Boštjan Prijanovič

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.

BOŠTJAN PRIJANOVIČ, partner and managing director of New Moment Slovenia

ADJUSTING FOR THE FUTURE

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

New Moment Slovenia made roundly half of the billings in the event organization business. This has dropped to zero in one day, on Black Friday, March 13. Also, other parts of our business are affected heavily, such as media buying and instore.

Q: What would you compare this situation to?

Nothing, really. No recession so far has changed our business so swiftly.

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

Our state, like many others, will and already is deploying many measures to sustain the economy during this period. But we must be realistic – most measures are focused on huge systems with many employees. We, the agencies, are not in the focus. There will be some financing, but we will have to adjust to the new situation ourselves.

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

I believe that VR and AR will take quite a huge part in events – it is a logical consequence. We are already developing some concepts in this area, whether solely virtual events or using technology as a tool for more intense engagement. Of course, virtual events are not really an alternative to the actual experience of a live event. We are social beings and we need physical contact.

OUR FIRST GOAL IS TO KEEP THE TEAM

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

Oh, of course, the usual crap in the cost-cutting area. We had no choice. Our first goal is to keep the team. We are an agency of 12 people and everyone is a big contribution to the team. It is also important that we keep the spirit and the bonds between us.

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

I have no idea. I think the most important thing for everyone, especially leaders in companies, is to admit that. More important than ever will be our ability to adjust. Those who will wait for things to go “back to normal” will not survive.

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

As I said earlier, event prohibition hurts half of our billings. But also, other advertising areas are hurt. This situation is probably easier for agencies that handle retailers, or crisis PR, for example. What is very important is to understand our clients, their situation, their adjustments. Each one of them is in a different situation but they are also going through a lot of changes and challenges. We need to support each other – agencies can help clients a lot with conference call platforms, internal communications and “keeping the spirit” projects. Most of our clients, on the other hand, are trying to keep us busy with the development of projects that will be executed later.

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

We are in the service business and we will always be depended on the situation of the economy. If I look just for agency business, we will survive and will work well again when the situation in general changes for the better.

As for the whole events and meetings industry, it’s much harder. For example, my business dropped by half. But the business of our vendors (productions, scenography, artists, event transport) dropped to zero. Also, locations, culture and congress centres, music event organizers, especially smaller ones will be hurt a lot.

I mentioned at the beginning, we are not in the focus. Everybody considers big companies and tourism, not agencies and event providers. What we need now is a voice – an organized call to the government to include our business in the next wave of measures. For us, organizing events and meetings, the situation will not go back to normal when most of the measures will be relaxed.

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

Yes. As simple as that. The effect on our industry will be large and overwhelming.

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

Well, I may predict a little for business meetings, receptions and events. I wonder who the first CEO will be to decide that events are back on track and that they will call 500 people to socialize and party. They will have “what if…” in their mind and I suppose events will be the last in the line of marketing activities to be reactivated.

So, first, some time has to pass. Even after the event prohibition is over, we will not be open for business at once. In this perspective, many organizations will have to change and adjust to survive this period.

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

Obviously. For every brand. The worst communication is silence. Of course, and different for each brand, one must adjust communication. To reconsider everything in the communication strategy. And this cannot happen overnight.

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

I was talking about the virus in late February, it seems so long ago now: It is not only what it is, but what it does. It is a health threat, but it has also shaken the world completely.

It is very hard to predict when and what will happen. I suppose the relaunch of activities will be stretched through a longer period of time and we cannot afford to wait for this. We will be looking for new opportunities, new fields of communications and also for new ways of organizing events.

I think that events in this post virus age will be smaller, more intimate, personalized. There will also be a huge wave of technology, especially VR and AR.

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

We are in constant contact with all New Moment network managers. Exchanging experiences, ideas, possible solutions. And our fears and nightmares. It helps.