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August 18, 2016
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Sub-Saharan Africa: It’s Party Time!


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This era’s economic climate has had a dramatic impact on how we execute events, and this extends to party planners. But despite budget dips, employers are still looking for fresh ways to connect with their staff and clients. 

office holiday party
Photo by Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty Images

“Gone are the days when companies give the marketing department a blank cheque for year-end functions. Budgets are tighter than ever before,” says Westleigh Wilkinson, Director of OPEN, a company offering unique collaborative workspaces that double as sleek, modern event venues. “While for most companies a DIY year-end party is often a cheaper option and the route most take, those who see the value in celebrating the year and the benefit to treating the teams who worked hard to make it a success, focus very much on ‘experiential’ and inspirational type events, where food, experience and inspiration play an equally important role.”

One of OPEN’s workspaces is Workshop 17. He says the need for flexible venues of this kind is growing not only because of the sheer number of freelancers and start-ups entering the market, but also because sharing and innovation are not just ‘cool’ but are now imperative for all businesses. “Our focus is to offer an inspiring platform for individuals and companies to innovate and create solutions for Africa. We host start-ups, experienced companies, meetings, workshops, events and exhibitions focusing on making a difference,” he explains. 

Adri van der Merwe, Senior Marketing Co-Ordinator for Business Tourism and Commercial at the V&A Waterfront, says companies don’t necessarily want the same ‘dinner dance’ end-of-year functions – some make use of the beautiful summer weather by booking a yacht for lunch or sundowners. “Restaurants with a beach area like Shimmy and Grand Café & Beach always do well and are still extremely popular,” she adds. “For bigger year-end functions we have Avenue, the newest events venue. Avenue has direct views into the Two Oceans Aquarium and great views over the V&A Waterfront Marina. Two Oceans Aquarium has a new exhibition area, the I&J exhibition, with a 10m tunnel, a unique and beautiful venue for functions. For really big end of year parties there’s The Lookout, offering uninterrupted sea views. Den Anker restaurant serve great food and has a beer experience called the Kwak Beer Experience. The gimmick is that you have to give the barman your left shoe as a deposit. It’s funny to see a bunch of people at one table with only one shoe!” 

Luxury hotels are always in fashion for those who want to spend a few more Rands on their parties. Many offer events packages and have small to medium-sized venues. A great example of this is The President Hotel, which offers flexible planning choices for a cocktail function of up to 350 guests. 

Trends You Can’t Go Wrong With

It’s all about creating unique, unforgettable experiences, and the sky truly is the limit if you use a bit of imagination. Here’s a look at some of the trends circling the party sphere.

1.    Goodbye cookie cutter events. One size certainly does not fit all anymore, and in order to engage your guests, you’re going to have to brainstorm some fun locations, catering ideas, and entertainment for starters.

2.    Think Olympics! This prestigious event only comes around once every four years, and it’s on the tip of everyone’s tongues in 2016. Rio’s renowned Carnival is a great idea for a theme, as is samba-fication. 

3.    Pantone has for the first time released two colours of the year: Rose Quartz and Serenity. As they explain, “colours that psychologically fulfil our yearning for reassurance and security are becoming more prominent”. They’re a great choice for sit-down dinners, candy-floss networking events and calming business retreats. 

4.    Braai will never die. Whether it’s a themed barbeque where you explore other countries’ flavours (parilla, robata or churrasqueira to name a few), you can’t go wrong. Yum!

5.    Video killed the radio star, and in today’s world you’re bound to see more event planners opting for video content at their functions. It’s such a successful selling tool that 70% of marketing professionals report video converts more than any other medium. 

6.    Technology in events is a given, with big data, social media and Beacon tech revolutionising the hype and experience for any year-end party. Paper is on its way out, so try digital handouts instead. 

7.    Donut anyone? This delicious snack is on everyone’s lips. And they’re easy to incorporate into your party plan – from mini donuts ringing your milkshake straws to Nutella-filled goodness, these are guaranteed winners. 

Why You Need to Get It Right

Perfection is hard to attain, and end-of-year parties can easily have awful results. According to a study by UK company Sigmer, holiday parties can be a rocky place for event planners, so it’s imperative that you know your guests. Here’s a look at what Sigmer found after speaking to 16,067 professionals in various industries:

  • In holiday parties for IT professionals, 5% said it would have been better held at an ice rink
  • 8.3% of people in finance wanted to attend a bash at a sports venue
  • 100% of public sector employees said they did not get a free drink at their Christmas party
  • 87.5% of media professionals had complimentary beverages
  • Half of all legal employees were offered free drinks 
  • 25% of public sector employees said they would rather have stayed at home
  • 26.5% in IT wanted to stay home, too
  • Half of all media professionals said their work party “rocked” while 35.7% of business employees held the same level of approval and only a third of those in finance jobs concurred

 


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