Category Archives: General

Venue Spotlight: Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa is known for its unprecedented natural beauty, but many people don’t think of Cape Town when planning a meeting. Cape Town is home to the Cape Town International Convention Center (CTICC), a world-class conference center whose popularity is growing exponentially throughout the meetings and events industry. Located inKruger2 the heart of the city, CTICC features state-of-the-art audio visual equipment and diverse banquet options. Conveniently located near a number of outstanding hotels, including the Westin Cape Town, the Southern Sun Cullinan, and the Southern Sun Waterfront, your attendees will appreciate the convenience as well as the beauty that CTICC and the surrounding area have to offer.

Aside from the illustrious convention center and the easily accessible airport, another attractive reason to hold your meeting in Cape Town is the variety of experiences your attendees will have the opportunity to indulge in.

Some of the most amazing culinary experiences in the world can be found in Cape Town. Just to give you an idea, here are a few suggestions:

La Colombe

Features French cuisine with an Asian twist and has a reputation of being the best restaurant in all of South Africa! While it is listed as fine dining, the ambiance lends itself to a casual business meeting as well as a romantic night out.

Codfather Seafood & Sushi

Located in Camps Bay, it is no wonder that this place is hailed as having amazingly fresh seafood. The chef prepares the dishes as simply as possible to pay proper homage to the freshness of the seafood.

Constantia Uitsig

Located in the original Cape Dutch Homestead, Constantia Uitsig serves up Mediterranean cuisine. The Chef at this restaurant believes overcomplicating dishes takes away from the natural taste and freshness of the food. Customers rave that the food is consistently superb!

When your attendees are not enjoying the many culinary treasures in Cape Town, be sure to suggest that they check out the many tours and unique sightseeing opportunities that the beautiful city has to offer:

Table Mountain:

As evidenced by its name, Table Mountain is a flat topped mountain and is featured in the flag of Cape Town.  Visitors can take a cable car to the top of the mountain to find more than 1500 species of plants and spectacular 360 degree views of the South African countryside. 

Shark Diving:

Diving with sharks is not for everyone, but for the adventurous traveler, South Africa is home to approximately 40 different species of sharks. Roughly eight companies in the region offer shark cage diving. For those interested in a less thrilling option, be sure to visit the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Winery Tours

Wine is big business in South Africa, so it’s not surprising that there are nearly 800 wineries located throughout the country! With so many options, it might be difficult to know where to start.

  • Situated within a comfortable distance from Cape Town, Stellenbosch would be appropriate for a lovely day trip. Stellenbosch is home to a number of top-rated wineries, many of which date back to the 17th century.
  • Vergelegenis Estate is possibly the oldest estate in South Africa. Since 1999, Vergelegen Estate and its wines have earned more than 200 awards.
  • Meerlust Estate has been long recognized for its world-class wines as well as for the beauty and tranquility of its grounds. Meerlust is renowned for its elegant, Bordeaux-style Rubicon blend, and its 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon won the bronze medal at the Decanter World Wine awards in 2012.
  • Rust en Vrede earned fame when it was purchased by rugby legend Jannie Engelbrecht. Rust en Vrede is known for its focus on Shiraz, Cabernet, and Merlot. In 2000, it was the first South African winery to be named in the Top 100 Wines of the World by US Wine magazine.

Robben Island

Robben Island was made famous for housing political prisoner Nelson Mandela. Once known as a place of isolation and banishment, the island has been reintroduced as a museum and remains a reminder of the price South Africans paid for their freedom.

Beaches

With over 1800 miles of coastline, there are plenty of beaches to choose from. The Eastern Cape and the Wild Coast offer some of the most secluded and spectacular beaches in South Africa. Additionally, the penguin colony at Boulders Beach is home to a growing colony of African Penguins. Wooden walkways allow visitors to view the penguins without getting too close (be careful, they bite!).

No matter what your interests are there are a number of things to do and experience in and around Cape Town, South Africa. Its unique setting allows for a truly memorable experience.  For more information on the numerous sightseeing and touring options within Cape Town and South Africa as a whole, please be sure to check out the Dragonfly South Africa website.

Have you ever been to Cape Town? Did you participate in any tours during your stay? Whether you did or didn’t, what were your overall most memorable experiences from your trip?

**Special thank you to Suzanne Nugent, Conference Assistant at Integress Meetings and Events for her significant contribution to this post.

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Dream a Little Theme

Picking a theme for your events can be just as important as your guests’ experience. Not only can a good theme help to keep your attendees engaged and excited to be in attendance, it can also keep them talking about the experience even after the event has ended. We recently held a corporate team-building event here in Atlanta. Ishutterstock_107378192-[Converted]n reviewing the meeting agenda it became clear that the content would be rich in corporate initiatives and training…a potential snooze-fest for a majority of attendees. So prior to initiating the planning process, we sat down to discuss the various ideas we had to build a theme that would keep everyone engaged, awake, and entertained. In the end, we agreed on an “In Concert” themed day. Badges were created to look like backstage passes, upbeat songs specific to each speaker’s topic were played as an intro, and a blues band was hired for an evening team-building activity. During the team-building event, attendees were broken out in to teams to create their own blues song that they then performed with the live band at the start of dinner. We even played up the theme by replacing boring center pieces with glow necklaces and other concert paraphernalia. In the end, everyone had a blast – the meeting was a huge success!

So how did we get there you ask?

Brainstorm, brainstorm, and then brainstorm some more.

First, it is important to know your audience. Tossing ideas back and forth with people can give you a clue as to how others may perceive your theme. Decide on an idea that is clear, easy to follow, and one that will be consistent throughout your event. Once you’ve decided on a good theme, you may be surprised by how easy your event will be to plan.

A few things to consider before putting your thinking cap on:

  • What’s your budget?
  • What’s the purpose of your event?  Is it a birthday party, anniversary party, wedding, corporate function, etc?
  • Who is your client? Are they party animals or are they serious professionals looking to relax?
  • Will your event be indoors or outdoors?
  • Where is your event being hosted? It might be fun to incorporate a local theme.
  • Consider your venue and what is has to offer. How does it inspire you?

The great thing about planning these days is that there are a number of resources you can utilize to assist with your brainstorming. One such resource is Pinterest. If you haven’t signed up for this social media gem then you may want to reconsider it. Search terms like “event themes” and “party themes” within the numerous boards and pins reveal inspiration from previous users’ events and unique ideas that will wow your attendees AND help you stay within your budget.

The number of themes out there is endless…it all depends on your imagination. Here are a few theme ideas to help get your creative juices flowing:

  • Rock ‘n Roll
  • Casino
  • Hollywood
  • Red Carpet Award Show
  • Sports
  • Mardi Gras
  • TV and Movies
  • Masquerade
  • Luau
  • Fire and Ice
  • Winter Wonderland
  • Decades

What could you incorporate into one of the themes above to make it unique? What was the most successful themed event you planned? What did you find to be the most challenging part of planning it?

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Will Paperless Meetings APPeal to Attendees?

There are plenty of apps out there that assist with all aspects of meeting and conference planning. For example, push apps that “push” information, such as venue maps, speaker lists, presentation titles, sponsors, and city information, directly to the event attendees.

There are a lot of attractive reasons to utilize these tools. For instance, printed material costs for meetings/conferences can be very high. Unfortunately, more often than not, attendees use these materials during the meeting/conference, but may leave them behind after the meeting concludes. Meeting apps also allow for dynamic and interactive meetings. Attendees and speakers can learn more about the other attendees and interact with them online, as well as in person. Apps are great options to offer in conjunction with event sponsorship, and best of all, apps allow you to Go Green!

Apps are interesting and exciting ways to disseminate information for your meeting. However, can we truly rely on our attendees to be technologically savvy enough to know how to download the app and how to navigate through the app to get the most out of it? For many attendees, who already have smart phones, the answer is probably yes. Further, know your audience! If you are doing a meeting or conference for a technology company, you can feel fairly certain that this application would be comfortably navigated. If you are doing a large, international pharmaceutical meeting, you may have some hiccups. Consider setting up a tutorial kiosk or preparing how-to flyers for those who may not be as familiar with using these types of applications.

The downside of using apps for meeting materials is that some people prefer having a physical program/book/itinerary to hold (just as some people refuse to purchase an eReader because they love holding an actual book). Therefore, consider printing up a few copies of your materials, just in case.

If you are considering using a meeting app, but don’t know where to start, try out a free app such as Bloodhound. This way you can test the user metrics without shelling out a ton of money. You can offer the paperless option and printed material option to your attendees, speakers, and sponsors, and measure how many use the online application versus the printed material. If it turns out to be a popular feature, you can consider using it for future meetings.

Have you ever used an app as an alternative to meeting materials? What kind of feedback did you get from your attendees?

**Special thanks to Suzanne Nugent, Conference Assistant at Integress, for her significant contribution to this post.

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Who says kids get to have all the fun?

According to GrownUpCamps.com there are over 800 camps geared toward American adults. Not all are your traditional summer camps where you roast marshmallows over a campfire as you sing Kumbaya and tell scary stories. Maybe you want to improve a skill, learn something new, or just take a break from reality. While some of these grown-up summer camps offer the traditional camp experience, others offer experiences that really out there (I mean REALLY OUT THERE). From the traditional camper experience, to running away with the circus, there is a summer camp out there for everyone. Check some of the really unique camps that we found:

Zombie Survival Course, New Jersey
Learn to protect your brains! This camp teaches you the skills that you need to survive a zombie apocalypse. It is fully equipped to train campers over a 1-3 day period in mixed martial arts, melee weapons, cross bows, and firearms, as well as on how to collect, prepare, and store emergency supplies.

Coney Island Sideshow School, New York
Work making you crazy? Need to step out of the box and really let loose?  What better way to let loose than running away with the circus? Campers learn how to charm a snake, swallow a sword, and even eat fire at the Coney Island Sideshow School.

Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy Camp, Nationwide
You got a guitar when you were a kid and grew up wanting to be a rock star, but ended up crunching numbers in a cube instead. No worries, at Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy camp you will be grouped in to bands and perform original songs just like all the rock stars! If you’re lucky, you may even get to perform with an actual rock star! We have a similar camp here in Atlanta geared toward women. Ladies Rock Camp offers women the chance to find their inner rock star!

Would you ever consider going to a grown-up summer camp in lieu of your traditional vacation? If you did, would you prefer to go to learn something new, or are you looking to do something that’s really bizarre and out there?

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Best of AtlAntA

Being that we are an Atlanta-based company, we like to try to bring as many meetings home as we possibly can. However, when trying to convince clients to bring their event to Atlanta, one question that typically arises is, ”What is so special about Atlanta?” Bringing your meeting or event to Atlanta will give attendees a true taste of southern charm! From chicken and waffles to potlikkers and sweet potato pie (complete with a back rub if you visit Mary Mac’s Tea Room), Atlanta offers some of the best in southern cuisine. Atlanta is also home to the World of Coca-Cola, the Braves, and the Georgia Aquarium (the world’s largest!), not to mention 20 hotels and 13 restaurants that have been awarded with a 4 or 5 Diamond status by the American Automobile Association (AAA).

According to AAA, Atlanta is one of the cities with the nation’s highest number of 5 Diamond lodgings. In 2011, less than 1% of the 59,000 AAA approved lodgings and restaurants held this honor (Source: http://newsroom.aaa.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/5D_Facts_2011.pdf). Among those recently honored are the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta (5 Diamonds), the Grand Hyatt Atlanta (4 Diamonds), the St. Regis Atlanta Hotel and Residences (5 Diamonds), the W Atlanta Downtown (4 Diamonds), the Omni Hotel at CNN Center (4 Diamonds), and the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead (which has maintained its 5 Diamonds for over 25 years). Each of these hotels is not only beautiful, but also offers great meeting spaces and excellent service.

AAA also recently honored 13 Atlanta restaurants with 4 Diamonds each. The Atlanta Grill, Nikolai’s Roof, Canoe, and Restaurant Eugene are just a few of the Atlanta honorees on the list. The exquisite cuisine and private dining options make these establishments great choices for off-site dinners or receptions.

We don’t mean to sound partial, but Atlanta really is a great location for special events, meetings and vacations. We just thought you should know!

For a complete list of  Atlanta honorees please visit http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2012/02/07/20-hotels-13-restaurants-among-aaas.html

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PIPA and SOPA. Yes or Nopa?

Yesterday morning many of us woke up to our favorite websites participating in the SOPA/PIPA blackout. In case you haven’t heard, the blackout was influenced by two bills proposed by the House and Senate, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), in an attempt to cease copyright infringement committed by foreign websites.

Many groups, mainly the entertainment industry, support the bills. The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) backs SOPA and PIPA citing that it would put an end to piracy around the world. Many claim that they are blaming the internet for decreases in film revenues that may or may not occur when unauthorized downloading occurs. For example, a new film release is leaked out on the internet before it even comes out into theaters, thus allowing consumers to watch it for free in their own homes. Any website along with their companies who are suspected or accused of leaking or linking to that website will have their IP address blocked so that it cannot be accessed by the public. As a result that company would then be prosecuted for copyright infringement. Many companies, including Google and Wikipedia, took part in yesterday’s protest by blacking out all or a large part of their website. They maintain that the Acts will censor the websites, and in turn cause serious damage to the free and open internet that we have all relied on for quite some time.

How did the blackout affect your day? Did your company participate in it? Better yet, what are your thoughts on SOPA and PIPA?

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‘Tis the Season

Spiced Eggnog, decorations, parties, presents and food…all things many of us think about during the holidays. But what about giving? Not gift giving, giving back. There are so many opportunities to get involved in the community, especially during the holidays. This season, we decided to give back in a big way. Recently, a colleague brought Senior Connections to our attention. Senior Connections is a Meals on Wheels agency that provides nutritious meals to seniors in the metro Atlanta area on a daily basis. What a GREAT cause! For many of the seniors in the program, the delivery of these meals may be the only opportunity they get to interact with another person that day. Also, unlike many of us, some of these seniors do not have a family to share a holiday meal with, so delivering these meals with a smile can really make their day. Monday through Saturday, the Senior Connections kitchen in Atlanta prepares, packages and delivers 3000+ meals to seniors around the area. Integress organized a company wide community outreach event over a 2-day period in which our fellow colleagues spent 3 hours helping out in the bustling Senior Connections kitchen. We got to take part in everything from food preparation and packaging, to the clean up afterwards. The amount of food that this place pumps out is incredible! On the menu our first day, country fried steak with confetti corn and mixed veggies. During all of the craziness, we were able to snap a few pictures…check them out!


I think a lot of people forget how good it feels to participate in something that has such a large impact in the community. How has your organization chosen to give back this year?

*For more information on Senior Connections please visit www.srconn.org/

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