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05/09/2020

Durban ICC goes virtual – Scott Langley

The business of the Durban ICC is about conferences and meetings, the very thing outlawed by the Covid-19 lockdown measures. How has the Durban ICC been affected?
Covid-19 and its accompanying lockdown restrictions has hit the tourism industry hard and the Durban ICC has not been exempted. Luckily, the Durban ICC has been building strong relationships with its clients over many years. Consequently, we were able to go to our clients and find new future dates for their events. We tried to postpone as many events as possible and minimise the cancellations. With the current restrictions in place on gatherings, there continues to be a really tough time for the tourism and conferencing industry. Consequently, we are looking to reinvent ourselves and do things in the virtual and the online space. Doing meetings in this new way is the new normal for us.
Meetings and communication are still essential. How are you reinventing the Durban ICC and your business?
We are always trying to position ourselves as “Africa’s leading convention centre”. We have been investing heavily in our meetings’ technology over the last couple of years. So, we are really looking forward to being recognised as “Africa’s smartest convention centre”.
We are now in a position where we are able to offer a whole range of virtual events from live streaming events to hybrid events, virtual events, video on demand, and to complete remote presentation events to our clients.
What are ‘virtual’ and ‘hybrid’ events and how do they work?
A hybrid event is your normal traditional face to face event, which takes place in a venue with a digital component such a live streaming component added in. We recognise that event organisers put a lot of time and effort in putting the event content together and selecting the speakers line up. By adding a digital component, which allows them to live stream that content at the same time, they really are able to maximise on all this hard work, monetise their event in new ways and reach a new audience.
A virtual event is designed to be completely online, and all content is presented on an online format.
The best part is that companies are taking advantage of this kind of event solution even during the lockdown by using the technology we offer and not having to wait until live events fully start up again. Some are even able to reach much larger audiences by taking their events online than they would have with a traditional live event and monetise them accordingly.
How far along is the process of development for virtual and hybrid event solutions at the Durban ICC?
We have been offering this solution for a while now. We did our first collaborative hybrid event with a client in September 2019, before anyone had heard the term Covid-19. This event was for a local association and was streamed nationally. Since that time, we have done many international events with simultaneous streams and both virtual and hybrid events. We feel that we are now in a good position to offer this in many different formats, both nationally and internationally. We feel that we have really earned our stripes in this space.
What are the benefits for the virtual delegate?
There many benefits. First and foremost, there is a massive cost saving, which includes the cost for a delegate to travel to a conference such as flights and accommodation costs. The belt tightening requirement that all companies have had to face in recent years is also significant. Whereas companies use to send ten people from a single company to a conference, they may now send only two people. Companies expect those two people to convey the conference content to the rest of the company on their return. With the hybrid and the virtual conference that content doesn’t have to be relayed. The guys who need to be consuming that content can get it first-hand, in real time in their boardrooms, or in the comfort and safety of their own homes. Companies are also only paying for one or two of those registrations depending on how the event organisers set up the conference proceedings.
The delegates can still get the same interaction as in face to face events through real time chat options. They can be interacting with speakers through asking questions, making comments as well as getting their points heard.
The delegates could also choose to view the content at a later time if it suits their schedule better, through the video-on-demand option after the event. They can also view selected sessions from the conference which pertain to their areas of interest.
The delegates can also participate as sponsors. Companies can get their brands out in front of other conference delegates in the form of video sponsorships and through the use of screen logos for the duration of the event.
Do you see this kind of conferencing become the new norm after COVID-19?
I think that the digital components of events will be here to stay because of the advantages that they offer to event organisers, to the venues and to the whole conferencing industry.
How soon will these services be on offer?
We are happy to start working with virtual and hybrid conferencing requests immediately.
Contact: Scott Langley T: +27 (0)31 360 1000 E: sales@icc.co.za

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