Event Fatigue Is Real


By Dante St James – Expert In Residence at Darwin Innovation Hub

In just three months over the cooler part of the year, the Territory manages to jam in 85 percent of its events and festivals.

I get it. Any other time of the year it’s too hot, too humid and too wet in the Top End. And it’s too hot with too many flies in Central Australia.

Which makes sense if you’re holding a music festival or a gala ball under the stars.

But the weather has nothing to do with an indoor business event, industry awards night or educational workshop.

Yet June, July and August this year were an onslaught of events, awards, fundraisers, networking, workshops, seminars and travelling speakers. There’s simply too much on in one part of the year in the Territory.

We’re a big mass of land with a small population. Yet, our events load is suited to a population three times more than we’ve got. And that leads to duplication and fatigue.

There are too many organisations with too many programs being funded to deliver too many of the same things.

The fatigue is very real for those of us who, as part of our stakeholder engagement, outreach, business development and networking, need to show up at all these events.

That means a lot of RSVPs followed by a lot of no-shows.

So how do we fix this?

First, as Territorians we need to be better stewards of our event audiences.

Local event fatigue has already led to a steady stream of roadshows from interstate gurus and programs that fly in, take a fistful of Territory dollars and fly out again without ever having engaged with the local ecosystem or economy.

What they bring duplicates what is already being delivered locally. In fact, it’s usually a downgrade because it lacks any Territory context. Just more of the same stuff we’ve already seen, but with a trail of money that goes cold at the border.

Second, our industry bodies, councils, government, venues, programs and not-for-profits need to start to talk to each other more when it comes to events and programs. Oversupply in a limited market stops us all from reaching our goals.

Yet, there are some examples of organisations that connect, coordinate and collaborate to reduce duplication and increase turnout.

NT Chamber of Commerce collaborates with government, industry and education on events and workshops frequently.

The local Workforce Australia Jobs and Self-Employment providers collaborated so well in the Territory that their model of cooperation has been copied across the nation.

The NT Government’s October Business Month is a monumental effort of coordination that brings some 200 quality events in just one month with no duplication at all.

So, it can be done.

We have all the skills and know-how to do this stuff well.

But it will take an attitude of collaboration over competition to get the ticket sales, attendance rates, and learning outcomes that our shareholders, members and funding bodies are looking for.