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Interview with Vesna Vlašić Jusupović, Managing Director at McCann Sarajevo on the future of the meetings industry, her passion for organising events and whether digital events can replace live events.

“Good events can even lure out huge potential out of some of the most introverted persons”

Q: What do you desire the most at the moment?

My biggest desire would be to somehow see the future and end this circle of uncertainty that we have all been circling around in for almost a year now. No matter how we cope with all the challenges set upon us in the work and home environment, it seems that there is always more, and change comes as a constant of life more than ever.

Q: Why do you love organising events?

Events are like a wish waiting to come true, and we, the event organisers are genies who listen to the wants and needs of their masters – the audience. We always need to find the best possible way to make all their wishes come true and add a twist of something unexpected that best serves the purpose of a specific event. It is never easy to organise an effective and memorable event, but it is always highly rewarding, in terms of business results, as well as getting that general feeling of a purpose achieved.

Q: Can you present the tool or app you use the most during the corona crisis?

When it comes to my personal usage of apps, I can say that I use Microsoft Teams the most since most of my time is spent on communication with colleagues and clients, so it comes in handy for my specific needs. I used it before, but these days it became a necessity. As for event organisation, we use different solutions depending on the event needs, and often these solutions are custom made.

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Q: How would you explain to a client why organising events is essential?

Events let people come together, and that is the essence of human existence. We are social beings not meant to live and work alone, thus events provide a natural and much-needed environment for people to meet, discuss, learn, share…Good events can even lure out huge potential out of some of the most introverted persons and allow them to express themselves. They provide endless opportunities for both participants and organisers/clients, and the best way to quickly impact a customer, present learning possibilities, share a point of view or whatever is the basic idea of the event.

Q: Is it easier to organise digital or live events?

I would ask this question the other way round – is it harder to organise digital or live events, since it is never easy to organise a good event. And the answer is that both types of events have their specifics. Some aspects are easier when it comes to live events, and some in the digital environment. But, when we draw a line, we see that challenges are ever-present, and that is the beauty of our profession since we need to be able to adjust to them and still deliver a meaningful and interesting event that can hold participants’ attention and leave them with an impression. Overall, I think that it is a bit harder to organise a memorable digital event for us since we are all just starting to embrace all the possibilities that the digital environment can offer, and good solutions are often quite costly. With live events, you can heavily rely on creativity, but with digital, you can’t do anything without technology, so it is quite different.

Q: Is organising digital events cheaper than organising classic events?

It all depends on the type of the event, but I wouldn’t say that digital events are cheaper, if you want to make an impact with them. Some aspects of digital events are less costly like the cost of event space, travel, branding and similar, but on the other side, you get technology costs that amount to everything else. Price-wise, it is quite the same for events of a similar purpose and scale.

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“Even digital events often have a negative sustainability impact”

Q: If the future of the meetings industry will be green, where do we start?

In the last decades, we have talked a lot about sustainable development goals. A big part of the responsibility lies in our governments which are far from the European average in all segments. But we, as a meeting industry can be an important part of the solution if we set our goals right and start more actively pursuing some basic sustainable event practices. Any bigger event can harm resources, people, air, water etc. Even digital events often have a negative sustainability impact, so it is of utmost importance to start thinking green and apply positive practices that should become a rule for the events industry. We need to think about accessibility for all, minimal negative impact on the environment, and always promote usage of responsible sources and encourage healthy living, more sustainable behaviour, all by delivering a top-notch customer experience. We start by cleaning our own garden first taking into account all different social, economic and environmental responsibilities.

Q: What will be the key trait of a great event organiser after the corona crisis?

The profile of the event expert will not change essentially. It was always extremely hard to be a great event organiser, so nothing changes at that. We still need to learn, change and grow every day, be extremely adaptive and agile, embrace new technologies and solutions, but also think about the people and environment more than ever.

Q: What is your view of the future? Where is the meetings industry headed?

The industry is heading right where it’s supposed to, in line with everything else going on in the entire world. We are rapidly adjusting, and it is my opinion that the industry has a very positive future. We will probably start thinking about sustainability more than ever, embrace multi-channel opportunities for events, take the best out of digital and live events and create interesting and meaningful meeting solutions. Innovation will be an ongoing process, and the safety of all included will stay a priority. There will probably be much less travel, meaning that the meetings and events we attend should be exceptional in every way. What changed is that people now need to see everything and check all details to feel safe, from cleanness to the food origin, they need to feel involved, and that provides an opportunity for the meetings industry to develop an additional connection with the customers.

Q: What is the most surprising fact about organising events?

You never know what can happen, and you need to be prepared for every imaginable scenario. But, every problem is, in fact, an opportunity to make something great.

EXTRA QUESTION FOR VESNA

Q: High Tech or High Touch?

High touch spiced with tech. We are social, emotional and highly tactile beings, so nothing will ever fully replace live contact, but we need to embrace new technologies to spice up and improve our social contacts in all possible ways.