FIDI Cape Town: A report on the FIDI conference, by Steve Jordan

May 18 | 2015

The FIDI conference is the biggest single gathering of the moving industry in the world, except IAM. It’s a maelstrom of over 500 people, a logistical nightmare, a commercial cauldron. What is amazing, is that the show ever gets on the road at all. But it does, and its success is a testimony to the dedication of the team at FIDI who work very hard all year to make it that way.

This year’s theme was Ubuntu, an African concept meaning ‘The Power of Unity’.  Was ubuntu achieved in Cape Town?  I think it probably was, yes.

All in all, I think FIDI does pretty well, bringing everyone together and providing an environment in which business gets done.  I know that the organisers have been concerned in recent years that it is becoming too much like IAM with a constant relay of one-to-one meetings and little group spirit.  But, although there is some of that of course, I didn’t really see it that way.  People generally were happy to join in, the business sessions were well attended (for a change), and the atmosphere was much more relaxed than at IAM.  The speakers were interesting (especially the magnificently inspirational Tom Ansley), the hotel was comfortable and worked well as a venue, social gatherings were well attended and enjoyable, and the whole event was generally well organised.  I enjoyed it. 

That said, it wasn’t all great.  I was invited to attend to provide an objective report and I acknowledge that my objectivity could have me branded as a whinger.  But, there’s no point in me going if I am not prepared to give my opinion honestly.  I would have expected Ms Tutu, given her parentage, to be able to deliver a stirring speech without having to read from a contrary iPad.  She should have had us all walking out of the room prepared to change the world. Instead most left feeling they had spent an interesting half hour.

Guy Lundy too, was a very good speaker, one of the best I have heard.  But he did not target his presentation to the audience.  He spoke about ‘Africa Rising’, how Africa is now beginning to take its rightful place on the world stage, but he never said: “And so what this means for you is …”.  That was a shame.  Everyone was educated and entertained, but did it give them guidance to help their businesses?  I think not.

Tom Ansley has always been one of my favourite speakers of all time.  I have always said that the best way to start any day is to have breakfast with Tom.  He’ll have you floating on air for the rest of the day with his infectious enthusiasm.  I sat on the front row to listen to my hero fearing that the years might have dulled his passion.  Not a bit.  His presentation was a walk down memory lane; he wasn’t really trying to inspire, just to entertain.   As always he did both beautifully.  I remain a fan.

The trip to the winery was enjoyable, apparently, unfortunately I didn’t arrive in time to join in.  The party by the beach was fun too with beautiful views and a great band.  The gala evening was enjoyable but something went rather awry with the organisation as the main course didn’t arrive until 10:15pm by which time those on my table were planning to send out for McDonalds. It was excellent when it arrived though.  Sadly that was the only ‘sit down’ dinner of the conference and, although the lunches at the hotel were very good, I think most delegates expected a little more than finger food in the evenings.  It’s a lot of people to cater for in one go though.  Whether, the €1,550 delegate fee was good value, I wonder.

But nobody really attends a FIDI conference for the food.  Nobody is hungry.  The attraction is the networking opportunity it provides and nobody could doubt its value in that respect.  It was a good event and some of the delegates seem now to have got the message that the business sessions are worthwhile attending.  Having successfully negotiated that important hurdle FIDI now needs its speakers to deliver.  Sadly, I am not convinced that this year, despite their pedigree, they all did.

Congratulations to Errol Gardiner for successfully completing his two year term as FIDI president and best wishes to Rob Chipman as he takes on the job until 2017.  Congratulations too to FIDI for raising vast funds for Bertrams School over the last few years.  A worthy cause.

Photos: Top - Errol Gardiner (left) FIDI president opened the Cape Town conference by thanking: the FIDI Board and 35 Club Board, conference sponsors, official guests, past presidents and industry experts who FIDI call upon for advice from time to time. He acknowledged ten new affiliates and four new affiliate branches that had joined FIDI since the last conference.  Errol also thanked those who had contributed to the Bertrams School appeal singling out Santa Fe for special recognition.  The audience stood for a moment's silence to acknowledge those who had passed away during the past year.  Rob Chipman (right) from Asian Tigers Mobility - Hong Kong, took over from Errol Gardiner as FIDI President (see The Mover next month for an exclusive interview).

Photos continued: 2nd down - Julie Romanis, from Biddulphs International, the Vice President of FIDI South Africa, welcomed the FIDI delegates to Cape Town on behalf of the local Association; 3rd down - "Invest in your people and you invest in your business," Said Ernst Jorg as he presented the FIDI Academy in Cape Town.  He individually thanked the top students, gold graduates, top 15 supporters of the Academy and the Academy trainers pool; bottom - local street dancers started off the FIDI conference: a brilliant, unique, high-energy performance.

FIDI off duty

During the FIDI conference, delegates had plenty of opportunity to let their hair down.  There was a visit to the Buitenverwachting Wine Estate, a visit to the local Baphumelele township; a beach party hosted by FIDI South Africa; the FIDI 35-Club party in cape Town’s West End; and the gala dinner at the Lookout with a backdrop of the ocean and Robben Island.  Here are a few of the photos taken to
remember the fun times:


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