tom_gavazzi

Kongres Magazine interviewed Tom Gavazzi, the founder and owner of Woom.zone on his perspective on the future of the meetings industry, how his company has adapted to the “new normal”, and why the scale favours hybrid and virtual events at the moment.

“Each event and its content and purpose needs to be tailored to the needs of the client”

Q: Is there anything that can still surprise you in the current situation? How have you reacted to the situation from a business and personal perspective?

In my opinion, nothing can surprise us anymore, except for a nuclear war perhaps. What we have learned during this year-long period is that we must be extremely flexible. The pandemic will most likely persist; however, no one can claim anything with certainty. Various destinations can and will become epicentres for the virus, meaning that destinations will have to be flexible. For the events industry, this means that planning will become onerous, and event organisers of both small and large events will have to react much more swiftly and efficiently.

Q: What are the wishes of your clients – do they wish live events to return, or is the scale in favour of digital events?

My opinion is that following the pandemic, people have adjusted and gotten used to virtual platforms. I believe the future of events is hybrid. However, hybrid events of the future will transform into something completely different to what we knew. In-person events will be limited to smaller focus groups and will focus on networking and socializing, whereas virtual events will accompany live events. Hybrid events will also offer a special new feature: the participants attending an event in person will be able to socialize during coffee breaks, while online participants will be offered a different experience or content simultaneously (interview, chatbox etc.). Those who will support only live events will quickly lose their significance, as sponsors have started to acknowledge that virtual events have more potential and market share than live events. For the event organisers, it will be easier to create the virtual part of the story because it is cheaper. Hence, I predict a migration into hybrid or solely virtual events.

tom_gavazzi

Q: How can event organisers monetise virtual and hybrid events?

To be honest, during the first couple of months, we had no idea how to monetise events. I am still a firm believer that virtual events should be free of charge, particularly during a crisis, when many lose their jobs and cannot afford to pay for the event; however, they want to gain new knowledge and information. We have several ways of monetising, the first being our sponsors, followed by our clients and our partners. Another form of monetisation we exploit is the creation of hybrid events for our clients, for whom we prepare the virtual part in its entirety.

Q: Is it easier to organise a live or online event?

I believe organising an online event is much easier and has many benefits. There are not as many operative tasks as compared to a live event. When it comes to online events, the content and the concept are crucial, whereas live events focus more on the details and the form itself. Furthermore, the time frame of online events is much more effective compared to live events. Recently, we celebrated the first anniversary of our first online event. At the time, we did not have any knowledge regarding webinars or online events. Firstly, we tested various platforms, and we came to a solution after a week of testing. Since that first event, 52 virtual events and 10 hybrid events have been organised with over 7,200 attendees. Our services range from aviation events to business sailing events.

tom_gavazzi

“hybrid events of the future will transform into something completely different to what we knew”

Q: What is the best-case scenario for events in the second half of 2021? How will you ensure that events will be executed safely?

As far as the summer is concerned, I am unsure whether there will be a summer season as it was in the past year due to COVID-19 measures. Moreover, governments will try to persuade their citizens to visit local destinations. Regarding the restart of events in the second half of 2021, event organisers need to have a plan A and a plan B prepared. In my opinion, both autumn and winter will bring another epidemic wave, as numerous experts have already stated that the pandemic will last for at least a year or two. Thus, I do not expect everything to go back to normal in the second half of 2021. One thing is certain – the industry will still suffer for some time. As far as the summer is concerned, I am unsure whether there will be a summer season as it was in the past year due to COVID-19 measures.

Q: How effective were measures put in place by the government in your country? From the viewpoint of an event organiser, what did you expect?

I believe that governments should support every industry equally. However, the meetings and events industry in Croatia have been completely forgotten. We did not rely on the government’s aid and did everything ourselves.

tom_gavazzi

“The international market is starting to recognise local players, who are gaining significance.”

Q: How has the public opinion regarding events and event organisers changed during the corona crisis?

Before the pandemic, events were supported by partners and sponsors. What the pandemic has caused is a change in the approach of attendees towards events. They are no longer used to paying for tickets to attend an event, as there have been so many bad and good virtual events free of charge. Nonetheless, the market has recognised the potential of virtual events. The mindset and logic of participants have been completely changed.

Q: It seems that the crisis is creating a gap between the creative and logistic part of the meetings industry. How do you see this situation?

In my opinion, the logistic part of the meetings industry will be heavily affected, as both hotels and suppliers will lose profit when event organisers will transition to the virtual world. Therefore, there will be fewer guests in hotels, disrupting the hospitality industry. Additionally, because of the advancements in technology, such as instant translation etc., service providers will lose much of their profit compared to 2019.

Q: During these times, what does your regional area represent to you? In this context, how does the slogan “think globally, act locally” apply?

I believe local players can now shine on the global market. In our experience, when hosting events in Croatia, we prepare the event for the local market, while hosting events in England attracts both the European and the global market. We have become the #3 company for organising virtual events for the aviation industry. The international market is starting to recognise local players, who are gaining significance. I must admit that I have been disappointed by how local organisations in the events industry have reacted to the new situation. A large part came to a standstill and has been in moribund decline. However, some have shown resistance, yet they do not completely understand the concept of virtual events. Each event and its content and purpose needs to be tailored to the needs of the client.

tom_gavazzi

Q: What do you see as your greatest achievement? What are you particularly proud of, and how would you describe your exit strategy in a few words?

First and foremost, I am extremely proud that during this one year, we provided 7,200 participants with quality content and successfully connected them. The second thing I am happy about is that the pandemic has allowed me to reconcile with younger generations, discuss new topics and share and create innovations. Regarding the future of our business, we will strive to create impeccable hybrid events and corporate sailing events.