Sandton Convention Centre is having another exciting year of firsts, having hosted the high-level African Union Summit in June, which was attended by heads of state, government, ministers, and representatives from the 54 member countries, as well as the successful Ice Age Exhibition of 45 moving, life-size animals distributed among 12 scenes.
Other top events at Sandton Convention Centre this year highlight the extensive range of the venue’s capabilities. These events include the Future of Media, the Southern African Funeral Expo, African Education Week, Aviation Outlook Africa, Markex, The Fashionist, Totally Concrete Africa, and many more.
A significant event from a business tourism perspective was the iconic industry event, Meetings Africa, which this year celebrated its 10th anniversary and attracted close to 200 international hosted buyers, 50 African associations and 500 corporate travel buyers. The event showcases Africa’s steady climb in the world rankings as a preferred business destination, with South Africa now ranked as the 34th most popular destination globally on the International Congress and Convention Association’s (ICCA) global rankings, having hosted 118 internationally-recognised association conferences during 2013.
“This milestone marks a decade of growth, innovation and the positive economic impact that Meetings Africa has driven for the African continent,” says Dr Mati Nyazema, Executive Director of the SCC.
As a ‘confex’ event – a combined conference and exhibition – Meetings Africa is perfectly accommodated within the SCC’s 22,000m² space, which is capable of providing venues to suit the event’s requirements for exhibition space, small meetings rooms, a gala venue and smaller cocktail venues, along with internal catering. Ideally located in Sandton, the purpose-built 12-storey structure is designed to hold an array of events concurrently, accommodating up to 10,000 guests at any one time while still being capable of hosting the intimate meetings and events that are a core component of Meetings Africa and other confex events.
The rise of the ‘confex’
The confex trend is gaining traction in the events industry as a viable value-add for organisers, exhibitors, and delegates.
“While the confex concept has been around for some time – in fact the first conference at SCC was the National Conference on Racism in September 2000, which included an exhibition component – it certainly is becoming more commonly adopted by organisers in the global events arena,” says Nyazema, who adds that the SCC has always strived to accommodate this trend.
Nigel Walker, MD of Compex, specialists in the confex arena and organisers of the first exhibition at the National Conference on Racism at SCC, agrees that the confex trend is definitely growing across the eventing board. “The trend is to transform conferences or exhibitions into events and experiences – to the benefit of all participants.”
He says that for organisers, an exhibition component in a conference can contribute significantly to the conference income while adding an additional draw-card for the delegates. It also allows organisers an opportunity to give their sponsors the exposure that they deserve with their often-significant investment in the event.
For exhibitors, the biggest benefit is a targeted and captive audience. “Exhibitors can be very specific as to what they show on their stands, knowing that specialists in a very specific field will be attending,” says Walker.
Delegates too, are content to spend time at the exhibition as they know that it will be relevant to their spheres of interest – and this is often a time for positive networking among the exhibitors and the delegates. Walker says that organisers need to make sure that conference delegates get enough time to visit the exhibition with tea and lunch breaks of a reasonable duration and that it is not difficult to access from the conference area.
Lorraine Strydom and Michelle Bingham, Sales Managers in Exhibitions and Corporate respectively for SCC, are noticing the confex trend at many of their events, even at internal corporate events. “An exhibition as part of a seminar or conference adds excitement to the event, contributes to the learning or training process, and brings in extra income, helping to cover the costs of the event,” says Bingham.
Strydom notes that several big conferences that take place at SCC are increasing their exhibition space each year, based on the success of the events as the exhibition space is allocated according to demand for it. She believes that the trend will continue growing because of the value it adds for all stakeholders. In both ladies’ experience they have picked up that conference delegates are ‘getting smarter’ about attending events because of tightening budgets and attending a conference and exhibition in one is a favoured choice.
Strydom adds that the confex concept has also been moving steadily into the exhibition and trade fair arena for some years, and that seldom does one take place without offering a ‘free-to-attend’ seminar or workshop. “But this has to be managed carefully,” she says, “as too much in the way of seminars could take visitors off the exhibition floor.” This means that seminars usuallu take place at certain times only, and on the exhibition floor.
“Driving footfall, increasing profitability, and adding value is the aim of every event held at SCC,” says Nyazema, “and the confex is proving to be an ideal platform for achieving this for all concerned.”
The size and stature of events hosted regularly within the SCC’s walls conjure up an image of large-scale events, but this is just the tip of its iceberg of capabilities. Nestled within the four main levels are a number of venues that cater for smaller, more intimate business events.
Approximately 13 smaller, multi-purpose venues offer endless possibilities, providing a space that can accommodate anything from two to 350 guests for private cocktail functions, intimate dinners, meetings of various sizes, executive brainstorms, AGMs, breakaway rooms and interview rooms.
The variety of options available at SCC extends from its venues to its suppliers, accommodation and food and beverage. Customised packages are tailor-made for each client to accommodate the specific requirements of the event and the SCC prides itself on its ability to provide both the venue and expertise to ensure that everything from the décor, to the menu and entertainment are seamlessly co-ordinated.
*This was paid-for copy was supplied by client