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Symposium Speakers


The below speakers will be presenting at the Australian Event Symposium 2019.

Tania de Jong

Tania de Jong

Thinking outside the box: Leading Innovation and Change
There is a real opportunity to learn new ways and thinking and possibly have your perceptions changed. Innovation is coming from everywhere. Almost anyone can be an entrepreneur. We will need to be more creative and innovative than ever before, thinking “outside the box” and using techniques to stimulate creativity to overcome challenges, build new concepts and reinvent existing ideas to keep events and your work ahead of the game.

Skills & Outcomes:

  • Develop creative, intuitive, right-brained and agile mindsets and think ‘outside the box’
  • Deal with failure and develop resilience
  • Build a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that leads to new concept development
  • Prepare for and manage in times of massive uncertainty, disruption and change
  • Understand why diversity and inclusion will increase your event’s profile, attendance and success
  • Ways to make a difference to the community and support those in need through your events

Tania de Jong AM is a trail-blazing Australian soprano, award-winning social entrepreneur, creative innovation catalyst, spiritual journey woman, storyteller and global speaker. Tania is one of Australia’s most successful female entrepreneurs and innovators developing 5 businesses and 3 charities over the past 3 decades including Creative Universe, Creativity Australia and With One Voice, Creative Innovation Global, Mind Medicine Australia, Dimension5, MTA Entertainment & Events, Pot-Pourri and The Song Room.

She works across the public, private, creative and community sectors. Tania speaks and sings around the world as a soloist and with her group Pot-Pourri releasing ten albums. She is Founder and Executive Producer of future-shaping events series, Creative Innovation Global. She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in June 2008 and named one of the 100 Women of Influence and the 100 Australian Most Influential Entrepreneurs in 2018.

Gill Minervini

Gill Minervini

Relight your Fire

Anyone can throw together an event, but it’s the creativity and difference that will make yours stand out from the rest. Creativity isn’t just about the design and look and feel, it delves right back to how you can get creative with your budgets, marketing, programming and management of the event.

Skills & Outcomes:

  • How to make your yearly recurring events fresh each time and remain appealing for repeat attendees and attract new attendees
  • How to be creative with a tight budget
  • Creative problem solving – how to creatively overcome obstacles or make the obstacles part of the audience experience
  • How to work with your team and access and unlock their creative potential to benefit your event

Creative director, producer and consultant with more than 30 years experience in festivals and large-scale event direction. Known for her innovation, creativity, inclusiveness, financial effectiveness and strategic direction, Gill delivers memorable experiences that increase visitation and build profile for destinations through creative activity.

Her company, Gill Minervini Creative, provides festival and event direction, creative and strategic advice to a range of clients including the Adelaide Festival, Museum of Old & New Art (MONA), Barangaroo Delivery Authority, Rugby League World Cup, Transport for NSW, City of Melbourne, Arts NSW, Events and Tourism Tasmania.

Formerly Creative Director/ Producer for City of Sydney Events, Gill directed the City’s major event program, including Chinese New Year Festival – the largest celebration of the lunar new year outside of China; Art & About Sydney – an international public art festival; and Sydney’s Christmas Celebrations, attracting a combined annual audience of more than two million people.

Saxon Dixon

Saxon Dixon

Bring your Event to Life with AR and VR

Augmented reality and virtual reality, although not brand new technology, is rapidly developing to take on the events industry. Explore the differences between augmented and virtual reality, how you can use them from the outset in your marketing of the event, how venues can adopt the technology to help organisers make venue decisions and how you and the organiser can integrate with this technology to fast-track and virtually ‘see’ your event space designed – what’s working, what’s not before you actually get in the room. Discover the opportunities exhibitors can engage in by providing an ‘experience’ of their product or service, enabling attendees to walk around the product, get a feel for it and how it works / looks / what it can do in 3D. It’s an opportunity to take your event beyond the standard and provide a unique experience to your attendees.

Saxon is one of Australia’s top Real-Time Artists and a leading Experience Director for AR & VR. With a background in computer games, Saxon was one of the first in Australia to work in Mixed Reality. He designs striking and optimum user experiences in everything from Mobile AR to Virtual Reality. Saxon’s expertise lays in Mixed Reality User Experience Design and Level Design/ World building. User Experience is an art form – the success of each experience will be judged on the user journey. Was it intuitive? Was it easy to navigate? Was it engaging? Saxon’s skill is ensuring the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’ to all of those questions.

David Gardiner

David Gardiner

Lights, Camera, Crisis!

When it comes to events, anything can go wrong. Disasters can be as simple as an illness affecting the attendees to a cyclone striking during the event. While there’s no ‘textbook’ answer to managing the emergency or crisis, appropriate preparation and planning can give your event a better chance of success and minimise reputational damage if a catastrophe strikes. So what’s your plan?

David Gardiner started his career in 2006 as a receptionist in a PR firm while completing his double major in Public Relations and Marketing, and over four short years elevated to Account Director before leaving to work in-house for one of Perth’s leading hospitality venues.

Three years into working in-house, DGPR was born, with a focus on:

  • Strategic PR: Development and implementation of high quality communications, publicity and experiential strategies
  • Event-related PR
  • Stakeholder management
  • Publicity Campaigns
  • Professional writing services for media statements, news articles, features, publications, website copy and other communications
  • Event management
  • Media relations; local, national and international
  • Social media engagement and management

From the start, David has believed in a hands-on approach to all facets of the business, choosing to take on fewer clients to ensure the standard he expects and has promised is delivered time and time again. Understanding that every campaign has multiple stakeholders, David takes the time to work with them to deliver a win-win situation for each campaign ensure all parties work together to achieve the desired outcomes.

Over his career, David has built strong and solid relationships in the media, government and event sectors.

With strategy at top of mind at all times, he is able to convert that into campaigns that deliver on clients’ overarching objectives and focuses on key message retention, quality of content in deliverables and meeting deadlines.

A meticulous attention to detail while delivering big yet affordable ideas and a can-do attitude enables him to get things done right the first time.

Katie Spalding

Katie Spalding

Using Events to Change Behaviours or Perception for Your Brand
Events allow people to experience brands on a whole new level. This session looks at how to build an event which engages consumers with a brand’s key messages and carries these messages beyond the bounds of the event itself.

Skills & Outcomes:

  • Ability to identify what your brand’s values are, who your true target audience is and why it matters
  • Understand how to be successful with experiential marketing (and witness some epic fails)
  • Learn how sponsorships can become your most cost-effective channel in your marketing tool box
  • Discover how-to generate ideas which bring your brand to life
  • Determine if technology is an enhancer or hinderance to your customers experience
  • Acquire practical tips for setting objectives, KPIs, measuring success and shouting about it

Katie is an experiential marketer with 14 years Australian and UK experience. Katie currently works as Events and Sponsorship Manager at Synergy, where she manages a program of strategic partnerships, customer experiences and brand activations. Previously, Katie delivered the City of Mandurah’s major events program and worked as a Corporate Events Manager in the UK for 5 years.
She has won several awards including a Tourism Council Gold Award for best Major Event & Festival, a Gold Skull from the Perth Advertising & Design Council for best Digital Installation and Best Experiential Campaign at the PR Institute of Australia. Katie has a Bachelor of Commerce (majoring Marketing, Management), an MBA (majoring in Innovation and Entrepreneurship) and is qualified in CX, Prince2 and Agile Product Ownership. Since 2018 Katie has volunteered as the Production Director for TEDxPerth, Australia’s second largest TEDx event, leading a production team of 15.


Chris Loftus-Hills

Chris Loftus-Hills

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

A great team makes all the difference, especially when planning events. An event environment is unique with specific staff and team challenges that need to be carefully managed. It takes work and effort to find the right combination of skills and personalities. Each team member brings a unique perspective and set of skills which help with problem-solving, new perspectives on the attendee outcomes and a pool of creativity. And these requirements may well change event to event.

Skills & Outcomes:

  • Events require extensive and abnormal hours from team members – how do you recruit for staff that have big engines and high levels of commitment?
  • Like any team, strong support for one another is crucial – how do you nurture that in an events environment?
  • Delegation, empowerment, role clarity, support and understanding – important in any business, why are they critical management traits when running events?
  • Mixing it up – challenging team member skill sets, discovering nuggets of gold and building business resilience.

Chris Loftus-Hills is the General Manager of Events & Operations, Optus Stadium at VenuesLive. His port-folio includes venue management, event management, venue operations, asset management, risk & safety management, event staffing and ticketing operations.

Prior to moving to Perth Chris delivered 11 seasons of international cricket events at Cricket Australia as Head of Match Operations & Events.

This included leading the evolution of the event operations of international cricket into an integrated and sophisticated world class outfit as well as driving the creation of an in-house Event Presentation Unit responsible for one of the leading match day experience programs in Australian sport.

As part of this journey Chris built and then passed on many elements that continue to be important to the business including the event marketing program, the national ticketing program, the leisure travel business, the direct marketing asset known as the Australian Cricket Family, the international match profit & loss and the venue business & venue development portfolio.

Harley Mitaros

Harley Mitaros

The Future of Visual Marketing

Audiences are moving towards engagement with visual marketing rather than only traditional blog posts or social content. Visual marketing takes engagement to an experiential level by enabling you to tell your event or brand’s story in a way that excites your audience on a deeper level.

Skills & Outcomes:

  • Engaging audiences: An easy to follow checklist for brainstorming ideas
  • Power of the People: Creating something driven by people power
  • Social media integration: Reaching people inside and outside your event
  • Commercial Partnership: Using brand alignment to satisfy sponsors

Harley Mitaros is the Founder and Director of Pryzm in Subiaco. He founded the company in 2015 at the age of 20, with Pryzm specialising in social media and digital strategy and features a prestigious client list including Perth Glory Football Club, Danny Green’s Coward’s Punch Campaign and Elders Real Estate.

In 2016, Harley was recognised for his entrepreneurial skillset in Anthill’s prestigious 30 under 30 Young Australian Entrepreneurs of 2016, following a highly successful national appraisal campaign executed for Elders Real Estate.

Prior to Pryzm, Harley worked briefly for Major League Soccer on 37th and 5th Avenue in New York City and at Perth Glory Football Club, where he established the club’s first ever paid digital strategy.

Today, he strives to turn Pryzm into a nimble, goals-focused specialist marketing agency.

Neil Fergus

Neil Fergus

Event Design: Balancing Event Security and the Customer Experience

Creating a secure, safe event is one of the most important elements for the event producer and getting the right balance between designing and delivering a safe event and maximising the customer experience is essential. You want attendees walking away talking about how engaging your event was and returning each year, and not posting images over social media about being thoroughly patted up and down on entry and feeling like they’re in a fenced in space. This workshop will explore what the key elements of security for events are available, which ones apply to your events and how to incorporate these into your planning and staging, without compromising on the quality of the experience.

Skills & Outcomes:

  • Identifying the security needs of your event from personnel to infrastructure
  • Developing an Event Security Management Plan and level of information required
  • Working with a licenced consultant to develop the Plan and implementation on the ground
  • Managing the risks for your event
  • Implement safety measures without compromising the customer experience

Neil had a senior role in security for the Sydney Olympic Games. He founded Intelligent Risks (IR) in 2001.

IR is an international leader in the fields of risk management; infrastructure protection and delivery of security for major events. It has practices in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the UK.
Since the 2000 Games, Neil has been a security advisor to the 2002 Salt Lake, 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, 2012 London, 2014 Sochi, 2016 Rio and Tokyo 2020 Games.

IR has also been security advisers for five FIFA World Cups.

Neil has been Security Advisor to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) since 2005 – for the Melbourne 2006, Delhi 2010, Glasgow 2014, Gold Coast 2018 and Birmingham 2022 Games (and Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, Isle of Man, Samoa and the Bahamas).

Apart from sports events Neil has advised on security for several political summits including NATO, G8, G20, APEC, ASEAN and CHOGM. IR has provided safety and security support for a range of other niche events, including several charitable events. These include Olivia Newton John’s Great Walk to Beijing, the CEOs trek of Kokoda, Garma Festival’s and Australian Himalayan Foundation treks in Nepal.

Intelligent Risks were the 2018 Winner for Best Event Service, for their work in risk, security and crisis management.