Jarrod Eckstein, managing director at the Creative Counsel marketing agency in Johannesburg, South Africa, was blunt when he spoke to meeting professionals at Meetings Africa 2016 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg in February. When it comes to marketing meeting space, “it is the coldest industry I’ve found,” he said. “People don’t like to be treated like machines. They want to connect with human beings. We are fueled by experience. So why are you selling [meeting space] like a commodity?”
Be more creative, Eckstein urged the audience. For example, why let convention centers sit empty when meetings aren’t in session? Why not invite in the public to use the space?
Why not indeed? In Cape Town, even on a day when there are no meetings scheduled, the new Century City Conference Centre has a gentle buzz. The conference center is designed to be a hub for Century City, a mixed-use development with offices, retail, hotels, and restaurants, and the smell of coffee rises from a café on the ground floor that’s open to the public. An 80-seat business lounge upstairs offers couches, long tables, and armchairs, plus more coffee and a corner buffet. It’s available as a networking space for meeting attendees — the center can accommodate groups of up to 1,900 people. But the lounge is also open to the public. People can bring a laptop for a solo work session, or meet with others in the lounge.
And if a meeting should go long? The center is across the street from Century City Square, an outdoor space with a wine bar.