DJ turned designer turned festival director George Hedon has made a career out of convergence. His annual festival, Pause Fest, which kicks off in Melbourne today celebrates the best and brightest in the tech, creative and business world.
It was eight years ago that Hedon first turned his self-proclaimed “designer scatterbrain” to the notion of Pause, a meeting of minds that crossed disciplines and industries.
“Even as an artist my work would always end up as a multimedia piece,” he tells Kochie’s Business Builders. “So, for me personally, mixing industries and creating convergence was how things are done. Originally, we had an idea of putting together a one-off party/exhibition/immersive event but found out that the cost to put the show the way we wanted in the Docklands hangars was beyond our budget.”
Hedon says rather than being discouraged and walking away from the concept he pivoted to a festival format…
“Yeah, not a smaller event as a normal person would think, but a much bigger multi-day event that engaged many small venues in Melbourne. Again it was my designer non-linear thinking,” he laughs.
Designer brain aside, Hedon confesses the real inspiration for Pause Fest came from his desire to collaborate with passionate people.
“[Pause Fest] is a safe zone to experiment and show those experimentations to the world in the format of the event, screenings, talks. We wanted to bring together different people with different mindsets and skillsets and see what magic comes from the interaction. The meaning of Pause for us was ‘a moment in time when we get together’ which is of at most importance in today’s fast-paced digital world.”
In the eight years since the festival began, Hedon says much has changed.
“In the first two years you hope people to like what you do, then the next three years you try to stay alive and figure out a business model and why they are not liking you more. In the last couple of years, we focused on developing the best festival experience.
“It’s hard to pioneer a new festival in Melbourne, the festival capital of Australia. There have been so many changes that have happened over the eight years on our journey, in our attempt to stay alive, relevant and exciting and, in doing so, we have developed our brand personality, that is edgy, fresh and never static.”
Hedon strives to maintain Pause Fest’s place on the cutting edge. As festival-goers expectations rise, so too does Hedon’s push to expand the Pause Fest platform.
“We offer more each year,” he explains. “From the festival layout to event experience, new stages, bigger speakers, new events, new website and branding. Pause almost turns 360 for each iteration. That’s super exciting and keeps us always on the top of the game. We preach innovation and we are one of very few that actually executes it in almost every aspect of the event every year. We listen to attendee feedback, have on-ground research teams, track data, add new elements and try to improve each year.”
According to Hedon the biggest challenge in putting together the Pause Fest program is synchronicity.
“Making sure that every cogwheel is placed well and works perfectly in sync with others. We now have a lot of top speakers and brands enquiring to be involved which is a great turnaround. Another thing I think a lot about is how to scale up and keep all the essential ingredients and our brand DNA intact. That’s why I decided strategically to make the festival more premium and exclusive.”
Attendees of Pause Fest are accustomed to seeing some great firsts, from the launch of new tech to access to top speakers; and Hedon believes anyone with an interest in technology, innovation, business and startups should attend.
“I’m looking how to best deliver social impact. That’s my KPI. I want to see people succeed in their lives, businesses in whatever they do. I want Melbourne to champion this facilitation in Australia – to be the destination that empowers creators,” he concludes.
Pause Fest is on in Melbourne from February 7-9. For more info visit pausefest.com.au
*The writer was a guest of Pause Fest