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Conference Organiser
South Africa has rapidly become a conference destination with world class conference facilities. South Africa has experienced an increase in conferences linked to the 2010 Word Cup Soccer tournament. This growth has led to a growth in the conference organising industry.

Professional conference organisers, conference planners, conference coordinators and events managers specialise in organising large international and local conferences and events, meetings, seminars, exhibitions, trade shows, festivals and other special events. Conference organisers coordinate every detail of meetings and conventions, from the speakers and meeting location to arranging for printed materials and audio-visual equipment. This requires that conference organisers demonstrate a range of skills from strategic planning of conference themes to organising minute details, for instance arranging gifts and letters of thanks for speakers and delegates.

There are a number of steps in planning an event or conference. The first step is to identify what the purpose or message is that the client wants to communicate. A planner may then identify which guest speakers or entertainment to arrange, what theme to use, what information to provide to delegates that attend.

Secondly a conference organiser may search for prospective meeting sites, such as hotels, or conference centres in order to assess suitability and price. A site to host an event should meet certain requirements in terms of exhibit space, accommodation, food, telecommunications, transport, audio-visual requirements, and any other necessities. Based on research a conference organisers may review the options and make recommendations to their client.

Once the location is selected, the conference organiser will then make the necessary logistical support arrangements such as, coordinating accommodation and transport for guests, booking flights, setting up registers, printing name badges, ensuring exhibits are set up and materials are printed. They also make sure that the meeting adheres to fire and labor regulations and oversee food and beverage distribution.

Conference organisers are also required to do a certain amount of administration work to do with the setting up contracts between themselves, clients and suppliers. Planners must also oversee the finances of meetings and conventions. They draw up proposals, outline costs, provide a breakdown of budgets and forecast costs. For instance an as organiser needs to estimate how many people will attend the meeting, based on previous meeting attendance and current circumstances.

Event managers work in offices and in the workplaces of their clients. They also work wherever events are held, which can include all types of indoor and outdoor venues and facilities.

Conference organisers use cellphones and computers, which often have specialist ticketing or event management software. They may also hire events-based equipment such as lighting, stage and sound equipment.

In South Africa there are a number of conference and events planning companies. However, because this is a small industry, these companies tend to be small by nature and are often owner driven and managed. Conference organising companies may also perform a number of other roles besides conference organising. These include public relations, marketing or hospitality services.

Satisfying Aspects
- emotional rewards are very good
- provides excellent experience in logistics management and people handling
- can be relatively well paid

Demanding aspects
- hard work, meeting deadlines
- physically demanding and exhausting
- frustration with last minute upsets
- finding business in a competitive market

A key aspect of a conference organisers role is to interact and communicate with a variety of people. In addition:
- excellent communication and presentation skills
- excellent organizational and time management skills
- composure under pressure
- the stamina and energy required to work long hours when required
- the ability to multi-task
- the ability to work effectively with all sorts of people
- the ability to pay close attention to details
- the ability to work well under pressure and make responsible decisions quickly.

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects:None
Recommended Subjects: English, other Languages, Accounting, Economics, Consumer Studies

Whilst a degree and diplomas in various fields may be an advantage, a large proportion of the skills needed are learned on the job and through experience.

Certificate and diploma courses in catering, tourism, hospitality, hotel and restaurant management, public relations and business administration, can all lead to a career in conference organising.

UZ runs a course in Tourism Events Management. Courses in Tourism or Hospitality are offered by Monash, NMMU, UJ, UZ and UNISA. They are also available at all universities of technology and FET Colleges.

Several years of training and experience in hospitality, tourism administration, marketing or public relations can be just as important as a formal education for entry into this type of career. Most employers prefer to hire special event coordinators who have experience in the coordination or supervision of one or more events.

- tourism associations
- trade and professional associations
- convention and conference centres
- government departments
- conference and event planning companies
- amusement and recreational service industries
- business services industry, for example, management consulting services
- advertising companies
- large catering companies
- self-employment (the nature of the work does not require a high initial investment in equipment; a home-based office, with computer, fax and telephone, may be enough to get started)

Any of the above-mentioned potential employers

The Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI)
P O Box 1279
Halfway House, 1685
Gallagher Convention Centre
Gallagher House
Tel: (011) 805-7272 Fax: 086 505-9690