In these challenging times, Kongres Magazine is trying its best to provide meeting planners with the most relevant and useful information regarding the spread of COVID-19. We also want to share opinions from key members of the meetings industry.

We asked key opinion makers from the meetings industry for their thoughts on the situation and how they are coping with COVID-19.

Alexey Kalachev, Russia Convention Bureau

virtual events can become an alternative to Face2Face meetings

Q: How do you feel about the restrictions that European governments have implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19?

I believe that the measures are justified, given the speed of the spread of the epidemic, the prospect of simultaneously reaching a significant number of people with the disease, which will be an overload for the effective functioning of the healthcare system, and a potential mortal threat for a number of population groups.

Q: What would you compare this situation to?

The situation is developing rapidly, and now it is very difficult to draw final conclusions and prematurely assume the real damage to the industry in the world. But what we observe today, and if the situation goes downhill, then it can be compared with the period after the World War 2, when Europe and the USSR recovered.

Q: Economic consequences for the meetings industry have already started to show, what do you expect government institutions to do?

The congress and exhibition industry, as an industry associated with direct communication between people, is subject to the most severe negative influences. Given the contribution that the event industry makes to the economic and social development of countries and territories, it has the right to expect support measures from the government during this difficult period. And we already see good examples of this in a number of European countries.

Q: What is your opinion on virtual meetings, as an alternative to live events?

For some time, virtual events can become an alternative to Face2Face meetings, but all the more valuable and long-awaited it will return to the format of live communication. In the era of global digitalization, the importance of F2F communication has reached a new level. Now the meeting is an investment. It is not only connected with the development of digital communications, but also with the increased value of time. A personal meeting is an indicator of readiness for further work, provides an opportunity to assess the risks, directly ask important questions, see the reaction of the interlocutor and understand the main thing – is it worth trusting.

Q: What precautions/measures are you taking in your company?

Starting this week, we switched to «online office», the staff work mostly from home. A number of business meetings and meetings are held on Skype.

Q: When do you think the situation will go back to normal? Are you optimistic about the summer Olympics?

For different countries, the restoration of the influence of COVID on the economy and the approach of the event industry to the “pre-virus” turnovers will take different time. And first of all, it depends on the support measures that the authorities of these countries will be ready to provide to relieve current stress on the industry and support companies, preserving experience gained over the years and professionalism of market players.

without support from the government it will be very difficult to make plans for the future

Q: Is digital marketing in times of crisis even sensible?

At certain times, the presence of virtual technologies can be seen as a “salvation” for the industry, a temporary alternative that allows participants in the industry to stay in the information field, transferring events and communication into a digital format.

Q: What will happen after we’ve beaten the virus? How will you (re)start your marketing activities?

First of all, we do not stop our activities regarding the work on bids, taking into account the prospects for events – from year to five. Also, taking advantage of the temporary slack of business activity, we intend to focus on educational initiatives for industry players, that could help to meet the new reality and make a fresh start with the new competencies.

Q: Are you in contact with colleagues from around the world? Have you talked about any potential solutions?

Yes, we communicate and interact. Each country has its own individual situation. And it is important for everyone in this difficult period to take steps for saving companies and people. And it’s quite clear that without support from the government it will be very difficult to make plans for the future.

How concerned are you about COVID-19?