Small firm with proven track record
Maintaining sharp focus and possessing masses of attention to detail while deftly balancing the many and varied demands of clients is all part of a conference manager’s essential skill set.
That, and an A-type personality says Ali Copeman, managing director of Dunedin based akB Conference Management.
Core to their expertise, conference managers must have solid business acumen, understand marketing, promotions and risk management, have strongly developed relationships with venue and accommodation operators, and be capable of seamlessly rescuing an event when the unexpected strikes.
“It’s not enough to have organised a venue with an AV operator,” Ali says.
With a strong background in sports management positions from her mid teens, Ali established akB Conference Management in the late 1990s when her husband was considering moving into independent TV production.
“We looked at me being production manager because the organising skill set can be in sport, TV, business production – anything.
“It’s a very transferable skill set. So I managed a couple of projects for an advertising bureau and then got a phone call asking if I could organise an annual medical conference that was coming to Dunedin.”
Ali’s first conference was in 2002 and so successful that a couple of delegates approached her to see if she would organise their conferences.
That was the beginning of Ali’s foray into the world of conference management. She has never looked back and she never went into TV productions.
Since those early days, Ali and akB have developed a respected reputation for delivering quality conferences on both large and small scales, the depth and breadth of the country at a local, national and international level.
“We tend to specialise in medical and academic conferences but we will do almost everything,” explains Ali.
She says that while she has managed conferences for 2000 delegates, akB’s bread and butter conference is around the 300-delegate mark and 400-500 is not uncommon.
“We’re a small operator delivering a professional service,” says Ali.
“We’re now one of New Zealand’s longest serving conference management companies and one of only 23 who are Professional Conference Organiser (PCO) approved by Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ).”
As Chair of the CINZPCO group Ali is a strong advocate of PCO endorsement by CINZ, Ali says clients choosing a PCO can be assured of their professional rigour, expertise and the overall quality of the product delivered.
“It gives that peace of mind that you are dealing with a professional who has a proven record, with referrals from sub contractors, operators and clients.”
Asked what the letters ‘ akB’ stands for, Ali tells me that a mentor told her that production companies always had an acronym for a name but at the time she couldn’t think of anything.
At home with her husband one evening, he asked where something had been put.
She told him but he only had a ‘mans look’ and Ali went to the exact place and upon finding it said: ‘See – Ali knows best’ – and akB was born.
“It fits well with the conference management ethos – Trust me, I know what I’m doing.”