Thoughts of putting together a conference can be frustrating when we are faced with uninspired feelings of “here we go, same old, same old”. The challenge for conference venues (and conference organisers) is to continually strive to bring new and industrious ways of enhancing the conference experience – from team-building to healthy food options, innovative technology and up-to-date meeting rooms and facilities – and not at the expense of efficient, professional and personal service.
It’s refreshing to see that the team at BON Hotels have noticed the need for something different and are answering the call of conference organisers. CEO of BON Hotels Guy Stehlik recognises the need to bring something new to the (conference) table and has urged his team to think out of the box and come up with fresh ideas and approaches to improve their offering.
With the focus at BON Hotel Midrand predominantly on the corporate and conferencing markets, General Manager Dean Gilder is ever aware of the need to improve upon the delegate experience. “This can be done in small ways – for instance, aligning yourself with a dynamic team-building company that can offer alternative means of motivating and stimulating the delegates to get the very best out of them,” he says. Today, team-building companies are in line with, and often ahead of, trends and technology, and bring a whole new ambit of clever activities and challenges to the (conference) table.
Gerry Skerritt, Marketing Director at Dream Team Catalyst, highlights the shift in trends from long, outdoor team-building sessions to shorter, indoor events. “Conferences will always seek to engage and energise delegates but with events being generally of a shorter duration every second counts in already tight schedules. Most of the events in our portfolio including top sellers like Orchestrate, The Big Picture, Chain Reaction and In the Zone, can be delivered in 2 hours or less whilst we also have many events that offer a great experience in as little as 30 minutes,” he explains.
For the out-of-town venues, which are enormously popular, another way of improving the conferencing package is to partner with service providers that can improve the conference offering and make it more appealing to corporates, for example by including a shuttle or bus to and from the venue to transfer delegates.
Chefs have been tasked with coming up with healthy options for meals and breakaways – brain food if you will, also taking into account the seasons, so summer will have you creating your own salad at the Health Bar, whilst during winter, lunch will see you lapping up a bowl of your favourite soup, or clasping a hot chocolate with both hands from the Deluxe Hot Chocolate Station on your tea break. Mid-morning and afternoon breaks also have you spoilt for choice with Pancake Stations and High Tea Tables offering an array of teas, coffees and juices to sample.
Also, in keeping with the move to green, products and services are sourced locally and foods are even grown on-site. Conference delegates can come to expect less use of paper, with venues doing away with notepads, and replacing pens with pencils or using recyclable materials. Water is served in pitchers, flavoured with cucumber shavings or lemon and mint, and sugar from bowls instead of sachets, thereby reducing waste and offsetting the delegates’ carbon footprint.
General Manager of BON Hotel Shelley Point Johan de Villiers emphasises the importance of making the best use of existing facilities at your property – “We are very fortunate at Shelley Point; there are not many venues that can offer conferencing and golf or bowls, for instance – being out in the open and learning something new clears the senses and affords delegates a break from work.” Throw in a spa treatment or a beach activity and you have an extended/superior offering.
Conferencing is a vital component in the workplace to strengthen your brand, build company relationships, and empower staff, to network, be creative and breed new ideas. Conference venues can assist companies to elevate the experience for delegates by building cost-effective and invigorating conference packages that create a stage to raise the company’s ambitions and inspire its teams.