Collaboration, Digital Innovation & Adaptive Delivery: Delivering a COVID-Safe WSABE Gala
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Friday the 20th November marked the delivery of the 30th Annual Western Sydney Awards for Business Excellence (WSABE) Gala at Rosehill Gardens, an event that for three decades has stood as Greater Western Sydney’s premier business event. Founded by the Parramatta Chamber of Commerce in 1990 and delivered by multi-award-winning event management company Gandhi Creations since 2016, the WSABE platform annually recognises the businesses, professionals and emerging entrepreneurs that are actively contributing to the economic powerhouse that is Greater Western Sydney. In an annual program that typically features four events, an eight-month digital marketing campaign, a six-week judging process, and a six-week application period, the WSABE Gala represents the signature finale that this prestigious platform has become recognised for across Australia.
From as early as 2018, the 30th edition of this renowned platform was anticipated to be the biggest to date, and always poised to play a definitive role in celebrating this milestone. The emergence and rapid spread of COVID-19 in early 2020 introduced a range of unpredictable and unprecedented circumstances with the potential to negatively impact, or worse, postpone WSABE’s pinnacle event.
Having made the ambitious decision to press forward with the 2020 WSABE campaign, Australia’s events sector was still subject to strict regulation by the time that November had arrived. Left with the decision to press forward or postpone, a range of innovative and cutting-edge ideas were brainstormed by team Gandhi Creations that would ultimately enable the successful delivery and execution of the 2020 WSABE Gala at Sydney’s iconic Rosehill Gardens.
“Having been presented with the impossible task of delivering a 600 person event in a manner that would not limit opportunity to the platform’s sponsors, finalists, and the Greater Western Sydney business community at large, the Gandhi Creations team were faced with the option of either adapting to the circumstances or failing to meet the standards that guests of this event have come to expect. Through innovative event management and an outstanding team effort, we were able to successfully run two events simultaneously and provide the full WSABE experience without compromise to the platform’s expansive audience.”
- Sonia Sadiq Gandhi, Director, Gandhi Creations
“The Australian Turf Club are extremely proud to have played a key role in partnering with Gandhi Creations and Parramatta Chamber to deliver this first of its kind event. From concept development and planning through to event execution, our multi-award-winning team at Rosehill Gardens helped to ensure this year’s WSABE awards was an outstanding success and set a new benchmark in event innovation. The energy in the room on the night was one of jubilation with all 600 guests embracing the opportunity to celebrate together in such a spectacular COVID safe fashion. We look forward to continuing this proven partnership in support of the Western Sydney business community and to hosting this event for many more years to come.”
- Corina Black, Executive General Manager Commercial, Australian Turf Club
As an event which typically attracts over 600 guests annually, the first obstacle was working within the current NSW government COVID capacity limit of 300 guests per event space. To surpass this challenge, the decision was made to break up the top floor of the Australian Turf Club’s Grand Pavilion, which typically accommodates up to 1600 seated guests, into three defined sections with a central break out room solely dedicated to the Audio-Visual team. Guests of the WSABE Gala were then allocated seating across two adjacent venue spaces and the award presentations, entertainment, keynote speakers and all engagement components were alternated between the two rooms. Maintaining a presence across both rooms was ultimately accomplished through the seamless and innovative audio-visual production delivered by AVisual Productions.
“The WSABE's required a unique solution to overcome the current social distancing restrictions, however with our creative approach we were able to implement a wonderful solution for our client, while helping create a synchronised and seamless pair of events unified in their operation whilst exceeding client expectations and keeping to their budget."
- Bradley Byrne, Director, AVisual Productions
Whilst practical in theory, the second obstacle was ensuring that the 600 guests in attendance were streamlined into two groups throughout the entire process. Ultimately, the decision to split the event into two groups would be redundant if all guests were going to arrive at the same time and mingle with one another prior to the formal component of the event. Two separate forms of tickets were issued to guests one week out of the event advising if they were to be positioned in the ‘North’ or ‘South’ side of the venue. Alternate parking arrangements were coordinated for each ticket type, and separate locations for pre-dinner drinks were allocated beforehand. This result of this preparation were two entirely separate groups of guests arriving at two opposite sides of the venue and proceeding straight to their designated arrival areas before the doors to the WSABE Gala opened. Temperature checks were coordinated upon arrival and hand sanitiser and face masks were available free of charge at each registration area.
With preparation and arrival managed, this still left the arduous task of operating one event across two entirely separate venue spaces in a safe and hygienic manner. Gandhi Creations designated a maximum of three essential event staff who were permitted to move across the two venue areas. This included the Master of Ceremonies and two stage coordinators from the Gandhi Creations team. During the process of switching between rooms, these three key personnel were required to pass through an unused and entirely empty room that connected the two venue spaces and sanitise prior to entering the new area. To ensure that both rooms were operated effectively throughout the evening, all communication was carried out digitally between the twelve Gandhi Creations staff positioned across the two venue spaces.
One of the most significant challenges would be to ensure that all participants who were using the stage would be able to do so safely. With keynote speakers such as Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women and The Hon. Stuart Ayres MP, Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Major Events in attendance, a COVID-19 transmission could cause significant damage to the credibility of the platform. To ensure that this did not occur, one of the two lecterns on stage was designated exclusively to the Master of Ceremonies, meaning that the Gandhi Creations team would only have to control one side of the stage. Between each speaking address, the entire lectern was wiped down and sanitised whereas the windscreen of the microphone was replaced each time.
Another issue to address was how awards would be safely presented from our category sponsors to the winners of each award in a safe manner. To combat this, a sanitisation station was placed directly next to the stage and all on-stage guests were required to use this prior to entering. This ensured that both the presenter and recipient were free of germs during the presentation of the award. We also had an onstage award assistant who was responsible for initially providing the presenter with the award to hand over to the winner. This onstage assistant was equipped with a new pair of gloves each time the award was presented and ensured that our onstage participants were safely distanced throughout the award presentation process.
“We felt it was crucial this year, more than ever, to show leadership and lead by example. The commitment to persevere with the WSABE awards was a simple decision that presented complex obstacles that required a flexible and innovative way of thinking. The Parramatta Chamber of Commerce stood proud to deliver WSABE as it celebrated its own milestone turning 30! We are grateful for the co-operation of Gandhi Creations, ATC and AVisual Productions, as well as all other suppliers, sponsors, and supporters that joined us on the journey to bring WSABE to life and enable the platform to set a standard for the region.”
- Romina Bousimon, WSABE Committee & Business Relationship Manager, Parramatta Chamber of Commerce
Like many other businesses across Australia, the team responsible for delivering the 30th Annual Western Sydney Awards for Business Excellence Gala were forced to adapt to an entirely unfamiliar set of circumstances. Through adaptability, innovative event planning, and a collective effort between the Parramatta Chamber of Commerce, Gandhi Creations, the Australian Turf Club, and AVisual Productions, the WSABE Gala was successfully delivered in a manner that offered the full experience to its guests without compromising public health or infringing COVID-19 regulations. During a year that has presented so much hardship to businesses across Australia, the successful delivery of the 30th Annual Western Sydney Awards for Business Excellence Gala is a testament to the innovation, resilience and adaptability that have continually proved to be the silver lining of 2020.