Taking the brand to a whole new level of excellence is Sandton Convention Centre’s mission as it reviews its position in the South African and global market.

Last year Sandton Convention Centre commissioned intensive and independent research to determine its strengths and weaknesses, as well as a clear direction for a repositioning in the market.

“Sandton Convention Centre has a fairly brief but rather illustrious history, having been purpose-designed and built just over 13 years ago. We have constantly strived to be a relevant and valuable part of our dynamic industry, which we believe we have achieved,” says Mati Nyazema, Executive Director of Sandton Convention Centre. “Certainly in the last couple of years we have seen the company take its place at the forefront of the African events industry, with the hosting of a range of influential and large-scale global events, which included the Global African Diaspora Summit in May last year.

“However,” she adds, “we also recognise that Sandton Convention Centre must evolve with the constantly changing business conference and event environment to ensure that we are always delivering in accordance with – and beyond – our customers’ and potential customers’ expectations.”

With this in mind, Project Crystal was launched. This entailed in-depth research that was conducted within the industry and with key stakeholders of the SCC to determine perceptions and the areas that need to be addressed. “We agreed that we would be prepared for a major overhaul if that’s what was called for, and not settle for a brand refresh. We want to be real and effective partners with our customers in advancing their businesses and we were prepared to reinvent ourselves to do that – that’s what achieving new heights of excellence means to us,” states Nyazema.

First it was important to establish exactly what customers want from an ideal conference or event venue. The factors that were identified include a place that is central and well connected to major transports, accommodation, and entertainment nodes; it must have a reliable, experienced, and dedicated team that is able to proactively assist in the logistical operation; it must have sufficient ancillary facilities and advanced technological systems; event space that is convenient, flexible, and accessible; and warmth, friendliness, and an evident passion for the business of hosting from the staff.

Adds Nyazema, “More than that though, is the fact that when businesses invest in a conference or exhibition, they do it to advance, to push the boundaries and reach new heights. A conference or event is a precious opportunity for customers to showcase their brands – the venue must reflect the customers’ positive image as forward thinkers. It must also exude a sense of energy and give the real impression of being open to new ideas; it must provide customers with a platform for generating innovative thinking and exploring new ideas; and importantly, it must also offer a comfortable and convivial place to socialise, network, relax, and be entertained.”

This then was the benchmark for Sandton Convention Centre. It was necessary to determine in what areas it was succeeding, where it was necessary to change, and what steps need to be taken to implement the changes.

The research was revealing. Overall, the response was gratifyingly positive. Nyazema elaborates, “We found that we are perceived as prestigious; a premium venue. Our professionalism and extensive experience in what we do was also appreciated. Location is exceptionally important to any venue and our location is ideally located – it’s recognised as central, connected, and self-contained. Another positive perception is our importance in the market – we’re seen as having a strong corporate-style identity, as serious, and as a place where big things happen.”

While this latter perception is certainly a positive one, Nyazema notes that it does not open the door for the organisation to rest on its laurels. It’s this very area where the negative perception comes in. “We’re seen by some of the research respondents as being too serious – stiff and rigid, and even a bit uptight. We’re seen as a bit intimidating even, as lacking emotion and being all about efficiency and getting the job done.”

This then is the area that will be strongly addressed in Sandton Convention Centre’s repositioning strategy.

Project Crystal will see Sandton Convention Centre implementing the findings to achieve the desired deliverables: a brand that will be prestigious and professional, exuding a newfound warmth, energy and flexibility; a venue that will be professional, yet contemporary and conducive to a new style of business; staff who will be the new face of Africa – energetic, professional, resourceful, and friendly; all set in a location that is like no other in South Africa – the place where you need to be to reach new heights.

“Project Crystal is an exciting repositioning for us. It’s ensuring that Sandton Convention Centre’s three new hallmarks are achieved. We are a platform to possibilities – we create a platform that is a source of inspiration and endless opportunities for our stakeholders; we are a cut above – we host the most prestigious events with world-class attention to detail; we are whole-hearted people, encapsulating the warmth of our parent company, Tsogo Sun Group’s hospitality.”

The project is in the process of being implemented and Sandton Convention Centre anticipates excellent results.

“We know that tomorrow’s leaders are looking for intellectual stimulation as much as business connections. We know they feed off the energy of their surroundings as well as its comfort and flexibility. We understand that for them to be inspired, to think bigger and be bolder, they need to be in the right place with the right atmosphere – a place of energy and vibrancy, a place that is open to multi-dimensional ideas, cultures, and conversations. We know that that place is Sandton Convention Centre,” says Nyazema.