South Africa Facilities Management Association (SAFMA) – A case study


The South African Facilities Management Association (SAFMA) is a self-sustaining body recognised for its meaningful role as an enabler of sustainable enterprise performance in the South African Facilities Management community

The primary objectives of SAFMA are to facilitate, promote, and support skills development for facilities managers and to ensure an exchange of information and best practice. The association, as a recognised voice and thought leader, aims to boost and encourage networking between Facilities Management Professionals in South Africa.

SAFMA’s sector

The Facilities Management Sector supports the functionality, safety, and sustainability of buildings, grounds, infrastructure, and real estate. Its mandate is to ensure that the management of buildings, from health and safety to planning and insurance, is adhered to at the highest level. SAFMA enjoys a large membership base in corporate South Africa, ranging from the insurance sector, property owners, developers, and managers to suppliers servicing the buildings.

With Africa being one of the fastest developing continents, and a lot of investment being directed to infrastructure development, having an association that speaks to the planning, infrastructure building, health, and safety is key.

The SAFMA Conference

The annual SAFMA Conference hosts a slew of proficient speakers, as well as an exhibition where companies showcase their innovations in the facilities management field.

Date: 15–16 November 2021
Venue: The Indaba Hotel, Conference Centre & Spa, Sandton, Johannesburg

Challenges in a Covid-19 Environment

In November 2021, SAFMA held its national conference under Covid-19 regulations where the number of in-person delegates was restricted. Its hybrid format introduced a physical and virtual delegate blend where managing the numbers and budget was extremely challenging. Additionally, everchanging regulations meant attendee numbers could be reduced at short notice.

SAFMA utilised the regulations’ minimum numbers, and the rest of the delegates attended virtually. The reduced in-person capacity caused a profit loss as virtual attendance, while cheaper infrastructurally, generated less revenue.

Lockdown and restrictions changed delegates’ behavioural patterns. Pre-Covid-19, commitments to attend events were usually kept, however post-pandemic delegates have become complacent when it comes to attending events. Following the pandemic, people are more crowd averse and likely to leave early. Currently, they are happy to sit at their desk and half-attend through a Zoom link while doing other things such as checking their emails.

It is also much harder to market an event for in-person attendance. For delegates to attend, a business event must be marketed well and have a strong programme and content.

Solving challenges with technology and innovation

Delegate numbers for the SAFMA conference was minimised to manage the event’s costs and reduce the financial exposure. Sponsorship and support from corporates and organisations like the South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB) played a vital role in bringing the in-person component back. As a result, the Conference saw a profit in 2021.

Covid-19 has been a massive driver in the enhancement of digitalisation, resulting in significant benefits for the event. The quality of speakers is one such benefit. Using the latest communication and broadcasting technology, the best quality international speakers could join for a session where previously travel costs would have inhibited their attendance. Despite SAFMA having a limited budget, the event was able attract a high calibre of speakers who could drive solid content.

SAFMA also virtually received guests that would not have attended because of financial or time constraints. Members in mineshafts in the Northwest or across borders in Botswana could virtually attend.

male business executive giving speech

Partnering with the bid support programme

There is a lot to be said for Brand South Africa; a strong brand that audiences and markets easily recognise. To market your event and use the SA or the SANCB logo helps draw in quality local and international speakers.

Another benefit of aligning with the Bid Support Programme is access to their supplier and partner database. SANCB has invested time to mobilise smaller businesses in areas where an event will be held and give organisers access to this database so they can connect with relevant, reliable suppliers who tick all the boxes.

The SANCB team is established, boasting an incredible network and broad knowledge base. They know the lie of the land, making the journey easier and giving organisers peace of mind.


The SANCB Bid Support Programme provides options and support to branch out and try something new. It was the stepping stone that allowed SAFMA to move away from its comfort zone and do things differently. For 10 years, SAFMA was held at Gallagher Conference Centre in Midrand, followed by the Sandton Conference Centre for seven years.

This year SAFMA is branching out to George because of the support of a brand like SA Tourism, SANCB, and the Bid Support Programme. This support has given the association the confidence and peace of mind to try new things.

Benefits of meeting in-person

Research has shown that humans like to roll in packs. There will always be a strong need for them to have a connection that comes with real touch. Face to face interaction allows the ability for ease of organic conversation that can create something new or drive a new idea. This is something you can’t get over Zoom.

Main learnings

When dealing with virtual business events, be aware of giving people too much text when communicating about the event and the programme - provide lots of videos or a series of pictures.

In the context of having real conversations and networking, be ready to try new things and be ready to fail. For many reasons, delegates aren’t as open to engaging or networking as they were pre-pandemic, and organisers must try a variety of things to get people talking and engaging with each other.

However, as much as they are crowd-averse, delegates have also missed face to face interaction and appreciate there being a physical event for them to attend. There is much to be said and enjoyed when people can reconnect, catch up and network!



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