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    EXSA Focuses on Adele Hartdegen

    JHB Expo Centre smallOur industry currently faces a mammoth challenge and has been doing so for the last year and a half, whilst we keep hoping for good news and some indication of when we will be able to return to normal it is still uncertain as to when we can trade again and what the new normal will look like.

    Heading up two companies in this environment has undoubtedly been one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my career to date. Starting in a new role, with a new team, and having the entire normal course of business come to a complete halt has been a bumpy ride, to say the least.

    The Johannesburg Expo Centre as a company was very fortunate to have hosted a COVID field hospital in 2020, not only did this enable us to keep all our staff members employed but we could also assist our dedicated contractors to keep their team members employed. During the period where the field hospital was up and running, we had much-needed time to assess our shortcomings at the venue and re-strategize the way forward. This process led to restructuring within the operations teams and seeing members of the team who had been working at the Venue for years, being promoted to Portfolio Managers for the areas they had previously worked in as laborers. By implementing cost-saving initiatives and taking on warehousing contracts, we have been able to sustain our full staff complement throughout the industry shutdown period. Seeing team members grow and flourish within these uncertain times has been inspiring, and I am so thankful that we have been able to retain all our talent and even further develop them. People are often resistant to change, but when I joined JEC, I found a team that is passionate and dedicated to the venue, a team that is willing to learn, adapt, and has an appetite for growth. Being surrounded by people who take every challenge head-on keeps me inspired and motivated to create opportunities for them to grow and expand their horizons within the business.

    Not long after my appointment at JEC, I was asked by the GL events SA group CEO, Craig Newman to consider taking on board Dogan Exhibitions and Events, although I wanted to assist the company and have the opportunity to apply my creative ability in the organiser space, it was a very difficult decision due to the uncertainty in the industry. My first few months at Dogan was a real challenge, from having to drastically reduce the staff complement, trying to motivate the remaining team whilst they were operating at reduced salaries, all whilst closing off all outstanding matters for the canceled 2020 edition of the Rand Show.

    We soon realized that it was unlikely that we would be hosting the Rand Show even in 2021 and knowing that the format of the show would not be suitable for a virtual or even hybrid event we had to consider alternatives. The pressure we were under forced us as a team to hunker down and come up with solutions to ensure business continuity. We started focusing on the client base we know well and who have been loyal to the Rand Show for many years, having an intricate understanding of their directives enabled us to craft tailored-made solutions for them which are all now starting to bear fruit. One of our smaller initiatives, hosting four exhibitors at a time in a mall as a “traveling show” led to a new opportunity to host the Rand Show within Fourways Mall in the form of a large-format mall activation. The activation is set to start on 22 September and we are very excited to start this new chapter for Rand Show. I am so proud of the team members within Dogan, they have faced great uncertainty and through it, they remained positive, gave me their full co-operation, and kept pushing forward no matter what. 

    My biggest challenge in these new roles has been managing and motivating team members during times of uncertainty. It is difficult to deliver good results under the current circumstances, not only the fact that our industry is unable to operate, but that many team members face challenges in their personal capacity, people have lost loved ones, loved ones have lost jobs and team members are anxious about their health and the health of the ones close to them. People are the most valuable asset to any organization, and during the last months, it has been increasingly difficult to ensure everyone is performing well whilst having empathy for their personal circumstances and state of mind. Looking back at the last months I can only say that I am grateful for my team members and how they have supported me and each other, it makes me very excited for the future, we are set for growth and reaching great heights together.

    In celebration of women's month, I am cheering on every female leader in our industry! Since joining the industry I have received so much support and guidance from female industry leaders, something I hold very dear. In times of doubt or when I needed support, I could rely on these ladies to give sound advice and guidance and it has made a big impact to get me to where I am today. I’m hopeful for the future of our industry, seeing the resilience of the companies and association bodies all collaborating to make a difference gives me hope that once we do re-open, we will present a stronger and united front that will enable our industry to grow abundantly.


    Dogan Team

    Dogan Team

    Dogan team from left to right:

    Didi Okoro, Sihle Dube, Adele Hartdegen, Robin Sabran

    JEC Team

    JEC Team

    JEC team from left to right:

    Adele Hartdegen, back left - Prince Moloi, Dumisani Zondi, back right - Matthew Motswakae, Hannes Venter



    Left to right

    Refilwe Mokgaotsi, Adele Hartdegen, Believe Sibiya




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    EXSA enables connections through the networking and communication of our Forums and via our website (www.exsa.co.za).

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