Ahead of Conventa 2022, Kongres Magazine chatted with the stars of the Meetings Star influencer selection. Pioneers and trailblazers, these influencers facilitate the meetings industry’s development. Aigars Smiltans, Meetings & Events Ambassador of Riga City CVB, delved into the prominence of evolving smaller destinations and why inclusion and sustainability will be on the agenda in the future.

Last year’s selection of influencers by Kongres Magazine marked the eighth year of the distinguished project. The selected influencers are trailblazers in their respective fields and help co-create the regional meetings industry. Kongres Magazine’s selection is, in a way, an overview of who is who in the industry.

Q1: Live meetings are coming back. What is your take on the current situation, and what is your prediction for this year?

Live meetings are back, but not in the numbers as local hoteliers and DMCs might expect. We managed to walk out of the lock-down of covid, which was most strict in Latvia compared to neighbouring countries in Northern Europe and instantly needed to face the war in Ukraine! Latvia is a NATO and EU member country, and the general level of safety is very high, which was noticed by numerous international associations and organisations, which decided to host an event in Riga. Just to mention some: ROTORACT EUCO 2022 Riga conference, ASTP Training seminar, the 31st International Biometric Conference / IBC2022, 13th International Barley Genetics Symposium, Joint International Conference Functional Materials & Nanotechnologies and Nanotechnology and Innovation in the Baltic Sea Region FM&NT – NIBS 2022 and some more.

Q2: How do you see the future of digital, hybrid and metaverse events?

There are no single solutions for all industries! Each industry tries to find ways how to host an event during COVID. Some industries happily opt for digital solutions, while others still need to go back to the live event option. I think the future of the meetings will be omnichannel solutions, where each industry will find the most suitable architecture of event, being present, streaming online and offering new solutions or views on demand…

Photo Credit: Meet Riga

“A smaller destination has a lot of advantages for hosting smaller and mid-size events.”

Q3: We are living in uncertain times; in the past two years, we have learned how to cope with a crisis caused by the spread of the coronavirus, and we have found ourselves amid a war recently. How do you face such crisis situations?

We can’t prepare ourselves with a ready-made solutions guidebook to go through a crisis. Each situation is different and requires different steps to manage it. Even each country perceives crises differently! In smaller-sized countries and cities, such as Latvia and Riga, it is much easier to check and certify the information, provide feedback and agree on solutions. And as a Northern European nation, we are very calm and organised.

Q4: What does the future bring for the meetings industry in the next decade? Which challenges should we address immediately?

The future of the meetings and events industry is towards omnichannel regional and smaller-sized meetings. It will allow delegates to have more interaction, more intense communication and exchange of information. Another trend I see in the future will be sessions on demand and paying only for those parts of the event used by the delegate. In organising more regional meetings, there will be demand for destinations with short flight times and less crowded streets and sustainable grounds.

Q5: How do you keep up with the changes transforming the business world, particularly in event organising? What is your advice for our readers?

The meetings industry has been evolving and developing throughout the years and during meetings with potential clients, I can see that the process of evolution is rather different in various markets. The same thing I can tell about suppliers in Riga is that each supplier selects their path to evolve and develop! As a smaller market, Riga adapts rather quickly to various situations and provides solutions for any request and demand! My advice to readers – when you are planning an event or meeting, please consider the size of the city and ask for a bit of advice from the local Convention Bureau. A smaller destination has a lot of advantages for hosting smaller and mid-size events.

Photo Credit: ICCA World

“The meetings and events industry involves a lot of live communication and interaction. Most of the younger generation is not ready for that!”

Q6: Will corporate social responsibility continue to be discussed as a priority at events instead of topical issues, such as climate change or organising events sustainably?

Yes, it will be on the agenda of many meetings. Sustainability, diversity and inclusion will be a part of all events in the future. And I will repeat, those smaller-sized cities with compact arrangements can be a solution to host future events, using less transportation, walking more, and hosting events under-on-roof at hotels with high sustainability standards.

Q7: Which trend inspires you the most, and where do you see immense potential for event organisers?

Experimental and unusual meetings, instead of classical theatre-style ones. I would also like to see how omnichannel meetings and Data-Based decision-making will evolve.

Q8: What perils do new technologies adopted during the corona crisis hide?

Cyber security was one of the points which, I think, caused some problems in the first part of the corona year. Another aspect is the psychological distancing of people. Now, when they need to get together again, there are some issues.

Q9: What should the meetings industry do to attract talented individuals among its ranks?

The meetings and events industry involves a lot of live communication and interaction. Most of the younger generation is not ready for that! They can communicate through devices, but not in face-to-face situations. Providing special scholarships/grants to young professionals and mentoring programs can help to attract new talents.

Q10: Have you noticed that work within the industry is not as desired among the younger generations? What could be the reason behind a significant shortage of staff?

Yes, the industry is ageing, and there is a certain hierarchy to go through. Plus, wages are also not so attractive. In addition, there are limited possibilities to grow and move up by carrier steps. Our new generation is not as patient as we are, to wait, to hold, to be calm! The younger generation is looking for instant action, moving through life in a fast phase, with different values in their lives.

Q11: What is your recommendation for young colleagues starting their professional path?

Be patient, be ready for challenges and be creative! If you would like to stand out from the crowd, you need to come up with something thrilling, new and marvellous!

Find out more about Riga here

Conventa Week 2022

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