinner, is being reimagined as “more of a roving meal” with food stations and passed items, Coombs said, staged throughout the Overseas Passenger Terminal overlooking Sydney Harbour.
Post-Con: The reimagined event was met with mixed reviews. “It worked fine for some people, and other people weren’t as fond of it,” Coombs said. “There are differing opinions about it. Some attendees like and want the sit-down, which offers a formal atmosphere. The younger generation seems to enjoy a new approach with more networking.”