JUDE BARBACK reflects on what makes the Retirement Villages Association (RVA) Conference such a good do.

I thought the RVA conference programme was excellent – future-focused in theme with a high calibre of speakers. But of course, the speaker presentations are only part of it. The MC, the exhibitors, the social programme, the village tours and of course the location all contribute to a great meeting.

While the golf got off to a slightly rocky start, thanks to a directionally-challenged bus driver, the tournament was by all accounts “a good day out” as predicted. I’ve always been slightly bemused by the sport, so I nodded politely when people shared their game stories with me.

The conference started in earnest that night with a welcome function for the RVA conference newbies, followed by the PWC Cocktail Party in the trade stand area. It was here that MC Jackie Clarke made her loud and bubbly self known to all. As far as networking goes, I always feel the RVA conference has it about right. Most delegates and exhibitors are all familiar with each other, so it feels like one giant catch-up rather than a hard sell.

The exhibitors’ stands were generally pretty busy, perhaps aided by the $5000 travel prize carrot for visiting each stand and the proximity of the coffee urns.

The highlight of the RVA conference is typically the gala dinner. Conference dinners, in general, strike me as a slightly bizarre social construct. The same room in which you’ve spent the entire day listening and taking notes is magically transformed to a dining area. The same people you’ve been chatting to during coffee breaks are now standing in the exact same spot in a dinner jacket with a wine glass. Yet somehow it always works and Wednesday’s dinner, sponsored by Crombie Lockwood was no exception. Jackie Clarke kicked the entertainment off. As she began the opening bars of Bohemian Rhapsody I felt a pang of anxiety that she was messing with a song that shouldn’t be messed with, but she pulled it off, as did the fabulous band The Munroes when they too finished with the iconic Queen number.

As Jackie said on the Thursday morning, it was probably a good thing Rob Fyfe was lined up for the morning-after talk as there were a few weary heads among the audience.

The conference location, while wonderful for those who had an extended stay in Sydney, was neither here nor there for those who had a fleeting visit. The conference programme was too busy to warrant much time out. Although, I did get a chance to briefly relieve my twitching credit card at David Jones across the road…

However, the Sydney destination proved an excellent choice for the village tour, giving delegates the chance to compare and contrast their own villages back home with their Aussie counterparts.

All in all, it is fair to describe this year’s conference as a good mix of fun, learning and interaction. Well done, RVA! You did it again.

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