Welcome the unknown at 2020 SAACI Annual Congress


The 2020 annual congress of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI), will give delegates up-to-date knowledge to steer and grow their businesses in the current challenging business environment.

Themed ‘Welcome the Unknown’, it will be held at the Indaba Hotel and The Canvas in Johannesburg from 26 to 28 July.

SAACI Chairperson Kim Roberts says the congress is revered as the gold standard of knowledge sharing and thought leadership in the business events industry. “This year’s theme encapsulates the current business environment and the approach we should take in business at the start of the new decade.

“Through robust engagement we will find some of the solutions we are looking for, in our efforts to ensure that our industry makes its rightful contribution to the country’s economy. In this regard, the support of the Department of Tourism and the South Africa National Convention Bureau is particularly significant.”

She says it can no longer be business as usual and that the SAACI congress programme has been designed to give the industry real, practical take-home value.

It has been divided into different studios, namely audience acquisition and engagement, the business of events, event strategy and design, innovation, leadership and lifestyle – each reflecting fresh, current-day thinking and trends.

The Innovation Studio, for instance, will illustrate how to stop planning meetings and start designing experiences. “Engage them before the event, get their emotions going with compelling visuals and tell them stories.

“Link them in themed experience rooms where they can network. Give them robust, interactive and engaging sessions that they can share afterwards and keep exploring together. And then introduce the tech-driven innovations.”

“It’s time for a deep dive into what’s new, what’s next and what matters in the business events industry,” says Ms Roberts.

Thandubuhle Mgudlwa, director: Tourism at the City of Johannesburg says at least 74 percent of large multi-national companies are headquartered in Johannesburg and 45 international airlines touch down at OR Tambo International Airport.

“We have a strategic focus on the business events industry and work with private sector partners such as SAACI to leverage opportunities in the sector. Hosting SAACI’s annual congress this year will definitely contribute to promoting the city as a business events destination.”

According to Ms Roberts the congress will also have a special focus on youth as the future of business events, involving the first-ever SAACI student chapter.

Well-known marketing guru Leon Lategan, who works as a conversion optimisation specialist and coach and creator of entrepreneurs, will focus on stakeholder engagement with his topic ‘No spectators allowed! It’s time to engage with audiences to share their ideas live.’

He says delegates, especially millennials, want to feel that marketing does not just target a delegate number but what is being offered is worth their investment of money and time.

Yoadan Tilahun, founder of Flawless Events, the leading corporate event management firm in Ethiopia, will focus on collaboration in Africa, illustrating why the continent is a lucrative market for the business events sector and is becoming the rising star of the international industry.

In the Lifestyle Studio, revered South African cyclist Nicholas Dlamini, who currently rides for UCI WorldTeam NTT Pro Cycling, will focus on the importance of a balanced lifestyle for improved cognitive ability, attention and memory, as well as happier moods.

Other confirmed speakers are Isaac Mbatha, CEO of Sky Tents SA and Nomasonto Ndlovu, CEO of the Limpopo Tourism Agency.

John Arvanitakis, chairperson of the congress organising committee, says additional speakers will be confirmed in the coming weeks and will be announced on social media and elsewhere. “Speakers and topics have been chosen to help shift parameters and mind-sets, for the congress to truly be a milestone in the professional development of delegates.

“Also, for the first time in the history of the congress, there will be a call for abstracts, which will certainly contribute to lifting the content to an even higher level.”