Aleksandra Uhernik Đurđek is the Meetings and Events Department Manager at Atlas, Croatia’s leading DMC. Planning and organising important international events from high-level incentive programs and various corporate meetings to international scientific congresses is the everyday job for Aleksandra and her team. She graduated from Faculty of Economics at the University of Zagreb with a specialisation in tourism industry and has been in the business for 18 years.

When planning or organising a business meeting or event several important questions arise right at the start:

–        What is the purpose of the event?

–        When is it taking place?

–        Who are the participants?

–        What kind of venues do we need?

–        Have we started to plan on time?

A quality first briefing with the client will furnish the majority of answers, yet an extremely important and delicate topic is often avoided: the budget. Available funds play an important role in achieving the goal of a meeting and have a decisive impact on the way the meeting is organised. The question should not be looked upon negatively or restrictively. The recession years have created new challenges – how to offer a real experience on limited funds. From planning to execution the growing role is that of creativity, which also gets a new dimension. Experience is an equally important factor. “What can go wrong will go wrong!” To be an experienced organiser means to have a back-up plan for each step.

Regardless of the possible risks, by organising meetings and events we often create an experience that will be remembered forever, truly influence a company’s image on the market, launch a new, advanced idea, and directly affect sale figures.

In order for a meeting to be an amazing experience for the participants and guests, one often employs the so-called WOW! factor.

Let your imagination soar… but always have in mind:

–        The profile of the event and the profile of participants / guests

–        Availability of the venues and infrastructure in place

–        The costs of the venues (rent) and equipment

–        Purpose of the event.

A story about creativity would not be complete without some examples of good practice.

Venues challenge – often during the final stage of an event organisation there is a need for some additional rooms for several simultaneous meetings or workshops. We often solved the shortage of standard meeting rooms by adjusting hotel rooms, especially suites or the hotel’s catering facilities.  While we were organising a very challenging meeting of managers of an international corporation in Dubrovnik, at the last moment a need arose for several simultaneous meetings at which the company’s different divisions would be revising their business plans. In the end the meetings were held in the salons of a neighboring residential villa as well as on the terraces, in under the cover of sunshades. We believe that the view of Lokrum and the old city had a positive effect on the participants’ creativity.

Time challenge – while organising numerous meetings on the coast, evening events are often planned to take place in beautiful outdoor locations that have no adequate alternatives in the event of bad weather. In the case of an unpromising weather forecast it is difficult to persuade a client to give up the original outdoor location. Rain just before or during the event puts us in a stressful and challenging situation. Creativity, but also good logistics, are important for making quick decisions. During an award-giving ceremony, which we organised for a Scandinavian company and which was taking place on the square in front of the city council in Šibenik, we were suddenly threatened by rain at the start of the ceremony (a black cloud with the possibility of a local shower appeared literally out of the blue). Instead of the planned bus transfer we took a little bit longer time and transported the guests to the town from the nearby hotel by boats. With music and aperitifs the guests enjoyed the view of the sea and the islands, arriving at the center of Šibenik right after the rain had passed and with everything ready for the gala dinner.

Budget challenge – especially delicate are the cases of an abrupt budget cutting. The concept was already completed and the organisation begun when the celebration of a large anniversary almost came under threat. The elaborate scenario for a journey through a company’s history included the appearance of several famous presenters, a choreography of the topic, a musical program from various historical periods, gifts, and an expensive and elegant banquet. In the end we used a similar concept, but the event was hosted by the editors of professional publications and other media (for which it gained professional recognition and provided good topics for further analysis), the musical journey was successfully guided by a D.J., while the guests also had a lot of fun discussing interesting facts from the company’s history, which they received written down in several versions on cards left on their tables. Given the great media interest, the banquet was financially supported by additional sponsors.

Evidently, the organisation of professional and business meetings is becoming more and more complicated and increasingly demanding. It is important to have an experienced and professional partner that can easily address organisational dilemmas, make quick decisions and find an optimal solution within your budget.

With true professional help and adequate logistics, a host can properly relax and enjoy the company of colleagues and business partners.

Aleksandra Uhernik Đurđek