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Simple business conference essentials

South Africa is fast becoming a globally preferred destination for some of the world’s biggest industry events. This year the country is hosting leading global conferences for the first time including The World Travel Market, the BRICS conference and Entrepreneurs Organization’s Global Leadership Conference.

According to stats SA, 2 106 923 travellers (arrivals, departures, and transits) passed through South Africa’s ports of entry/exit in February 2023 with many of these being business travellers. With so much focus going into increasing the number of repeat visitors to South Africa’s shores for these conferences, it is important to ensure the smooth running of every facet of these events.

Attendees are looking for simple but seamless and memorable experiences and for event planners, it is important to draw up a list of essentials to make it so.

Face-to-face meetings that create connections

With the rise in remote and hybrid work, many people who joined new companies in the last few years have likely been meeting their colleagues online. While this has proved to be an efficient way to work, with reduced travel time to and from meetings, for example, it misses the important face-to-face connections that are made from physical meetings.

A simple element of business conferences in 2023, are networking sessions that get attendees talking face to face. This could be through tea breaks, where question cards are placed alongside canapes. These can serve as prompts or conversation starters while attendees stand around enjoying their snacks. In-person conversations help to build trust and foster greater engagement through personal experiences such as eye contact.

Seamless technology experiences 

With so much attention being given to ensuring that the latest video, audiovisual and other technology is available at conferences, some organisers have forgotten to remember the smaller details around technology. While cutting-edge technology is important, finer touches such as charging stations, should not be forgotten.

The ideal conference or meeting venue should include multiple areas for charging laptops and other devices and the wifi password should be displayed in multiple locations. Attendees should not feel as if they have ever had to spend time going to search for a plug point or wifi password.

Another item could be to include both tables and chairs in the conference venue so that attendees feel comfortable using their laptops during talks instead of having to balance them on their knees or leave the venue to make use of the device. Many attendees will need to complete some work during a conference, and organisers should accommodate for this.

Memorable venues in carefully picked locations

“Today, the idea of a C-Suite executive working remotely from a sunny island over a small office or 5-day-a-week space is more acceptable. The same has become true for destinations where work events are held. At the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, for example, conferences are held inside the hotel and during breaks, teams enjoy a stroll alongside the ocean on the hotel’s doorstep,” says Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront Food and Beverage  Manager, Colleen Lategan.

Venues like these give people a sense of ease and added enjoyment, over venues in tall buildings with windows that might not open. “Teams working through the day in our meeting rooms with natural light, windows that can open and ocean views, instead of fluorescent light, have also expressed feeling less tired at the end of a conference day,” adds Lategan. For busy travellers who might not get a chance to explore the city, mixing conferences with a nature-filled experience helps them to feel that they’ve experienced at least a part of their travel destination.

Attention to detail

It is often the small things that make people feel valued. At the top of the list for any traveller are personal greetings and help being there as soon as it is needed. Consider making sure that there is a person at the entrance to the venue to meet and greet each attendee. Another added touch could be to have a person situated on the events floor to attend to any questions or queries during the event.

People also value any digital summary of what has happened at the event. These summaries can include key details of what the talks they attended were instead of a long press release or video recording.

Essentials need not be extravagant

World-class conferences become so, not because of grand gestures or extravagant goodie bags, but rather as a result of the attention paid to the smaller details. Elements such as meaningful engagements with peers and conference staff, enjoyment of local experiences and seamless technology will go a long way in fostering positive experiences.