On 14th December 2020, the annual voting for the most influential people of New Europe concluded. The list of influencers was viewed by a record number of 9.430 readers, while 2.606 of Kongres Magazine’s readers cast their votes.

Since 2014, Kongres Magazine has been giving centre stage to the most influential people of New Europe’s meetings industry. When we prepared our first-ever list of influencers, our guidance was the following mindset. Would you decide to build a house without an architect or professional construction workers? The price you would have to pay for the amateur approach would be significant. Likewise, this applies to event organisation, one of the fields of expertise, where everyone seems to be an expert.

Thus, we decided to set structured criteria and requirements for nomination. Our list of influencers differs from similar competitions, as nomination has to come from a third party and not candidates themselves. We want the influencer list to be of help when you start organising events again, serving as a trustworthy directory of MICE professionals. This project is not a competition, but a serious platform that you can rely on. All nominees that were part of the voting process are presented in alphabetical order below.

I would like to sincerely congratulate the winners and all of the nominees on their impressive achievement and pledge to further develop and evolve the project in the following years.

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2021,

Gorazd Čad
Editor in chief


TOP 5 (with the highest number of votes)

Davor BRUKETA, Bruketa&Žinić&Grey 
Gorazd ČAD, Toleranca Marketing
Jaka GORNIK, FM Agencija
Mary KIRILOVA, Baltic Event Industry Club (BEIC)
Boban MILUNOVIČ, Metaldays

Davor BRUKETA, Bruketa&Žinić&Grey

Davor Bruketa together with Nikola Žinić founded Bruketa&Žinić OM agency in 1995, and renamed it to Bruketa&Žinić&Grey after becoming part of Grey Group in 2017. As Bruketa&Žinić OM the agency won over 450 awards for advertising and design. Advertising Age awarded B&Ž the International Small Agency of the Year 2014 award, and Campaign listed B&Ž among the world’s leading independent agencies. On the global Effie Effectiveness Index B&Ž was ranked second among independent agencies in 2012. Bruketa is also a jury member of many prestigious international competitions.


Gorazd ČAD, Toleranca Marketing

Gorazd Čad is 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.



Jaka GORNIK, FM Agencija

“Create the best event experience”

Jaka Gornik is one of the most recognizable and charismatic representatives of the meetings industry in Slovenia and the Adriatic region. In his more than 20 years long career he has participated in various local and international projects. But his main focus has always been FM Agency, where he has been providing BTL opportunities for partners offline as a founder and CEO. Lately, he has also provided them with the best online EU based event solution: a private live stream platform named Confiva.



Mary KIRILOVA, Baltic Event Industry Club (BEIC)

“if not us, then who?”

Mary is the CEO at BEIC, one of a kind event industry business association. Members of BEIC are the largest event agencies of the Baltic Sea Region. Mary is a founder of Baltic-Nordic Event Forum and Amber Event Awards, a unique face to face communication platform for industry leaders. She is also one of the initiators and co-creators of coalition.



Boban MILUNOVIČ, Metaldays

“To ask the power to reform itself, what a dullness!”

Boban is probably best known as the owner and promoter of the biggest Slovenian festival MetalDays, where he is in charge of the entire management and booking; but actually, he is “the boss” of other 2 festivals too: Bluesland and Headbanger’s Holiday. He has been involved in the music industry his entire life, from playing in various bands and being a tour manager, to establishing a recording and mastering studio, where he took care of mastering and production for exciting newcomers and established brands.



In alphabetical order

Danijela BREČKO, GV Educations

Danijela Brečko has over 20 years of experience in the field of professional personal development and leadership. She holds a master’s degree from the Faculty of Arts in the field of personal development and has also published a book on the topic, titled How We Adult Change. She holds a PhD in career planning and the role of education. For more than 20 years, she has been working as an editor for educational programs and as a manager at Planet GV, business education and consulting firm, and for the last two years she has been developing tools to increase human intellectual capital at the SOFOS Educational Management Institute.

Anže ČOKL, Bohinj ECO Hotel

Well before finishing his studies, Anže was in the business world, first of all with a friend, together with whom they bought and took leadership of a publishing company only to sell it years later and invest in IT. Then in 2008, Anže started a position as a Project Manager in an Engineering Investment Company, where he gained his professional experience as an engineer of energy-efficient buildings. The following year saw him become CEO of the most technologically advanced hotel complex in Slovenia and in 2012 he became managing partner of an investment consulting company, dedicating his free time is to his passion of capturing images and motion pictures in the mountains.

Marina FRANOLIĆ, Bench Events

Marina began her hospitality career at the Glion Institute of Higher and the Hotel Savoy, Rocco Forte group, in Florence. After several years outside of the hospitality industry, in 2012 she established her own company with the goal of bringing global trends to the regional industry. In 2013, Adria Hotel Forum was launched with an idea of showcasing world trends, sparking the creation of new ideas and partnerships and overall development of the hotel industry. Within years, AHF confirmed to be the only internationally recognized hotel investment conference within the South-Eastern Europe whose partners are global companies. In 2017, the company started a unique event with a goal of bringing trends into everyday hotel operations – HOW /Hotel Operations Weekend/ Festival that gathers every year more than 500 participants. In 2018, the company has been rebranded as HESA Group and served as the connoisseur of the regional market and opportunities. In 2019, global hospitality event organizer Bench Events acquired Adria Hotel Forum. From June 2016, AHF is part of Bench Events and Marina became Managing Director for CEE. In addition, she serves as the Industry Advisory Board Member at Glion Institute of Higher Education.

Anja GARBAJS, PM Mediji

Anja Garbajs is not a stranger in the world of professional communication, professional management and organization processes. She has more than 20 years of enviably experiences, 15 years of that at PM, Poslovni mediji d. o. o. as an Account Manager & Event Management Specialist. Anja always looks for innovative platforms in terms of communication and consumer promotion, trying to translate the provided strategies into tangible and measurable plans, always delivering outstanding results for the client. She managed diverse media processes, from classic to modern print and more unpredictable web contents and tools.

Marko GUČEK, GoOpti

Marko Guček is the co-founder and CEO of GoOpti. His fulfilling professional life has always connected his two biggest passions: business and travel. He has been working in the economic and tourism sector for years, starting as Assistant to the CFO at the nautical company Seaway Group, and later became Managing Director and co-founder of many successful companies like Privata ltd., TM Travel ltf, TM Vista ltd., Socinet ltd, …

Photo Credit: Slido

Juraj HOLUB, Slido

Juraj Holub received the Young Hero in Meeting Design Award and was selected as one of PCMA’s ‘20 In Their Twenties Class of 2016’ for his work as a professional, speaker and writer in many activities that drive meeting design. Juraj is the editor of the Slido blog and contributes to several events industry media outlets. As a public speaker, Juraj Holub applies the meeting design principles to deliver interactive sessions at events such as SXSWedu, WEC, Social Media Week and IMEX.

Jan-Jaap in der Maur
Photo credits:

Jan-Jaap In der Maur, Masters in Moderation

Jan-Jaap In der Maur is a meeting-moderator, facilitator and founder of Masters in, as well as a keynote speaker on the subject of interaction & moderation.


Jovan JELOVAC, Belgrade Design Week

An architect by education, from youth football, hope to international branding guru, all the way via design consultant and film producer, Jovan Jelovac basically lives in the aeroplane, speaks six languages and works simultaneously in London, New York, Moscow, Berlin, Milano and Belgrade. He currently lives and works in Zürich, Switzerland with his branding consultancy Brand New World, and Belgrade, Serbia with Belgrade Design Week. Jovan Jelovac was born in Belgrade in 1967. He attended the Architecture Studies of the University of Belgrade and opened his first design company in 1988.

Mariska KESTELOO, Word of MICE

Entrepreneur, public speaker and Past-President of Meetings Professional International in Belgium. With more than 18 years of working experience in tourism and the meetings and events industry. Passionate about storytelling, Mariska founded her company Word of MICE in 2017. Her company connects the meetings and events industry with the right influencer, to tell and spread the story of the suppliers in an authentic, creative and professional way. She is convinced of the impact and potential of B2B influencer marketing and her mission is to create a globally active community of influencers, content creators and ambassadors. She is a visionary, forward-thinking entrepreneur and loves new challenges.

Andriy KHUDO, Holding of Emotions

Boris KOVAČEK, Pepermint

Boris Kovaček is a co-founder and co-owner of Croatian event agency Pepermint. He is also the executive director and co-owner of the Weekend Media Festival as well as Project Manager at the World Handball Championship, the European Water Polo Championship, Terraneo Music Festival, Asian Beach Games 2010. Before Pepermint, he built his career at EPH, DA! and as DJ in Zagreb clubs. His last major project was the launch of the first amusement park in this part of Europe. Fun Park Biograd was opened in 2017.

Stefan KOZAK, Creative Pro

Stefan Kozak is an action man and visionary. He managed to build an internationally recognized event and live communication agency. This year Stefan recreated the whole model of agency for creating virtual, hybrid & online solutions. He follows the motto “passion for moments” and this is reflected in every live and onlive event. He believes in his people and grows every year on international markets (Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland). CREATIVE PRO Group has received already a lot of national and international awards (Zlatý Klinec, ČEA, World Best Event Awards, Eventex Awards, Conventa Best Event Award). In addition to active management CREATIVE PRO Group, he is in charge of developing foreign relations for the association of event & live comm agencies in Slovakia – BTLka. This year, Stefan was ranked among the 50 most important innovators of virtual events and the TOP 100 most influential people in the event industry.

Žiga NOVAK, Skupina Orehov gaj

Žiga Novak is the CEO of the Walnut Grove Group. He has extensive experience in workshop facilitation, speaking, lecturing, event management &marketing, business development, project management, EU funding, international organisations, NGOs and media.

Ovanes OVANESSIAN, Eventex and Evalato

Ovanes Ovanessian is the Co-founder of Eventex.

Dani POLAJNAR, Teambuilding Academy

Dani Polajnar is an event manager, author, lecturer and trainer with years of experience in fields of leadership and teamwork. He’s working with global corporations in order to support them in shaping their corporate culture with one objective in mind: making their employees happy, engaged and productive. His mission is to connect people through a large portfolio of corporate events, keynote speeches and leadership trainings. Dani is a founder and CEO of Teambuilding Academy (TBA), an organization devoted to building teams through hi-end events. In the last 13 years, TBA has organized more than 2200 events in 13 different countries.

Manolis PSARROS, Topsophy

Senior manager, consultant, entrepreneur and keynote speaker with 20 years experience in tourism policy & development and destination management & marketing positions and roles at a global level. Since 2000, Manolis has delivered 100+ keynotes & workshops in destination planning, management & marketing, tourism strategy and sharing economy at an international level and led 50+ strategic plans, research studies & marketing programs. He has also been part of the team that set-up the first DMO in Greece for the City of Athens (This Is Athens). He has worked with DMOs, travel brands & tourism organizations in 20+ countries helping them to achieve their goals through meaningful strategies and results-oriented tactics and led strategic & research consulting projects for European Travel Commission, European Cities Marketing, UNDP, UNWTO and HOTREC. Manolis launched TOPOSOPHY Consulting & Marketing Agency in 2010 (formerly known as About Tourism). He is currently leading Dine Athens Restaurant Week by Alpha Bank (2016-on going), Concept Development & Chief Event Manager, Taste Athens by Taste Festival, IMG (2018-2022) and is the Managing Director (Official Licensee), as well as Licensor for Stay in Athens by MasterCard (2020-ongoing).

Igor SAVIĆ, PM Poslovni mediji

Igor Savič is an event and media creator and manager, communication strategist, trainer and consultant. He deals with the most complex communications projects based on expertise and extensive experience gained through education in Slovenia and around the world. He is the founder and general manager of the communication agency PM, which deals with strategic communication and marketing planning processes, communications consulting and PR, design and production of modern communication tools, new electronic media, web portals, corporate magazines in print or electronic form, events, advertising campaigns, branding and design. PM is the leading content marketing agency in the region and part of C3 network.

Niko SLAVNIČ, THE Slovenia

Entrepreneur Niko Slavnić has been gaining marketing, lecturing and investor knowledge alongside many international experiences, especially in Europe, and now he has accepted the challenge to help build one of the fastest-growing technology companies, HTEC Group. He started his marketing career in a family business at the age of 16 and has since expanded his marketing skills with entrepreneurship and investments in more than 15 projects such as IQbator, In Your Pocket in Latvia, The Slovenia, Centinel in Estonia, Optiprint. He has been regularly sharing his knowledge and experience for more than 20 years as a lecturer (ESSCA – École Supérieure des Sciences Commerciales d’Angers, IEDC – Bled School of Management) and a guest speaker in more than 30 countries.

Martijn TIMMERMANS, The Red Line Project

Martijn is an independent, award-winning Events Experience designer and consultant who believes in the power of co-creation to help event owners realize their impact goals. Known for bringing storytelling “back on the design map”, he developed various tools; from the Event Storyboard Canvas to the Storyboarding Toolkit. Martijn is a frequently asked and returning guest speaker and moderator for industry events and guest lecturer and mentor. He is a member of the Meet4Impact Community and has a keen interest in Human Behaviour and Technology.


Candidates were assessed on the following key criteria:

• Achievement of the best financial and other multiplier effects of the meetings industry in 2019/2020 that were significantly above the average;
• Implementation of the most demanding improvements and innovations in their field, including successfully implemented projects that marked the year 2019/2020 as a special one;
• Help in enhancing the reputation and visibility of the meetings industry in 2019/2020;
• Innovations that facilitate the work of meetings organisers, or have shown the direction for the future.

Based on the criteria, we prepare the list and invite readers of Kongres Magazine to vote. The voting lasts for a month (this year from 13th November to 14th December 2020). In each category, we highlight five influencers with the most votes, while the rest of the nominees are presented equally according to alphabetical order. Each year, colleagues that received less than 2% of all votes are excluded from the list. The 2% was set as the threshold for being placed on the list (52 votes in 2020).

The selection is prepared by the editorial board of Kongres Magazine, consisting of five members. The editorial board ensures a comprehensive overview of nominations and oversees voting results. Thereby, the editorial board assures voting credibility. On request, individuals have the possibility of examining the selection results.

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