AIMEbassador interview - Paula Rowntree

Making the most of AIME 2023: 'Mingle like there's no tomorrow'

Paula Rowntree is head of events at the Australian Psychological Society, and founder of The Business Events Network. She is also a 2023 AIMEbassador for the Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME).

For more than 30 years, Paula has been a passionate advocate for the power of business events to create long-term economic and sustainable impact. Paula works with organisations to design, develop and implement business event strategies that enhance the member, organisation and customer experience, adapt to changing environments and best practices, diversify revenue streams and increase the value of the organisation.

Paula has taken time out of her busy schedule to share some pearls of wisdom on making the most of AIME and why the industry needs to start helping itself…

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Paula, what are your top tips for making the most of your time at AIME?

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to everyone whether you know them or not.
  • Even though you may be exhausted, attend as much as you can.
  • Leave work at work. Embrace the days you are there to focus on yourself. You are vital and important. Updating your knowledge and connections is what helps make you the amazing event professional you are. Try and disconnect from work and experience AIME
  • Try not to be intimated by flying solo and mingle like there’s no tomorrow.
  • Respect the time of the buyers. If you’re attending as a hosted buyer, attend every appointment. If you get behind schedule, go and see any appointments you missed to reschedule for either during AIME or after the event. They have given a lot of time, energy and funds to support you to be hosted, let’s return the respect.
  • Be open to learning. It’s easy to slip into a mode where we think there’s nothing new to learn but it’s amazing how quickly new ideas and innovations are being generated. Be open to hearing from everyone to learn and grow.
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If you could meet or chat with one person at AIME who would it be?

Julia Knowles! Julia was the person behind Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. It was perfection in motion and such an example of the power of events.

I’d love to meet Julia and hear how she pulled off the event of the century.

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You’re vocal about the staff and skills shortage in the industry. What do you think can be done about it?

My belief is that business events are having a slight identity crisis. There is a disconnect between the data that shows how events drive global social and economic progress and how we’re perceived and valued by governments, particularly federal governments, and where we belong.

This has a filter effect that lowers the value of event professionals. This can be demonstrated through low wages as compared to the value of outcomes, long hours (most not being compensated for instead being seen as ‘part of the job’) and no clear pathway that shows those in our industry what their career progression could look like.

I don’t believe we are seen as a desired industry in which to work. A clear example is that federally in Australia we sit in tourism and not in economic development. Business event professionals are not seen in the same category as accountants, projects managers, business leaders, lawyers, doctors etc. We are not seen as professionals. I believe to truly fill the staff and skills gap; our industry needs a reputation rebrand.