Are you bored with the same old drab boardroom?

If you are reading this you have no doubt decided that it is time to put some strategic thought into choosing where to book your company’s next strategy session.

Boost your team’s productivity (and mood) by settling for nothing less than a venue that inspires excellence. Without delving into the psychology of this topic, it is safe to say that the success of your event hinges largely on your choice of venue. New York Times best-selling author, Winifred Gallagher, puts it so well: “Our brains are so adapted to make associations with the environment that whether we want to or not, we link our experiences and their settings, and those two things together produce our behaviour”.

Even though it is not rocket science to plan a conference, you can very easily overlook some very basic things that can mean the difference between a successful launch and failure. The following points will help you to make the right choice.

Our brains are so adapted to make associations with the environment that whether we want to or not, we link our experiences and their settings, and those two things together produce our behaviour – Winifred Gallagher

1. Does the venue get the basics right?

First things first. Choose a conference venue that gets the basics right. Resist the urge to base your choice on aesthetics only but do not underestimate the importance of visual appeal. Consider first impressions. Is there sufficient parking? The public areas should be friendly and inviting, clean and tidy, and appropriately furnished. Your conference room and breakaway rooms should be clean and crisp, with good ventilation and lighting. Décor elements should be understated and walls painted in natural, calming tones. A noisy air conditioner or flashing fluorescent lights can be very distracting and the smell of a musty carpet can really put a damper on your productivity, excuse the pun. Equipment should be modern and in good working condition, and the hotel and banqueting staff must be trained and friendly.

Boardroom at Umthunzi Hotel & Conference

2. Does the venue specialise in hosting conferences?

Rather than choosing a hotel or holiday resort that happens to have a conference centre, be intentional about choosing one that specialises in hosting conferences and events. That way you can be assured that all the standard equipment will be at hand, and that the banqueting staff will pre-empt your delegates’ needs and take care of even the finest of details.

If you are able to, it is a good idea to stop by the venue you are considering. Set up a meeting with the banqueting coordinator and ask to be shown around. If you are unable to do a site visit, do your homework online or make a few phone calls – it will be well worth the effort. Prepare a checklist of your requirements, to guide you, but try not to get so caught up in the finer details that you fail to notice the basics.

Take note of your interaction with the venue’s team. Professionalism and excellent customer care are tell-tale signs that you are in good hands. Study the venue’s conference portfolio, and ask to speak to the banqueting manager that will be overseeing your event; ask them all the relevant questions you can think of, and if their manner and answers inspire confidence, you are most likely in good hands. Ask to see some reviews from past customers.

Prepare a checklist of your requirements, to guide you.

3. Is getting there a pain or a pleasure?

It is always a good idea to take your team away from the hustle and bustle, but that does not mean that getting to the venue should feel as though they are participating in an episode of Amazing Race. The venue should be easily accessible.

Umthunzi Hotel and Conference is situated 1 ½ hour’s drive from Durban and less than half an hour’s drive from the Margate Airport. You can look forward to a scenic drive from either direction. Situated in the beautifully lush seaside suburb of Umtentweni, very near the beach, your delegates will feel as though they are arriving at a private, luxury seaside villa.

The venue should be easily accessible

4. Is there proof in the pudding. Literally?

Few things have the ability to make or break a good event quite as quickly as food. It is important to ensure that snack and mealtimes have your delegates going for seconds, rather than grumbling over a bland meal. We all know the frustration of trying to spread a stale bread roll with a frozen butter pat or of chasing greasy fried eggs around your plate.

Check the conference lunch menu

5. Are the bedrooms roomy or gloomy?

Who wants to lose sleep because of creaky ceiling fan or a lumpy mattress! Although most conference hotels succeed in providing a reasonable standard of accommodation, you should not take this for granted. It is always better to ask questions in advance than to try and appease grumpy sleep-deprived delegates afterwards.

Click to view accommodation options at Umthunzi Hotel & Conference

Are the rooms roomy or gloomy?

6. Will the rates make it past your CFO?

While you concern yourself with the details of the conference, your finance department will be underlining some figures in the “Budget” column. Be sure to scrutinise what exactly is included in the venue’s “fully inclusive” package, before making a decision. And if you are comparing venues, do compare apples with apples. Make sure that you are offered good value for money but don’t make the mistake of booking on the basis of price only.

Tip: Limit the extras on your bill by placing restrictions, e.g. placing a limit on the bar bill. Ask for a cash bar and advise your team that they will be paying for their own refreshments once the limit has been reached.

Scrutinise what exactly is included in the venue’s “fully inclusive” package.

If you are still on the lookout for a venue, you have landed on the right website, and here’s why:

  • TGCSA 3-star, SAACI accredited Umthunzi Hotel and Conference specialises in hosting conferences, meetings and events, and has gained a solid reputation as a venue that goes the extra mile.
  • Half day, full day and overnight packages are available and you can choose between four stylish function rooms, including an intimate 12-seater board room and a spacious 100-seater function room.
  • The venues can be set up in a range of configurations, to suit your specific needs.
  • Standard conference equipment is included in the fee and all rooms have access to free Wi-Fi.
  • The 30ᵒ South Restaurant and Terrace Deck is perfect for gala dinners and other functions.


Year End Conference Team Building Getaway


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Galia Hillhouse


Galia Hillhouse has had a life-long love affair with words. Even whilst working within the Hospitality & Tourism sector – her “day job” for eighteen years, she continued to cultivate her passion for writing, taking on various freelance projects. Her “hands on” experience as a hotelier and foodie gives her an edge when writing for these markets. Galia also has ten years of experience in publishing tourism, lifestyle and shopping centre magazines.

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