Michael Kern, Executive Director, DEKON Group

Michael Kern, Executive Director, DEKON Group

[pullquote]Associations expect more than just meeting execution, they anticipate us to understand how their members think[/pullquote]Q: What is the secret to TOP PCO?
If I would tell you now all the secrets, then they wouldn’t be secrets any more, but let me give you a few hints. First of all, you need to have a vision. Some 10 years ago, we have been a local PCO, focused on local business. Without the vision of our owners to become a global player and bringing together the right people with a wide international horizon we would still be at the same spot or even not exist anymore. Another key element is to always stay on top of the last developments of the industry. Offering state of the art operations or technology isn’t enough, you need to one step ahead. Always.

Q: How strong is PCO business today?
Difficult question, there are so many external influencers which we had no idea about some years ago, it makes the future of the industry really hard to predict. The PCO business is definitely changing. It’s changing a lot. The full service PCO business we all did in the past is dead. Many clients want to have tailor made solutions, they want to use just a parts of our service. On the other hand additional services, working closer especially with association clients who look for sustainable growth, are expected.

I still believe, actually more than ever, in face to face meetings. For sure the online conferencing will become even more common than it is today for the smaller meetings, but it won’t eradicate the classical annual association meeting. People don’t want to miss the social gatherings, they want to interact with their peers, talk to the lecturers after the sessions, they want meet their friends from the years before.

Q: What is the most positive thing about the meetings industry?
That we are, even we have a lot of tough competition, a strong industry with a lot of common spirit.

Q: What are some of the big issues that challenge you and your teams?
At this time I would say its security issues and hesitant conference organizers. We saw attacks in all corners of the world which are raising the concerns of everyone within the industry. Can we run a conference at a specific venue? Will we have enough participation? Will we get sponsorship, find exhibitors? What we see every day in media is massively influencing our decisions, creating perceptions of the potential conference attendees but often it’s not reflecting the reality on site.

Q: Which are your favourite meeting destinations and why?
Our favorite destinations are the ones, which have not only the ‘normal’ ingredients, like being easy accessible, a good hotel variety, exciting social venues, they have also a strong, creative and supportive CVB which can offer more support than free city maps. And we need to get the feeling that the city and its representatives really want our meeting to happen just there and nowhere else. Having all that, we can endorse a destination to our clients.

Q: What are Slovenia’s strengths as a meetings destination?
A really motivated CVB like I mentioned above, which gives us the feeling to be welcome with any concern, question or request. They just try to make it happen. It’s a small but very green country, which can offer mountains, lakes and seaside alike. And if Ljubljana has one day more hotel beds it will be even more attractive for the bigger congresses.

Q: What differentiates Slovenia and makes it attractive to the meetings market?
One of the ‘newer’, more unknown meeting destinations, not too many congresses have been there already. We often hear from the organizers that most attendees know this or that city already, ‘been there, seen that’ doesn’t happen often with Slovenia. It gives more the feeling of a ‘boutique’ destination. On the other hand we found here very professional partners who are easy to work with, you guys speak our ‘language’.

Q: What will the future of International and local PCOs be?
When it comes to the role of international and local PCOs, the locals have their strengths, but in the future I see them more in the role of a DMC. Associations expect more than just meeting execution, they anticipate us to understand how their members think, to tell them how they can best reach their vision and mission and to work with them on a daily base giving advice to grow their membership and on the latest technological developments. It’s hard for a local PCO to stay on top of all those things.

Q: How do you rate the development in Eastern Europe and especially in South-Eastern Europe?
Some destinations in the area seem still stuck in the (post) communist era, where things happened because they were ordered to happen. It needs a lot of investment into infrastructure, into professionalism of the local players and the understanding that we are in the service industry, so we are here to serve our customers and that they are not petitioners. Or, you make it hard for us to work with you, means we won’t come back. I know those are harsh words, but this industry is also known for its tough competition, and don’t forget, attitude determines altitude.

For more than 25 years, DEKON Group has been organising meetings of all sizes. DEKON’s clients are global, regional and local associations and corporations, medical and technical societies, NGOs, NPOs and IGOs.

Besides conferences, DEKON Group also offers Association Management and Destination Management services with a specialised division to organise Protocol Meetings such as big UN Summits or governmental meetings.

DEKON Group has for many years been ISO certified; a member of ICCA; IAPCO; AMCI; the Istanbul and Izmir Convention Bureaus; a founding member of the Turkish Business Council of Sustainable Development Association.