Photo: Marko Delbello Ocepek

Gorazd Čad

DEFINITION

I often compare the meetings industry to the world of rock‘n’roll. To me, rock’n’roll is much more than just a musical genre. It’s passion, dedication and striving to be different. It’s showing the best of what you’ve got with all your heart and voice at just the right moment. It’s stirring your audience and leaving an impression. It’s establishing an authentic connection with every participant and listening to their wishes. It’s making sure that attendees become your fans.

THE STARTING POINT

The secret and essence of rock’n’roll is an original idea. The best ideas are simple, clear and unambiguous. Those that speak to the heart and soul. Just like music, events are a universal language that everyone understands. The idea of rock’n’roll is closely connected to the idea of freedom. Rock’n’roll is a way of life. In the same sense, good events also require a cool idea. One that attendees can identify with, easily unravel and understand. Cool ideas sprout in the minds of creative individuals who are the heart and soul of the meetings industry.

THE CONCEPT

There are two kinds of people in the world of events: the logistics experts and the architects. Ideas are what separate them. Concerned with event logistics are engineers, who prefer to stay on the beaten path rather than veer off it. Conversely, event architects are passionate about creating something new and exciting. There’s no shortage of creativity in the Balkans. Just think about Nikola Tesla and the legends surrounding him. Throughout history, numerous architects, artists, marketing experts and countless crazy rock bands that only people from the Balkans know have proven that creativity is part of the region’s genetic code. It’s mind-boggling that we have not managed to come together and use our natural creative charge to transform the region into a smart meeting destination. In addition to decades of history, we are united by a common rock’n’roll past with its universal positive language and unique ideas. That past is waiting to be discovered and used to impress and disrupt the international meetings scene.

I’m a big proponent of simple, clear-cut, minimalistic and honest ideas. We mustn’t forget that if we don’t know how to sell an idea to a client, that idea is worthless. Creativity should never be an end in itself. Contextually, we should therefore place our industry among CREATIVE INDUSTRIES that encompass everything from music and the broadest cultural industries to design and marketing. Unfortunately, I have not witnessed such placement in a broader context yet, which is strange considering that every one of our events is a creative blend of music, cuisine, design, architecture and culture.

CREATIVITY and moving away from the prevailing logistical and tourism logic remain the main challenges of our industry. Ultimately, creativity is the most fundamental factor in successful promotional destination campaigns. It’s those campaigns that are well-presented, communicative and creatively placed on the market that succeed.

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Photo: Conventa 2018

The meetings industry is not just a generator of economic effects creating revenue

TIPS AND TOOLS

Just like many other creative industries, the meetings industry has great social power. Recently, most organisers have been wondering how to ensure a sufficient number of participants in the period between and after the corona crisis. For this reason, new initiatives are taking place based on events that promote the interests of the community. Their key feature is the use of tools such as activism, social responsibility, open-source solutions and more. All this creates completely new multiplicative effects for the meetings industry and many new events.

The meetings industry is not just a generator of economic effects creating revenue, increasing investments and opening new employment opportunities. It promotes tourism development through a genuine promotion of tourist destinations, encouraging revisiting. It accelerates the development of technology and science by connecting leading international and local experts. It promotes the development of domestic companies and professionals. Last but not least, it promotes cultural development and enables the promotion of local culture and cultural exchange.

Every euro allocated to the meetings industry triggers a wide range of mutual economic effects that provide additional consumption in other economic sectors or industries. Therefore, it is certainly no coincidence that the most developed meetings destinations are also the cities with the most developed creative industries. If I paraphrase the definition of creative cities and draw parallels with the meetings industry, meetings cities are those destinations that have a large number of creative residents who are innovative and prone to setting up new innovative projects and businesses.

If we want to actually learn something from the rock scene, we must first understand all three dimensions of rock iconography:

THE SOUND

An event should have its own sound. Metal music sounds powerful, fast and efficient, often on the border of pandemonium, but still sounding harmonious. To mainstream consumers, it might just sound like some rumbling and guitar screaming, spiced up with solos.

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Photo: Conventa 2018

THE VISUALS

Stage design, lighting effects and choreography are all important elements of an event. Rock stars are masters of the visual image. Remember the Spandex trend of the 80s? Dressing up in tightly fitting clothes was part of their visual image.

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Photo credit: Tina Ramujkić (Conventa 2019)

THE CONTENT

Building a unique image around a band name is what intrigues the fans. Branding based on fantasy stories from history, mythology or science fiction can be transferred to events as well. By experimenting with different stories, you can achieve an unforgettable and positive provocation.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Building From the Ground Up

The Conventa Trade Show was built through a rock’n’roll mindset. From the very beginning, our goal was to make Conventa simple, heartfelt, warm and attractive. That’s why the event changes and upgrades every year, surprising attendees with novelties. Because the participants are so different, the challenge is that much greater, as everyone renders the frequencies of the event in their own way and has their own critic built in. Reaching a harmonious state is not that simple. Events need a solid framework to achieve a good composition. One thing is certain: copying does not work. The only option is hard work that yields the highest level of event authenticity. That’s when you and your team can give way to some rock improvisation. There are certain rules that you have to learn, practice and take into account for each event. With Conventa, our training has been taking place for over 13 years, and on that solid foundation, we as organisers can afford to improvise.

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Photo: Marko Delbello Ocepek

INSPIRATION

Metal Days (formerly Metal Camp) is a unique phenomenon that was born from the provocation of Tolmin’s small local metal scene. Since then, the event has become a safe haven for all metalheads—from those that prefer symphonic metal to lovers of thrash, crossover, death, black and progressive metal. A metal delirium, where people go wild to blasting music. Many sacrifice their annual holiday to come to the festival. It’s clear that metal is not just music, but a way of life. Key elements of metal iconography come together in a grand spectacle accompanied by the sound of electric guitars. The power of metal is based on defiance, anger and pain, but excludes sentimental subtlety. And what can meeting planners learn from metalheads? The metal tribe hinges on openness and mutual respect. Gentle souls hide behind the blackness. Deep-rooted prejudices can often be a major hurdle for meeting planners. If, as organisers, we concentrate only on the mainstream, we are in great danger of losing sight of the full spectrum of extravagant subcultures that will one day become mainstream.

HOW TO ORGANISE MEETINGS THAT ROCK

INTERVIEW WITH GORAZD ČAD
Gorazd Čad is a seasoned meeting planner who has dedicated 25 years of his life to the meetings and events industry. He witnessed the fall of Yugoslavia, the establishment of independent Slovenia, adapted to the internet revolution of the ’90s, overcame the economic crisis of 2008, the 2010 eruption of an Icelandic volcano, and the 2019 meetings industry burnout…

“Just like rock’n’roll, events are a universal language”

Q: Where do you see similarities between rock‘n’roll and the meetings industry?

Just like rock’n’roll, events are a universal language. They don’t need a translation. At the same time, they are a universal reflection of the state of our society. We still love what we do. If you want to keep creating something for a long time, you have to be in love with your craft… and also a little bit crazy. The audience will immediately feel your passion and reward you for it.

Q: Why do you think events are the cornerstone of freedom and democracy?

The fact that digital ecosystems allow endless manipulation is scary. Just think about the fake news syndrome and how it can disrupt the political and economic situation across the globe. If we automatise society to the point where all communication takes place online, I seriously question the future of humanity. Critical thinking and progress will be replaced by an Orwellian dictatorship. That is why events are so important. They are the last defence against dictatorship, fascism and all negativity. Through history, events have helped society develop and preserve culture. If and when events are completely banned, a time of darkness and retrogression transpires.

Q: How can we transfer the rock‘n’roll mindset to events?

Copying is the ultimate sin. The rock‘n’roll mindset is based on originality and authenticity. Fakes don’t work. Browse your music memory. Do you remember the German duo Milli Vanilli? They quickly rose to fame until everyone realised they did not make any of the songs. The greatest musicians have stayed genuine throughout their careers. The same goes for great meeting planners. The best events are not generic copies, but real original stories.

Q: What can meeting planners learn from rock‘n’roll?

Even when spokes are put in your wheels, you have to perform in unison on stage. Members of the Rolling Stones, who are supposedly on bad terms with each other, act like best friends on stage. In order to put on a great show, egos have to be put aside. If everyone on the event planning team is not on the same page or does not have the same vision, it’s better not to carry out the event. You can’t force an incredible event to happen. When we manage to bring on board people with great mutual energy for our projects and work like a fine-tuned machine, that energy can be experienced by the attendees.

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Photo: Marko Delbello Ocepek

“The attendees and their needs are always at the forefront of everything we do”

Q: What can we learn from rock culture during this pandemic?

The attendees and their needs are always at the forefront of everything we do. This is very similar to musicians, who put listeners and their satisfaction at the concert first. Figuring out what attendees want might seem scary. In reality, that’s the charm and fundamental mission of our industry that not even the coronavirus crisis can change. Focusing on our customers (attendees) creates numerous new opportunities.

Q: Does Slovenia have any rock‘n’roll spirit? What can it offer international creatives?

Slovenia is an excellent market for trying out new ideas in the field of experience marketing. It’s a well-developed market but has its peculiarities. Nevertheless, it can be a great testing range for creatives. Agility is built into the DNA of Slovenian regions. The country has outlived so many crises that we’ve managed to live with them, stay agile and adapt.

Q: Do you perhaps have a favourite picture that represents the essence of your business? Can you share it?

Any photo with happy people. The Slovenian language has an excellent translation for the word “events”, we call them “SREČANJA”, which can simply be understood as making the participants of events happy. You can often distinguish between an average and amazing event just by looking at the photos of attendees. This is completely comparable to the attendees of rock concerts. One of my favourite pictures is the one below…

Q: What is, within or outside our profession, your biggest inspiration?

Music and theatre are two of my biggest sources of inspiration. I thoroughly enjoy plays, and I think meeting planners can learn a lot from them. I also find inspiration in modern literature, which I consume in great quantity. I am actually quite proud of the library I’ve built throughout the years at home, especially the works of younger authors from SE Europe.

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Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned during your career?

You never stop learning. New lessons constantly come your way, and the epidemic is just one example. I found the simplest life philosophy—carpe diem—to be one of the greatest lessons in life. Taking time for family, creating, enjoying, loving, wondering, resting or sometimes just breathing. Learning to love life…

Q: What has been your best decision during the corona crisis?

The best decision I’ve made is not surrendering to faith and turning our agency’s business strategy around. We carefully analysed the needs of our clients and added new services to our portfolio. This way, we have managed to keep existing clients and attract new ones. We strive to improve every day with a high level of responsibility to our clients guiding us on our journey.

Q: Where do you think ‘the new normal’ is heading towards?

We like to say that live events stir all of our senses. Right now, online events can only trigger two: sight and hearing. Choosing the right format depends on the preference of your audience. Do they like augmented or genuine reality? It seems that hybrid events, where half of the audience attends a physical venue and the other half joins online, are the best compromise. At the end of the day, we are social beings. The first thing most of us will probably do once this is over will be to go out, socialise at events, travel and have a great time together. I profoundly miss that. Live events will never die, as nothing can replace that authentic human2human connection.

Q: Could you say that organising events is not just a job, but a way of life?

I am fortunate to be able to do what I love in life. I left a corporate environment to pursue an independent career, and I have not looked back since. Since founding my agency, organising events has become a way of life, and original ideas are something I have not run out of yet.

GLOSSARY:

antagonista principal role opposed to that of the protagonist or herohttp://www.aact.org/
archetypesthe original patterns or model of which all things of the same type are representationshttp://www.dictionary.com/
credibilitythe credibility is typically based on how knowledgeable, experienced, and trustworthy the person ishttp://www.socialpsychology.org/
cultureenduring behaviours, ideas, attitudes, and traditions shared by a large group of people and transmitted from one generation to the nexthttp://www.socialpsychology.org/
eccentrismthe tendency toward unusual and sometimes outlandish behaviour that may contribute to original thinkinghttp://www.dictionary.com/
imaginationthe ability of the mind to develop and use imageshttp://www.en.wikipedia.org/
improvisationperformance in which the performers are not following script, but are spontaneously creating material as it is performedhttp://www.en.wikipedia.org/
paradigma set of rules, guidelines or beliefs adhered to consistently guide or direct one’s behaviour or thinkinghttp://www.dictionary.com/
protagonistis at the centre of the story, makes the key decisions and experiences the consequences of those decisionshttp://www.en.wikipedia.org/
sublimationfreud’s idea which is the primary cause of creativityhttp://www.socialpsychology.org/

This article was written by Gorazd Čad, a seasoned meeting planner, who has dedicated 25 years of life to the meetings and events industry. He witnessed the fall of Yugoslavia, the establishment of independent Slovenia, adapted to the internet revolution of the ’90s, overcame the economic crisis of 2008, the 2010 eruption of an Icelandic volcano, and the 2019 meetings industry burnout…

The chapter “ROCK’N’ROLL” is part of the POWER TO THE MEETINGS book, set to be published at the end of 2020.