Photo: Marko Delbello Ocepek

Exclusive interview for Kongres magazine with Ivo J. Franschitz, Owner & Managing Director of ENITED Business Events GmbH on the effects of COVID-19 on the business events industry and his opinion on virtual, hybrid and live events.

“The business events industry is definitely in a bad shape at the moment”

Q: How badly has COVID-19 affected the meetings industry in your country?

Pretty much the same way as in many European countries. Our business events industry is definitely in a bad shape at the moment, also here in Austria.

Q: How much damage has the epidemic caused for your company?

As a consultancy firm, we have been hit less hard than most of the classical event marketing/management agencies. Yes, also for us, any business event projects for 2020 we have been involved in, have been either cancelled, stopped or delayed. However, the financial impact for our company was manageable, due to the fact that our company has been based for some time on a very lean & agile resource and cost structure.

Q: How do measures put in place by regional governments help with exiting the crisis? What do you miss?

Again, there are similar “first aid & emergency” measures and support programs running in many European countries, hence, also in Austria. What’s very new & unique in Austria, is the establishment of a governmental “schutzschirm” (protective shield) for our events industry, which was announced at the end of last week. It is basically a “defauld/failure” guarantee from the Austrian government, any event owner/organizer can resort to, if & when any planned event in the near future needs to be cancelled due to any changes in the issued COVID-19 regulations/rules.

Photo: Marko Delbello Ocepek

Q: Do you think the situation will get worse before it gets better? Have you prepared any preventive measures in case of a second coronavirus wave?

As we are all more and more driven rather by perception (created in a joint effort by the global media & the national governments) than reality, it cannot really get much worse currently for our business events industry, in my opinion. So it can only go up & get better?.

Q: What has the epidemic taught us about the current state of the meetings industry? Will the epidemic also bring something positive?

As it is common in a crisis situation, we get first smacked in the face, as a wake-up call, to realize what part of our business events industry has been falling behind. Mostly it is a combination of lack of pro-active approach & initiative to change in good times, leading to certain inertia.

I am a firm believer that this health crisis, with all its global social & economical effects, offers great opportunities for those who dare to take risks and are able to think “out-of-the-box”.

Q: Do you think the quarantine period was beneficial for unwinding and gathering new creative ideas for the future?

Yes, to a certain extend, after the first “shock wave” has passed. Suddenly we had a change to step out of the daily “rat race”.

Photo: Marko Delbello Ocepek

“A simple copy & paste from face-to-face to virtual does not work”

Q: What are some alternatives to live events? Are live events a thing of the past or will we continue to meet in person after the coronavirus?

Face-to-face engagement and experiences are part of our human being, our DNA. hence, there will be no replacement for it. Yes, of course, the content, structure & formats of events will and need to evolve. But that has more to do with the general evolvement of our societies, economies, means of communication and needs of engagements than with the COVID-19 crisis. The crisis, first & foremost, acted as an accelerator of that evolvement.

Q: Do you think online events can replace the physical experience of live events?

Never ever.

Q: How have you managed to connect the digital and analogue world at your events and in business?

By starting from scratch, re-thinking & re-defining the content, structure & format of any hybrid or virtual event. A simple copy & paste from face-to-face to virtual does not work.


Q: What will we be discussing over coffee at the same time next year?

Hopefully, about the learnings and the opportunities, we have created out of it.

Q: Where do you find inspiration for events in these tough times? Do you have a favourite event agency or role model?

Knowing that the current crisis will not be the end of our live communication industry. Quite the opposite, our industry will be an important part of our recovery journey.

Q: What inspires you in your daily life? (music, books, nature…)

Good friends, good food & drinks, and not forgetting about living your life apart, more than ever.