The rules of team building and conferencing have changed. The pursuit of healthier lifestyles, increased demand for technologies like Wi-Fi, and the need to step out of restrictive office spaces has lead business owners and their employees to seek out venues that can offer better alternatives to meet their conferencing and team building needs.
Venues have to keep up with these new demands, says Luke Sacco who is the managing director of destination management and event services at Sacco and Associates.
The company handles the business and brand management of several hotels including African Pride Irene Country Lodge in Centurion.
Some of the new trends for venues were revealed at the annual Marriot Select Brands GM Conference held earlier this year, an event which sees hotel brands from around the globe gather to discuss the latest in the hospitality industry, says Sacco who shares the four trends that he says are having a major influence currently.
1. Healthier Food Options
The ever-increasing demands placed on most employees mean it’s never been more important for them to be healthy so they are able to perform at their peak. Food plays an important part in this, which is why there is a greater demand for fresh and healthy food options like fruits and vegetables as well as gluten-free and vegan options, says Sacco.
“Most of our clients are in the mid 30’s and 40’s and are the typical high lifestyle market. That kind of market really looks after themselves,” says Sacco.
2. Interactive Team Building Opportunities
Interactive team building exercises continue to grow in popularity, but according to Sacco, they are not what they used to be.
“[Before] team building meant going out for a game drive, drinking and having a good time. Today, it’s more about working in teams to create trust and overcome barriers in the workplace, so when they go back to the workplace they have constructed and built connections between each other and between the brand that they work for.”
Because technology now enables people to be switched on at all times and to communicate remotely, team building activities need to encourage employees to switch off, interact with one another and build ‘in person’ connections.
“Employees are under so much pressure that the team buildings today have to connect people to the rest of the organisation, and very quickly because the business is under a lot of pressure to perform,” says Sacco.
3. Access To Nature and The Outdoors
Traditionally, conferences are held in a single room in a big venue. However, because many employees often work in restrictive working spaces, when given the opportunity to get out of the office, they prefer to be outdoors, says Sacco.
“People are tired of working in a closed space. So much more time is being spent in an office or in a vehicle and surrounded by bricks and mortar, that sitting in outdoor spaces just gets people to actually calm down and brings them back to a normal operating space, that’s why the demand for outdoor spaces is increasing,” Sacco says.
“Obviously people like to have a conference room as a base, but they love having their breakaway sessions outside, so they can get out of their comfort zone.”
Saccos says business owners are also beginning to request unconventional spaces, although the demand for this remains low.
“We had a strange request from a director once who wanted to have his meetings in the deep freeze. This was for two reasons – at minus 20 everyone understood what needed to be achieved in the shortest time frame, and there were very few questions. Unconventional, but very functional.”
4. Green and Socially Responsible Venues
Many businesses as well as individuals now consider social responsibility and environmental friendliness to be a must when choosing their venue, says Sacco.
“A lot of international brands are required to link their businesses to other brands that have social and economic development plans for their people and do things aligned with commitment to the environment, so those brands tend to take preference over those that don’t really have a footprint, care about the carbon footprint or invest in their people using various initiatives.