Incentive events often reward past performance. But how do you incentivise the winners for next time?

Kris Madden writes that you employ some of the best-performed Australians in the world.

Australian paceman Glenn McGrath is the most successful fast bowler in cricket history - but the way he played the game could have been made for a business audience.

Renowned for his accuracy, mental strength and positive attitude, McGrath took more test and one day international wickets combined (944) than any other fast bowler. In a sport where blisteringly quick speed merchants are revered, McGrath didn't try to bowl at an express 150km/hr. His incentive was success - by focusing on what he could do, instead of what he couldn't.


Kristian Nicholls, of Business Events Sydney, well remembers the day McGrath bowled over delegates attending Dreamtime, Tourism Australia's annual signature incentive showcase. International delegates touring Sydney were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Sydney Cricket Ground before being surprised by a meet-and-greet with McGrath, who bowled to guests in the batting cages.

"Glenn McGrath was a true inspiration and provided an insight into the world of sport and his thoughts on achieving greatness; as well as the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a more interactive experience, such as having a hit and a bowl, chat, and of course, photos taken with him," says Nicholls.

Successful and inspiring people are powerful weapons in the quest to create business events with the 'wow' factor. From entrepreneurs to sporting heroes to thought-leaders in a particular industry, individuals at the top of their game can encourage corporate teams to better results in their personal and professional lives.

Sydney Cricket Ground played a significant role in McGrath's cricketing history; it's where he played his last test in 2007. Connecting a personality to a place can provide impact and gives an event a money-can't-buy experience, like lunch on court at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne with Australian tennis players.

Connecting with real-life events or hearing lessons others have learned in reaching their goals is a potent way to relay corporate messages and reinforce brand values. A strong message delivered by a trustworthy, knowledgeable ambassador can work miracles when it comes to motivation; Australia has no shortage of such personalities.

McGrath is just one in Saxton Speakers Bureau's stable of Australian cricketers, which include Shane Warne, Allan Border and Merv Hughes, along with rugby legends and Olympic champions. Their stories of the mental strength and perseverance it takes to become a world champion add a compelling dimension to business events.

On the subject of mental strength, Afterburner's team of coaches and facilitators are all current or former serving Royal Australian or New Zealand Air Force fighter pilots - experts in the art of the theory of "flawless execution" (FLEX, for short) and applying it to business.

"We started Afterburner after identifying a universal application of the high-performance process fighter pilots go through in the culture of military aviation," says managing director Christian "Boo" Boucousis.

He believes the simple methodology used by fighter pilots can accelerate the performance of any business or organisation: "We share the process we use as fighter pilots to operate in some of the world's most complex environments. Our aim is for participants to walk away from our programmes with something simple and meaningful - that can be applied the very next day and have an immediate impact on their performance."

Campbell Arnott engaged the services of 'top gun' pilots for the organisation's senior management: "We saw an opportunity with Afterburner to develop a set of skills in our leaders which promoted a sense of collaboration and continuous improvement," says Kelly Parmenter, Campbell Arnott's human resources manager for commercial teams.

"Our aim was to bring a cross-functional group together by developing a skill set encouraging them to work together better and create a common language to maximise effectiveness. The session received the best feedback we have ever had from a meeting of that kind and the skills and tools shared gained traction across the organisation.

"During one of the first meetings, our president for Asia-Pacific met Christian on site and flew with him in one of the fighter planes. The footage of this was later incorporated into our session which the participants really enjoyed."

However, it's not just celebrities or trained corporate presenters who can create the memorable. Australia has no shortage of personalities whose passion for a particular subject and an insight into the unfamiliar can also inspire.

Like Josh 'Koomal' Whiteland, an Australian Aboriginal who has a personal commitment to sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for his Margaret River region homeland. Nikki King of Australian walking tour company, Walk into Luxury, says Josh recently held her guests spellbound with his wealth of knowledge and ability to pass on many aspects of Australia's indigenous culture.

Other corporate groups report being enthralled, and even brought to tears, by Whiteland's mesmerising didgeridoo playing inside Western Australia's Ngilgi Cave.

From cooking classes with master chefs to playing a round with a PGA golf pro, from those who can awaken emotions to countless thought-provoking Australians who can take an event from ordinary to life-changing, the Australian incentives industry has new thinking, fresh perspectives and insights that can take everyone's game to the next level.

Glenn McGrath again - asked why he developed such a hard-nosed, hard-working recipe for success, he responded: "I'd like to say it is a little bit of an Australian attitude. There were some batsmen in the team who did not like it when I made predictions and targeted batsmen of the other team, things like that."

It worked. In 2000, before taking on Pakistan, McGrath predicted publicly he would out-perform Pakistani quick Shoaib Akhtar, recognised then as the fastest in the world. Akhtar bowled incredibly quickly - but McGrath took double the number of wickets.
There it is: the Australian penchant for being winners - a useful addition to any corporate culture.