We catch up with Carol Weaving, managing director of Reed Exhibitions, South Africa, to talk exhibitions, extreme sports and challenges facing the industry.

How long have you been in your role?

I have been in the exhibition and events industry in South Africa for 27 years. I started my own business running exhibitions and operating venues which Rai bought into in 1999 and we formed South Africa Rai.

South Africa Rai developed and ran a number of trade and consumer shows and Rai were also responsible for the development and running of the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).

Five years later I facilitated a deal whereby Thebe Tourism Group (a division of Thebe Investment Corporation) bought Rai’s shares as we understood the importance and need of having a Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) partner in South Africa, and Thebe was the preferred partner having such excellent BEE credentials. Thebe was founded by Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.

Then in late 2014 I felt it was time to have an international partner in addition to a BEE partner so that we could grow the business. I approached Reed who have amazing brands and an unbelievable global reputation who subsequently bought 60 per cent shares in the company with Thebe retaining 30 per cent and myself 10 per cent.

How did you get into the events industry?

I studied marketing and communications in the UK then I came to South Africa and ran the venue at the Kyalami International Race Track where I subsequently developed exhibitions.

Tell us about your first paid job?

I worked as marketing manager for an independent local radio station in the UK in the Cotswolds called Severn Sound Radio

What do you love most about your work?

The opportunity to develop a concept and project and see it come to life. The chance to be entrepreneurial and make a difference even if in a small way. I also have a great team who are passionate about their jobs and committed to the business and they inspire me.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the events industry?

In a South African context we have macro issues such as high unemployment, power shortages and labour disputes (especially in the mining sectors) but like any difficult economy there are always opportunities and it’s finding those opportunities and defying the odds. The economic situation is difficult in South Africa at the moment and unfortunately companies often cut their marketing spend which effects the events industry. We need to focus on new markets, such as African countries, think out the box, add greater value to our customers and ensure a greater return on investment for our customers.

What is your proudest career achievement?

I rarely have time to reflect, but probably turning the Ticketpro Dome (a 20,000-seat venue in Johannesburg) from a white elephant into a commercially viable and successful venue.

Tell us about your funniest work moment?

Where do I start… many years ago we had a consumer travel event at a new venue where they were still putting bricks into the building as we were building up and laying carpets! An operational disaster, but there was only one venue in Johannesburg at that time so no alternatives. There were very few safety rules and regulations in place then.

Can you share the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Not so much advice as motivation – I was once told because I was woman I would never go any further in the company. This was none of the companies I have mentioned, but it was the best motivation ever; albeit rather shocking in this day and age. My advice to others would be “Never give up” there are always prophets of doom who will say it will never work but if you believe in something enough you can make it a reality.

What is your favourite way to spend free time?

I’m an adrenalin junkie so anything exciting from flying a helicopter, to diving or riding my motorbike.

And your best business travel hack?

Kill everyone with kindness, you will be amazed at how far it gets you, even free upgrades!

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