Melbourne Convention And Exhibition Centre – Home Of AIME

Group Team

 Natalie O’Brien was appointed CEO in January 2023 and brings a wealth of leadership experience in the tourism and events industry. She is a former CEO of Food and Wine Victoria, producers of Australia’s internationally acclaimed Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.

Ms O’Brien joins MCEC at a crucial time as the organisation recovers from the impact of COVID-19 and builds for the future. The Centre has reopened to strong demand for business in 2022, and her experience will play a key role in continuing to guide the business back to its pre-pandemic levels of success in the coming years.

What are your expectations for AIME 2023? 

MCEC is the home of AIME, and we’ve hosted the event since opening our doors. In 2023, we expect another year of people and businesses connecting and doing business – inspiring a bright global future for business events.

AIME is a flagship event for our industry and a favourite event at MCEC. As Australia’s largest convention and exhibition space, we’re well-placed to create spaces for people to connect, collaborate and learn. We have 70,000 square metres of flexible event space in the heart of Melbourne, and our riverside location makes for spectacular settings to celebrate AIME’s 30th anniversary.

AIME is a great opportunity for us to showcase our versatile and welcoming spaces, world[1]class food, and our event expertise to the world and reinforce our place as a premier business events venue. We’ll introduce the industry to the Geelong Convention and Exhibition Centre this year. Opening in 2026, this will include a hotel, commercial spaces, a plenary venue, and 3,700 square metres of multipurpose space on Geelong’s waterfront. This is being developed as part of the Geelong City Deal, a partnership between the Australian and Victorian Governments, together with the City of Greater Geelong.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far? 

I’m beyond thrilled to be stepping into this important leadership position, helping guide the iconic Centre through its next growth stage as we expand the economic and social contribution we can make to Victoria. This is my time to harness the experience and knowledge of the organisation, its people, customers, and partners.

MCEC had a strong return in 2022, which is fantastic. But I understand there have been challenges along the way. The broader tourism and events industry has been adjusting to a new operating environment in the wake of COVID-19. But I’m a big believer in collaboration and problem-solving to find creative solutions, and I’m confident the industry is well-placed to respond. It’s exciting to look ahead at the return of industry-leading international events like AIME and the opportunities in 2023 and beyond.

Are business events recovering from the pandemic? 

The short answer is yes. There is an appetite for in-person gatherings again. We experienced a rapid return of demand, but with this comes different customer requirements and expectations. We must collaborate with customers as we all get back to doing what we love.

Before the pandemic, MCEC was a popular global destination for business events. In 2019, MCEC hosted 1,297 events, welcomed 27,000 international delegates and contributed more than $1.1 billion to the Victorian economy.

As we – and the world – recover from the impacts of the pandemic, our event numbers, delegate attendance, and economic impact are trending up. For the 2021-22 financial year, MCEC contributed over $383 million to the Victorian economy, hosted 349 events and welcomed 1.6 million visitors, including the welcome return of international delegates.

Looking ahead, Melbourne Convention Bureau has secured 76 events for MCEC which are expected to attract 120,750 attendees over the next eight years and contribute $772 million in economic impact. One of the world’s biggest business events, the 14th World Chambers Congress, will be held at MCEC in 2025. It will ensure Melbourne remains part of the global conversation around hosting corporate conferences. It is expected to bring more international business to Victoria, with a significant direct benefit for our accommodation, hospitality and tourism sectors.

How is 2023 going to be for MCEC? 

We’re excited about the year ahead, with many exciting events in the pipeline this year. This includes new international business, like the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, which will be held in Australia for the first time at MCEC. We’ll be welcoming a host of international events, such as Rotary International and the ISA World Congress of Sociology, with a combined visitor total of over 20,000 delegates to the Centre.

As Victoria heads toward the delivery of the 2026 Commonwealth Games, the coming years present an opportunity to showcase Victoria’s world-class tourism, sporting, nature-based, cultural, and culinary offerings. This will be a crucial focus for us in 2023.


What do you think is the biggest strength of MCEC right now? 

Our greatest asset is and always will be our people. Though it’s still early days, it’s clear to me that our team is made up of talented, innovative, and kind people who care so much about our customers and each other.


What unique selling proposition of MCEC separates you from competitors? 

We are Melbourne’s home of unconventional events. As Australia’s largest convention and exhibition space, we cover over 70,000 square metres right in the heart of Melbourne. MCEC is where incredible events come to life. We welcome meetings, conferences, exhibitions, concerts and galas of all shapes and sizes. And our space and tech support in[1]person, virtual and hybrid formats.

Our versatile spaces accommodate every event imaginable. We have 63 meeting rooms, 39,000 square metres of pillarless exhibition space, a grand banquet room that can accommodate 1,500 people, a 5,500+ seat Plenary that can be transformed into three self-contained acoustically separate theatres, another theatre that offers 9,000 square metres of space and retractable seating for 1,000 people, foyer and gala spaces with spectacular city views, and sunny outdoor courtyards.

But we also offer so much more than versatile spaces. Our stunning city is our inspiration, and Melbourne is reflected in our architecture, design, food, hospitality, location and views. Our talented teams bring fresh ideas and imagination to every event and will turn concepts on their head to make each experience meaningful.


How do you see MCEC changing in the next five years? 

As the new CEO of MCEC, I’m excited to lead an already iconic Melbourne landmark into the next growth phase as the organisation’s enormous impact and benefit continue to expand across Victoria. I will work with the incredible team at MCEC, empowering them to continue to achieve their very best and contribute to the experience of all visitors and residents of this vibrant and diverse state.

Sustainability, inclusion and diversity will continue to be a focus. We will always strive to find innovative solutions to modern challenges, deliver great outcomes for our people, customers, community and environment, and ensure our venue is a sustainable event destination.

We will also continue building solid relationships with our customers, people, the community we serve, and key government and industry stakeholders while fostering new partnerships and business outcomes in an increasingly competitive market.

At our core is our customer, and there’s a lot of opportunity for us to explore ways we can enhance their journey. This is especially so as we transition from a single venue operator to a multi-site operator over the next five years, with a new convention centre in Geelong opening in 2026. I’m excited to explore what opportunities this will present to showcase and celebrate Victoria’s regions globally alongside Melbourne.



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