Anja Rebek

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.

ANJA REBEK, Senior Event Manager and Consultant at Fabulatorij

EXPANDING OUR EXPERTISE

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

We should understand that restrictions were certainly necessary, but I would appeal to those responsible for them to actively think about all the consequences, next steps, and how they are going to reshape the world in the future.

Q: What would you compare this situation to?

I have to admit I have never experienced anything like this in my lifetime. It is a weird feeling (for a “control freak” like me) not to have control over this situation. I have to admit that the situation is creating a high level of stress, but on the other hand stress and pressure get me going and evoke a sense of bravery within.

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

I actually do not expect anything from the government, except rational behaviour when it comes to taking measurements preventing the virus from spreading and affecting the most vulnerable members of our community. We were disappointed with the process of legislation when this situation came about. In my opinion, the situation has to be resolved in the long run for future matters as well. We have to cope with everything else and I do not doubt that the FAB team will adapt quickly, just as we always have. It is not going to be easy, but as event managers, we have a lot of experience in crisis management and a lot of knowledge in various fields of marketing. That is going to help us a lot in the transition period.

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

Virtual events are the most obvious plan B and we are going to experience more and more of them in the near future. In my opinion, they are not the alternative to live events, since they cannot replace the emotional reactions and feelings of the audience, but they are rather an upgraded supplement to live experience formats. They serve specific brand goals and are measurable, but in my opinion, the new reality has the potential to upgrade human interaction even more than it did. So live events are surely coming back – in all their glory!

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

At a very early stage of the epidemic, we started and tested the “working from home” model. At first, we were struggling, since we are in a creative business and long-distance brainstorming takes much more time (lost in translation situations), but at this point, we established an effective workflow. Later on, we reduced costs to a bare minimum and started shaping key tasks within our FAB event professionals’ community according to the fresh expectations and needs of the market.

Q: What are your expectations regarding the duration of the crisis and when will the situation go back to normal?

Life is going to take its normal course sooner or later, but what is most worrying is the near future of the event industry, since interaction within larger groups is going to be perceived as dangerous for quite some time.

Q: How are you tackling the event prohibition? What will the next few months look like for you?

Well, we will get a bit of our well-deserved rest, initially. To look at it from a more serious perspective, we are developing and testing new event approaches in terms of virtual and hybrid events and trying to expand our field of expertise. Synergies, especially in marketing, are the future and our broad expertise, which among other things includes BTL campaigns, digital activations and development of relevant content. All of this is going to be very useful. Remember, content is everything and even though it is not presented within live event format one can do and achieve a lot with it.

IT IS TIME TO DO WHAT EVENT MANAGERS KNOW BEST: REACT AND ADAPT QUICKLY

Q: What can we do to help our industry get back to its feet as soon as possible?

We just have to be creative and be able to activate knowledge, experience and multiple skills for creating fresh business models or upgrade the existing ones. It is time to do what event managers know best: react and adapt quickly. Events are not a self-standing communication tool. They are linked to various marketing channels and it is time to transform and be able to tell wholesome brand stories, not just chosen parts. Learn to look at the whole picture. The field of experiential marketing offers many challenges and opportunities.

Q: Are you foreseeing any problems for the meetings industry once the prohibition is lifted?

Of course, the main dilemma is surely that we do not know yet when the restrictions will be lifted to the point where live events will be allowed again. At this point, we do not have any idea for how long the social distancing rule will be enforced, meaning that the event industry can suffer for a longer period than just during the distancing measures. In addition to this, the business year is financially already strongly affected, so I think it is safe to say that for us, event managers, 2020 will be filled with challenges.

Q: What does this mean for events in the future? What will have to change?

This shows the risk that we all uptake when entering the event industry. Nobody could have foreseen such a destructive force for a large segment of the economy (HoReCa, events, tourism, etc.). We cannot change much, to be honest, in such a situation we can only adapt.  The main concern is that in the case of a recurring epidemic we do not have additional tools to battle it. People need socializing and thus events need to happen.

Q: Is marketing (digital marketing) in the duration of the pandemic sensible (and appropriate)?

Of course, it is, society cannot and should not stop to a halt. We have already put more things to rest as a society than we would ever need to. More has to be done in terms of prevention in the future. Digital marketing is and will be a strong tool, complementary with events and not affected as much in these situations.

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

We plan to do what we do best – come back strong. We are in active contact with our clients, we are actively working on projects that have been rescheduled and are developing additional solutions to come out of this situation stronger than ever.

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

I think we are all coming up with solutions as business individuals – using our wit and experience to battle through these economically and socially challenging times. I always maintain contact with colleagues in the region and we all share the same goal – events need to come and will come back.