WHEN the DIG festival debuted in Newcastle in 2013, rock star corporate speakers weighted the tech schedule.
And so it remained for the next two years, when the Digital Innovation and Growth festival drew an average 500 attendees over a few days.
“It was like the big picture of ‘this is what you need to be aware of, this is what is changing in the world,” says co-organiser Steph Hinds.
That all changes at this year’s October 13-14 event, which has an almost exclusively local line-up.
“We’ve done the high end of things and now it’s about getting people to open their workbooks and implement the stuff we’ve taught them,” Ms Hinds says.
She and co-organiser Craig Wilson say their Hunter line-up is indicative of how Newcastle has progressed.
“Three years ago, complacency was rife and without being alarmist, we’ve been saying ‘change is coming, you’re all affected, disruption is everywhere’,” Mr Wilson says.
“This year it’s about ‘here are the tools to embrace change and give you practical ways to address all this.”
Four years ago, he argues, the line-up couldn’t have been so local because start-ups were thin on the ground and companies weren’t as digitally focused.
DIG 2016 is a “business masterclass”, with each speaker a component of a program pertinent to firms moving with the tech tide.
Speakers include Ms Hinds (founder of progressive cloud-based accountancy Growthwise), Mr Wilson (head of digital marketing agency Sticky); Doughheads entrepreneur Anna Farthing and business accelerator Slingshot’s founders.
“People will actually be sketching out a plan for change for their business over the two days, and can engage with presenters,” says Mr Wilson.
The duo say the event is not about profits – “If you factor in the time we put in, we lose money, but we cover our costs” – but giving back.
“Newcastle is a brilliant community and we don’t get things Sydney and Melbourne get that are government funded or supported – why should we miss out on that?” says Ms Hinds.