How to avoid the multi-day conference rut

Resorts offer some real benefits when it comes to conferencing, from ensuring delegates’ undivided attention to giving sponsors quality exposure. But how do you keep a multi-day event fresh and interesting? Liesl Venter finds out more.

Infusing variety into a multi-day conference can be daunting. Too much and delegates are overwhelmed. Too little and you have boredom on your hands. But nothing spells disaster more quickly than bored delegates trudging through the same scenes day after day, sampling the same snacks and hanging out at the same coffee bar, no matter how exotic the venue.

Resort managers agree that the key benefit of their venues is that one has complete engagement with delegates. “There are no distractions that lure delegates away from their primary focus, which is the content and activities around the conference,” says Anton Meiring, gm of the African Pride Mount Grace Hotel & Spa. But, he immediately adds, introducing and ensuring variety for those delegates must be a top priority.

Resorts, by their very nature, are in a position to do this. “Another benefit of a conference at a resort is that there are various additional options that can be offered to incorporate variety. This is in the form of different and creative offerings, which can range from dressing up the venues, to doing more exciting events and activities in the open spaces that resorts typically have to offer. This can be done around pools, open gardens and other outdoor venues, and bring in fixtures such as Bedouin tents and marquees and elements such as fire and drums,” he explains.

Keeping it fresh

Jadine Venter, a conferencing co-ordinator at African Pride Arabella Hotel, says often it is about doing something unusual with the usual. “Delegates have to take refreshment breaks but instead of the standard coffee and tea during the break, introduce a quick wine tasting.” It is all about pushing boundaries and creating experiences. It also does not mean that the same venue can’t be used. “A good rotation of the offering in the same venues is also possible,” says Meiring. “A variety of freshly prepared healthy foods, with some elements of indulgence added in offers a change. It is about keeping things different and interesting.”

Resorts also pride themselves on having a host of activities available for guests, often carefully selected on the location – beach resorts will have a host of beach activities as opposed to those in the bushveld.

Explains Meiring: “A resort takes you away from the everyday, and puts you into an environment that has endless possibilities with lots of flexibility. All your modern necessities, such as high tech, switched-on conferencing, can be catered for, however once you’re done engaging with colleagues from all over the world, you can jump on to a quad bike for some adventure in the outdoors.”

He says it is essential, however, that a resort should not be approached with the mind-set of “just another conference venue”. “It should rather be looked at as a playground where, if you can imagine it, it can be done. There are no limits and no restrictions. The more variety you incorporate, the better your results will be, and the better equipped your delegates will leave,” adds Meiring.