Secret weapons for your next conference

by | Jul 4, 2020

In this Blog

Losses turning into opportunities.
The right meeting environment.
With Covid-19 still in our midst, a few items have been added to the essential meeting space.
Efficient communication is key.
NLP for negotiation in your life and around the meeting table.
How can NLP be applied to your next conference or meeting?
Body language and its role during meetings.
When FBI negotiation tactics are called for.


So what do business meetings, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), and an FBI agent have in common? More than you may think.


In this week’s business blog we look at:

  • Job losses turning into opportunities
  • Choosing the right conference or meeting environment
  • Covid-19 precautions for conferencing
  • Efficient communication using Neuro-Linguistic Programming tricks
  • FBI negotiation tactics for real-life meetings 

Reading the daily news is depressing. So depressing that I have stopped doing so.  And the battle is not only an economical level of making an earning to feed your family, but also to keep wolves from the mental door. The little voices in our heads are increasing at an alarming rate.


A quick snapshot reveals sobering news on the current state of affairs in South Africa:



How do we turn these depressing stats into opportunities?


Losses turning into opportunities


With many businesses closing down, and expensive office space being traded for home office environments, a unique opportunity exists for hotels and conference centres to offer dedicated meeting space for a specific time frame. One does not need to be a Chartered Accountant to calculate that booking a meeting room for your top ten executives for an hour, all bells and whistles included – and sanitised – costs less than your office rental for the month.


Despite our current Covid-19 restrictions, certain meetings require face to face interaction. The more emotionally charged a meeting or its content, the more important it is for this meeting to be held in person. With retrenchments being rolled out, furloughs being processed, and businesses closing, it creates a very real need for personal meeting space such as private conference or meeting venues.


The right meeting environment


One of the crucial points made by Coachingleaders for running successful and emotionally intelligent meetings is to, first of all, have an environment conducive to the meeting – and not having any interruptions is a top priority.  We all know from experience that trying to save a Rand or two by having the conference in your own office space, is virtually impossible. There is always some crisis that demands your attention right away.

Little Fig Conference venue at Umthunzi Hotel


Under normal circumstances, the ideal conference environment includes comfy chairs and desks, AV equipment to assist you in looking like the professional you are, free WiFi, and, if you are lucky, a touch screen TV. Your venue of choice will furthermore offer refreshments and meals as needed and may even have accommodation available.

With Covid-19 still in our midst, a few items have been added to the essential meeting space:


  • The venue will measure your temperature and provide sanitiser upon entering the premises.
  • No entry will be allowed without a face mask.
  • Your details and temperature will be recorded for reference.
  • Sanitiser will be available in the venue.
  • Social distancing – conference seats will be placed at least 1.2 m apart from each other.
  • Expect furniture throughout the venue to be re-positioned to maintain a safer distance.


  • Food and beverage offerings may also take on a new look, as buffet food is not encouraged.
  • Expect individual servings (plated) or even picnic box style, individually packed meals.
  • Environmentally friendly water jugs are once again out, and a single serving of bottled water is in.
  • Shared menus are not encouraged and will be either online or disposable.

And of course, don’t expect a bowl of mints or peanuts.


Now that we have jumped through the necessary Covid-19 precaution hoops and have the perfect venue for our meeting, how do we make the best of our time?


Efficient communication is key


With meeting time being of essence it is important to make the most of your time with super-efficient communication. Enter the fascinating world of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). In opportunistic circles, it is also known as “How to get people to do what you want” and is therefore hugely popular in the business world.




NLP for negotiation in your life and around the meeting table


So here’s the thing – everything in your life is truly a negotiation. From getting your husband to bring you a second cup of coffee in bed, to getting your four-year-old to eat beans before pudding. We are not even talking about trickier situations of getting staff to buy into your 2-year vision for the company or agreeing to a salary cut because of an unwelcome pandemic.


It all requires well-worded negotiation. And funny that, it depends less on applying logic and facts as any good left-brainer would think than it does on emotions. Because decisions may be made with logic, but the actual buy-in happens on a right-brain emotional level. And that is where NLP can be of tremendous value during your meetings.


How can NLP be applied to your next conference or meeting?


Wouldn’t your next meeting or conference be a joy if you (and your colleagues) understand how the use of your words impact all actions and reactions, as well as future programming?


Let’s highlight two NLP exercises that make a world of difference in any meeting or conversation. So here is a challenge for you. Mentally watch yourself for a day to see how many negative words (and thoughts) rush through your head and straight out of your mouth. It’s a scary exercise, to say the least.


If you remember only one thing about NLP, let it be that we all play a fundamental role in creating our own reality. And it all starts with the words you utter. Tony Robbins calls this using Transformational Vocabulary. Stay clear of using negative words and negative self-talk during meetings and daily life, and instead turn this around by focusing on positive words.


Tony Robbins explains:  


”How extraordinary will your life be when you consistently lower the intensity of negative emotions and intensify the positive ones? Start small. Note the negative words you use on a consistent basis and ask yourself how you can change them. Can you be “peeved” instead of “devastated?” On the other hand, can you feel “ecstatic” instead of “pleased?” Internal dialogue can change your life. Start creating beneficial habits today, and you’ll quickly reach a more positive, joyful state”.


Body language and its role during meetings


Secondly, NLP also pays attention to Body Language and its applications. The ability to read non-verbal cues can give you the edge in any meeting. Knowing how people feel by reading their bodies, may be a more accurate reflection than the words spoken – it also helps you to relate to them or the issue at hand on a different level.


You may have heard of mirroring, a well-known NLP technique to create rapport with anyone you engage with?


NLPWorld in the UK defines mirroring for easy understanding:

“Mirroring is something we automatically do when we’re around people we feel comfortable with. To learn to mirror purposely in order to gain rapport enables us to enhance our communication with others and have the support of everyone we meet to help us achieve our outcomes and goals.”


Considering that communication is supposedly 7% words, 38% tonality, and 55% physiology it makes sense to spend more time in creating rapport by subtle mirroring of hand gestures or movements. It may just win over the person if not the argument around the meeting table. Words do not always reflect the emotions:


When FBI negotiation tactics are called for


For a final word on the art of successful meetings (or shall we call it negotiations, as meetings often go), we knock on the door of former FBI agent. Chris Voss, is an ex-lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI and author of “Never Split the Difference”. He knows a thing or two about negotiations and the similarities between successful negotiations and sailing the rough seas of successful meetings, are interesting, to say the least.


Voss explains in his article that emotions are one of the main things to derail any kind of communication. “Once people get upset at one another, rational thinking goes out of the window.”


He encourages us to instead of denying or ignoring emotions, rather identify and influence the emotions. “Emotions aren’t the obstacles to a successful negotiation; they are the means… That’s why, instead of denying or ignoring emotions, good negotiators identify and influence them.”


Experience negotiator Chris Voss lists his top five field-tested techniques in Time Magazine for utilizing emotional intelligence to succeed in any negotiation -“whether you’re in a boardroom, at the dinner table, or at the car dealership.”


  1. Mirror words selectively.Repeat the last one to three words your counterpart just said back to them. Voss explains that this is one of the quickest ways to build rapport with someone and make them feel safe enough with you to relate to you.


  1. Practice tactical empathy.  Phrases like “It sounds like you are afraid of…” and “It looks like you’re concerned about…” go a long way in disarming them.


  1. Get to a “no.” Being pushed for “yes” makes people defensive; they fear a trap. Ask no-oriented questions, like: “Is now a bad time to talk?” and “Have you given up on this project?”


  1. Trigger “that’s right.” The moment you’ve convinced someone that you understand their dreams and feelings is the moment a negotiation breakthrough can happen. Trigger a “that’s right” response by summarizing and reaffirming how your counterpart feels and what they want.


  1. Create the illusion of control. The secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation is to give the other side the illusion of control. Don’t try to force your opponent to admit that you are right. Ask questions, that begin with “How?” or “What?” so your opponent uses mental energy to figure out the answer.




We all agree that the recipe for a successful meeting is:


  1. Knowing what you want.
  2. Knowing what others want.
  3. Finding ways in which you can all get it.


It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Find the right venue, apply our NLP secrets, and you have a recipe for success.


Umthunzi Hotel is perfectly positioned for business travel, just over an hour south of Durban & 20 minutes from Margate airport. The award-winning Umthunzi Hotel & Conference is an accredited SAACI conference venue, is very affordable, and overlooks the Indian Ocean on the beautiful KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. Umthunzi offers 4 different venues, from an intimate 12 seater boardroom to a large 100 seater venue, and each can be set up in your preferred way.  All venues come standard with free Wi-Fi, different equipment per room, and the option to have breakaway rooms depending on availability.


Photo credits: All images used are from CANVA, unless otherwise stated.




She knows her Merlot from her Mojito, her hotel from her motel. From craft food to caviar, her innate curiosity about life and wanderlust provide inspiration for her blogs, articles and press releases about the travel, wedding and Spa industry. Over twenty years in the hotel marketing & PR arena with impressive hotel groups, from Dubai to Durbanville, has evolved into the pure enjoyment of freelance projects under the banner of About Branding.


See what wedding specials we have on offer


Make your dream wedding a reality

Pin It on Pinterest