Interview with Natalija Bah Čad

Project manager at Toleranca Marketing

Natalija joined Toleranca Marketing in 2008 with ten years of experience as a PCO behind her. She has been a PCO for twenty years now and together with her team of MICE enthusiasts, she has proven that the organisation of a successful congress involves not just logistics, but also creativity and innovativeness. Conventa is one of the projects that she has been involved with from the very beginning and this concept of regional B2B events has also been successfully transferred from MICE to the Spa & Wellness industry, as well as the active tourism field. Recently she was elected to the position of Council Member of the Slovenian Convention Bureau. And since this issue of Kongres magazine is focused also on gender equality in MICE, we talked to Natalija who is one of the most recognisable and important regional MICE experts about her past, present and future work.

Q: You were recently elected to position of a Council Member of the Slovenian Convention Bureau. What does this mean to you?

I was pleasantly surprised to be elected, in particular because I realised that the post in the 6-member Council of the Convention Bureau is growing in significance which means that representatives of 70 members want to actively co-shape the strategy of congress development in Slovenia. I have been cooperating with the Convention Bureau through various marketing projects from the very beginning and I am proud of the results! With a small budget, we have done a lot for the recognition of Slovenia in the world. As a member of the Council, I will strive for the visibility of members and their services within Slovenia too. There are plenty of unused opportunities in obtaining congresses. I have no doubt that with the recently started ambassador programme, we will connect better with scientists, experts and businesspeople and thus bring international congresses to Slovenia.

Q: When did you enter the MICE industry and why?  

During my studies, I helped in the Congress department of the Cankarjev dom. I was impressed by the variety of events, meetings, and professional topics. I am still in awe today when I encounter some special topic of an international conference. Last year we participated in an international weed conference, and in a conference on bear research. From each collaboration, I learned something new and met wonderful people, completely devoted to their research work. I am happy that we are able, as congressional organisers, to help them create the best conditions for their scientific meetings. This is the main task of congress organisers. Since trends are moving towards more and more interactive events, we try to help our organisers with our knowledge and experience in introducing more open formats, with more discussion and interaction between lecturers and participants, as well as among the participants themselves.

EWRS Conference

A team can be considered “the best” when the knowledge and experience of senior staff meet the “no limits” ideas of juniors

Q: Since then, what have been all the different jobs and all the different roles that you have held in MICE?

I never forget to mention that I learned everything at Cankarjev dom, which has been the largest PCO in Slovenia since the 1980s. Nevertheless, I wanted a little more creativity and diversity in my work. After a short period of time in the events agency, I joined my husband and we started our agency. If in the past the biggest challenges were large congresses with more than 1,500 participants, where the most important thing is perfect logistics, in my work in my own agency my biggest challenge is to create my own events, where we have more freedom and we can introduce new trends.

Q: What would you recommend to the new generation that is entering the MICE industry?

I am very happy to share my knowledge with young people interested in our business. Each year, at Conventa, in cooperation with IMEX International Business Exchange, we enable 50 young people to attend the Future Leaders Form workshop. Although they are mostly tourism students, many of them encounter the meetings industry for the first time on this occasion. And some of them remain in it. Working in the meetings industry requires a wide openness and knowledge, and therefore their educational background is not the most important thing for me. Organisation of events is considered one of the more stressful professions; therefore, good organisation, communication ability, and an understanding of the needs of clients and participants is important. In our agency, a team can be considered “the best” when the knowledge and experience of senior staff meet the “no limits” ideas of juniors.

Q: You have been one of the key parts of Conventa. Among other important roles in Conventa, you also organise Conventa’s famous evening events every year with some great wow effects. This year, you put the attendees onto the stage and performers in the auditorium. What inspires you?

With year-round communication with Conventa participants, constant budget control … my favourite part is the preparation of social events. We are somewhat limited in regards to locations, but this is even more challenging. Can you invent something new in the same room? Our colleagues, event organisers from around the world, are “tough” guests, as they also organise events themselves and are not easily impressed. This year we pulled it off with a simple manoeuvre – we placed the guests on the stage, and the musicians surprised them from the gallery. The cherry on top was provided by the excellent Slovene acrobats Filip and Blaž, who descended from the ceiling amidst the guests below on the stage. At Conventa we have excellent partners who support our “out of the box” ideas.

Conventa 2019

We are often the most creative on projects with a little budget

Q: What for you is a perfect event?

Despite 20 years of experience, before every event, even when only for 20 people, I have deep respect. I keep checking all the artists, I mentally walk the route that the guests will walk, and still think of some improvements. The perfect event must have a common thread, nothing should be left to chance. I like the effect of surprise and with colleagues we always think of a participant’s journey through an event where the participant should experience at least 10 “wows”.

Q: If you had no budget restrictions, what kind of event would you organise?

From experience, I can say that we are often the most creative on projects with little budget. Since I have not yet received such an order, where the budget was unlimited, I have not yet really thought about it. But if it did happen, I would be happy to hire the best artists – musicians, painters, dancers … This approach is closer to my heart than most modern technology and stage techniques. Of course, the combination of both can make a top-notch event.

Q: You mentioned that the diversity of projects attracts you. What was your last project and which ones are in the pipeline?

The last event was the expert meeting of the 1st Bled Meetings Forum, where together with Bled Convention Bureau we conceived a completely new event from scratch. We prepared the content, complete marketing and logistics, including the event moderation.

The next event is the corporate conference of an international pharmaceutical company where our clients have engaged in the conceptual design and implementation of afternoon networking activities and evening events. At the same time, we are preparing a B2B event Incentives Alpe Adria, in cooperation with the Arena Hospitality Group from Pula, where the aim is to present the incentive offer of the Alpe-Adria region to tour operators from Europe. The second part of the team is dealing with content marketing for various subscribers, the preparation of a new edition of the Kongres magazine and daily news from the congress industry, published on our Kongres magazine portal.