Q1: What do you think about the Conventa Best Event Award competition. Where do you see it going in the future?
The competition jury should always influence the tastes and the industry and to a lesser extent, flatter the common tastes or simple solutions. The awarded project is supposed to be a hint for others – inspiration and development direction. I have the impression that this is how CBEA perceives its role. And I am grateful for that.
In the eyes of our customers, who are focused on sales statistics and KPIs, creating large-scale events and their business efficiency remain the key. For us, the creators of the MICE industry, the real driving force behind changes in the creation and bold thinking. It is worth taking the risk of a difficult concept in the name of the principle the winner takes it all. This is how we see the future of events. And I believe such projects will be more and more often awarded, also in Ljubljana.
Q2: Why do you think your project convinced the international jury?
Huawei Eco-Connect 2020 seemed to be a suit from a Viennese tailor. We listened to the needs of the client, who allowed us to co-create this event, and we defined a new standard for the online conference together. We developed our own solutions to personalise the reception. The creation of 360° communication and the use of many tools gave consistency and the best possible effect.
The substantive message was the most important in this project. We turned the disadvantages of the online meetings (no F2F contact, reduced perception) in our favour – all participants confirmed 100% satisfaction, and each of them received the necessary knowledge to run their business effectively. This project shows that in some form or another, online meetings will stay with us for longer because with certain projects, even for several hundred people and with many hours of interaction, they remain the most effective and more economical solution than offline.
Q3: Do you think that event awards are important in the eyes of existing and potential new clients. Do they (still) have weight?
I would ask a different question – do international awards such as CBEA mean more to the local market than the sometimes better recognised national awards? I am also wondering about the progressive fragmentation of categories in some competitions. I have doubts about both points. But I do not have them when answering your question – the fact that the statuette has its weight not only in hand but also in the promotion is obvious. Everyone who received it knows it.
Q4: What are the qualities and values that you want to transfer to your events?
It may sound banal and lofty, but the employee is the supreme value in any business. And they should be in the centre of any event. In our agency, we focused on long-term relationships from the beginning and we did not reduce the team during the pandemic – as the only large agency in Warsaw. Looking at the contemporary marketing and employer branding trends of the largest brands, this way of thinking, which has always been present, is becoming stronger and stronger. We believe that human qualities and needs are a starting point. And we would like to transfer it to our events.
Q5: What are some of the most common mistakes that companies and organisers make when organising events?
As far as the companies are concerned, I do not see any common mistakes made by our regular partners. We indeed have to act in a hurry that results from overly optimistic assumptions when scheduling, but we treat it as part of the game and another challenge.
Organisers – when one acts slowly and carefully, the results can mean more. Not everyone does this. It happens that the agency wants to earn by focusing primarily on “here and now”. This is a road to nowhere.
In our work, we should always think of ourselves as a partner, not as a subcontractor who only carries out orders – this error is often repeated, especially by beginners.
Q6: Which competencies of event organisers need to be strengthened the most after the corona crisis?
Careful anticipation of threats and sanitation protocol is something obvious. I don’t think these issues require any new skills from us. We have it under control, we know how to act in a pandemic crisis. Flexibility remains crucial more than ever – it is essential that flexibility appears throughout the whole chain – from the client to the agency to the supplier. When we are all flexible, we can resist this kind of crisis.
I would also like our government to acquire new skills and not surprise us with hasty decisions made without consulting or looking for a compromise. The greatest value, when all this is over for good, should be the conviction that every crisis can be overcome, and that determination and keeping a cool head are the way to success for both sides – the client and the agency.
Q7: You have created many amazing events in your career. Is there an event that you have particularly fond memories of and is always stuck in your mind?
We have completed nearly a thousand different projects on six continents of the world. However, there are always a few memories that come back first. I remember deep emotions in Mumbai (India), where almost our entire group, mainly men running large businesses, cried with emotion when they got closer to the life of the poorest. Later, we donated part of the income as support from our project to the local foundation.
However, emotions or tears can be also a result of pride. This year we are finishing a one-year project for the law firm Dentons that will forever change the parks, rivers, lakes and streets of Warsaw, giving them an ecological and artistic dimension – changing my own city is incredible motivation.
Q8: What has been the most difficult event you have organised in your career?
In the incentive travel portfolio, we have several completely out-of-the-box projects, where we operated almost without local support, getting into the unknown on the map, often in difficult regions of the world. Such a project was a reward trip to Murmansk and the Kola Peninsula in the middle of cold and dark winter. The off-road expedition for several dozen key partners through the wilderness of Australia without contact with civilisation or running water for five days and 800 kilometres was also demanding.
A few years ago, the client made a late decision, and we had only a few days to prepare for a giant event in Poland. Everyone, including our CEO, and the newly hired intern, did not sleep for more than two days, taking care of the stage editing with one hand, and with the other making corrections to the announcer’s speech – we managed, it was a success, but I remember my physical fatigue till now. Recently, digital forms have also been a big challenge. Live TV productions that we had to learn in a very short time as the pandemic demanded that from us. Our team did a great job, and we have completed many online projects for an audience of several thousand for our Polish and European clients.
Q9: We are constantly talking about future trends that will shape the meetings industry. But what past trend shaped your company and events the most in the last 20 years?
None of the trends from the past disappeared. I see them as constantly accumulating ideas that take on a new shape over the years. If I were to point to one, it would be the need to diversify the client portfolio and build a wide range of competencies in various areas of MICE. This allowed us to bind *Bespoke even more closely with our clients and carry out many marketing activities with them at the same time.
Thanks to the fact that we had gained competencies in many fields, we were able to quickly enter the online space and carry out nearly 200 events in it – paradoxically, the pandemic crisis strengthened our position on the market, we gained several new clients, and people stayed with us because they know they can feel safe here.
Q10: What was your main source of motivation for choosing a career in the meetings industry? Does the profession still excite you in the same way?
According to one of the sociological approaches proposed by Johan Huizinga, we can think of people as Homo Ludens – that is “a man having fun”. After a closer analysis, it is, indeed, possible to conclude that entertainment and fun are the basis of all our actions. Our industry is often full of stressful multitasking, but in the end, we attend great parties, raise our glasses and shout “nothing ventured, nothing gained!” At *Bespoke, we are lucky that it happens after each event.
Q11: What are you reading, watching, listening to at the moment?
I am currently reading – or listening to it while cycling to my office – Dune by Frank Herbert, interpreted by Krzysztof Gosztyła. At home, I soak myself maniacally into the Genesis discography from their mid-period when their pop trend was just taking shape. Recently, I also watched a classic from Hong Kong – Infernal Affairs from 2002, a remake of which four years later was made by M. Scorsese (Infiltration). Comparing film narratives can be a good contribution to intercultural considerations, and these often become an inspiration in my work – I believe that the best ideas permeate from parallel worlds.
Q12: What is your advice for those who want to enter the CBEA competition in the future?
Look at the calendar of the passing year, close your eyes and think which of the events you can see, which you remember with all your senses and which touched your emotions, which you told your friend about with passion. Then have a double espresso and review it all for CBEA :)