Another j2 event experience

Official Opening of 'QIMR Central' –
Queensland Institute of Medical Research new research facility

Portfolio Classification

Not-for-profit

Corporate (media call/spectacle, grand opening, morning tea)
Location QIMR Central, 300 Herston Road, Herston (Brisbane)
Year 5 December 2012
Client Queensland Institute of Medical Research
Quick Facts

 

4 weeks planning lead-time

145 guests

Favourable TV news coverage by all free-to-air networks (ABC, Channel Seven, Nine Network and Network Ten)

Substantial media presence from other journalistic press

Video message from Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia

See the Governor-General’s message here

Officiating dignitaries:

famed US National, Mr Charles (Chuck) Feeney – an Irish-American businessman and Founding Chairman of The Atlantic Philanthropies

representing the Australian Government as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan Lucas

representing the Queensland Government, Assistant Minister for Health, Chris Davis MP

Acting Chair of QIMR Council, Christopher Coyne

Master of Ceremonies, QIMR Director and CEO, Professor Frank Gannon

Background

The new 15-floor QIMR research facility occupied at 300 Herston Road, Herston represents a historical milestone in the Institute’s 67-years. It is one of three QIMR buildings along Herston Road, being flanked by QIMR’s Clive Berghoffer Building and the Bancroft Centre, which is currently under significant refurbishment works due to be completed in 2014.

Known as QIMR Central, the new building is a place where QIMR’s scientists and students work every day to improve health by developing prevention strategies, new diagnostics and better treatments for cancer, infectious diseases, mental health and other complex disorders.

The state-of-the-art research facility was made possible thanks to a generous gift from US National, Mr Charles (Chuck) Feeney – an Irish-American businessman and philanthropist, who has contributed $500 million towards research and education in Australia; along with funding from the Australian and Queensland Governments.

QIMR Central reached practical completion in late 2011 and although it had been occupied for some time, QIMR sought an event solution for an “official opening”. Multiple strategic objectives surrounded the purpose of the occasion, but crucially any “official opening” had to provide a sense of ‘spectacle’ or ‘reveal’ and ‘event purpose’ in order to attract media attention and continue communicating QIMR’s mission and research undertakings to its stakeholders, target market supporters and the wider public.

Between the building’s three core building funding parties and extended QIMR stakeholders and relationships, the Institute aimed to welcome a sizeable list of dignitaries and official guests.

J2 Services and Solutions

Within the collaborative partnership between QIMR and j2, QIMR undertook project ownership and management, with j2 providing creative direction and event management solutions.

Between the two organisation’s teams, there was very much a cooperative spirit. QIMR and j2 each fulfilled a clearly assigned range of deliverables, with QIMR liaising with dignitaries and guests leading into the event and dedicating staff on day to bolster event oversight and guest liaison resources.

j2’s responsibilities encompassed:

Creative direction and event concept with regard to adding a sense of 'spectacle' and appropriate atmosphere and styling

Event management and logistical direction

Budget projection and cost control

Guest capacity estimations of event spaces and final event location selection

Liaison with caterer and menu selection

Organisation-wide meetings and briefings with QIMR staff

Bump-in, event delivery and bump-out oversight

Stage management

Official dignitary liaison support and media management

Risk assessment and collaboration with specialists for diplomatic security needs

Level of Complexity

Short lead-time

QIMR felt it appropriate that any official opening ‘key moment’ should be presided over by Mr Chuck Feeney who was travelling in Australia during November/December 2012. However, Mr Feeney’s availability was confined by a demanding schedule and non-negotiable date of return overseas. An event date (with Mr Feeney involved) was settled upon, giving QIMR and j2 just four weeks lead-time for planning including handling guest invitations and acceptances.

Making the right impression

A delicate balance had to be struck between demonstrating QIMR and the new research facility as a world leader, and impressing upon guests that QIMR remains a not-for-profit organisation. The event needed to create a positive lasting impression, and encourage guests to enjoy the hospitality of QIMR, yet not appear too decadent or frivolous.

 

A challenging event space

Determining an appropriate venue space within the building was a priority. The preferred location – the main entrance foyer – proved complex and many challenges were overcome, requiring:

meetings with every department to understand implications of altering access to the building for one day by entirely removing main entrance access;

relocating the building’s reception and switchboard infrastructure;

communicating to hundreds of staff and guests an alternative entrance point (via the adjacent building);

hiring supplementary event furniture, which complemented the striking and unique pieces already in place;

creating an event that highlighted the remarkable architectural design of the building’s foyer and its contemporary, ‘high-tech’ feel balanced with an inviting warmth.

Sharing the opening with QIMR staff

A late request was made to live-broadcast proceedings to QIMR staff who could gather in the building’s Auditorium. The Auditorium facility is located on a mezzanine level immediately above the primary official opening event location, with access via a walkway – also overhead of the opening event space. Due to sound issues, use of this walkway would need to be prevented during formalities. j2 coordinated a seamless running order that ensured all QIMR staff arrived at the auditorium prior to formalities ensuring no effect on the main event.

Managing the media

Media attention was high and managing the amount of press in the irregular foyer space was challenging. Managing access to dignitaries – particularly the legendary Mr Feeney – benefited from a great amount of tact and consideration by j2 and QIMR.

Creative solutions

Creatively, the premise was to capture but not over-emphasize the building’s ‘scientific’ feel. Contemporary floral displays, among other features, were utilised to create balance for this purpose.

For the official opening ‘moment’, j2 strived to offer a unique way to incorporate Benzene rings (synonymous with QIMR) and apply a modern interpretation of the traditional ‘plaque reveal’. Hence, a moving-parts reveal mechanism was manufactured using the hectagonal overlapping Benzene rings graphic.

A modern lectern was hired comprising multi-layered, clear perspex, placed at irregular horizontal positioning. This lectern imitated DNA strands, again capturing ‘science’ in the event’s styling.

Heightened Diplomatic security

QIMR was honoured by the attendance of Jeffrey L Bleich, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Australia. Ambassador Bleich’s attendance added a heightened level of security to the event, with a full venue security inspection and clearance having to be undertaken.

Key Achievements

Created a ‘plaque reveal’ spectacle using the QIMR’s logo of three overlapping Benzene rings (a hectagonal geometric graphic; Benzene rings are a formation of carbon, a key element that makes up all living things; QIMR’s logo therefore represents the fundamental basis for life).

Developed a seamless order of official proceedings, which encouraged jovial, entertaining presentations by officiating dignitaries; the occasion’s mood was warm and engaging.

Secured attention from all free-to-air television networks, each of whom pieced together QIMR Central opening event footage with historical QIMR vision in ideal and favourable stories.

See the Ten News story here

Arranged guided tours through ‘behind-the-scenes’ research areas, hosted by QIMR staff with appropriate scientists in place to explain research work inside the various facilities. Guests were invited to enjoy these tours and the hospitality of the QIMR, allowing the QIMR Council, executives and staff to circulate amongst guests.

Orchestrated the legacy of a stage structure and the Benzene rings reveal mechanism (when the front hectagonal panel is turned clockwise, a plaque can be unveiled). Built for the Official Opening, the stage in particular is being regularly used for events hosted by QIMR.

Stakeholder feedback

“Thank you for making yesterday’s event such an outstanding success
– Vivienne, Claire and the team at QIMR”

Vivienne Johnson – Senior Manager External Relations, Queensland Institute of Medical Research