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. Breda Pečovnik, Congress and Commercial Programme Director at Cankarjev dom, talked about adopting sustainable thinking and why technology brings progress.

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?

We have been implementing business meetings all year, and all but one event we realized in spring were live. With the summer wave of infections and the increase in COVID-19 cases, I am unable to make a prediction for the whole year. We hope the current government’s predictions turn out to be correct so there are no lockdowns and we will be fully operational.

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

COVID-19 has been dictating alternative ways of remote event organisation in digital formats, yet people as social beings wish to meet and communicate live. A certain percentage of remote events, and the option of using new technologies, will still be exercised in the future, but the majority of events will be organised live or in a hybrid format. In my opinion, metaverse events are too virtual and simulated, and I do not wish to experience events that way; I want to attend them in actual reality. However, in taking advantage of new technologies, most modern-era users will take this option.

Photo Credit: Tina Ramujkić

“New technologies bring progress to every society.”

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?

Just as we had weathered the Corona crisis, war erupted at the heart of Europe and turned the world economy upside down. The issues of addressing the rising prices across all segments of services and other business activities and whether the meetings industry will regain its full momentum are open questions. As professional congress organisers, we always have both a plan A and a plan B.

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

It brings not only a change in how and where people work but also a change in attitudes to and preferences for meetings. While live events take precedence over online ones, hybrid and virtual meetings are becoming more and more useful and rational. Investments in meetings technology should go hand in hand with the experience of venues that host the events and offer flexible spaces, including removable partition walls and mobile furniture, as well as immersive technology such as LED video walls, interactive whiteboards, and videoconferencing equipment…

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

We keep abreast of the latest developments through information provided by IAPCO, the International Association for Professional Congress Organizers, whose member we have been for many years, as well as our own experience gained through event organisation. We are aware of the fact that we form part of a single system, one congress family. Our advice is that we all focus on our environmental responsibility by introducing sustainable events, developing true partnerships and collaborations, and responsible consumption. I believe this is the future.

Photo Credit: Cankarjev dom/Mankica Kranjec

“One of the reasons for the current situation is certainly the complete lack of congresses over the past two years during the corona crisis.”

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?

I believe we have all left it rather late, but it’s never too late for each of us, either as a business entity or an individual, to act in the spirit of sustainable development to preserve and sustain the basic laws of nature, for the benefit of our posterity.

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

I definitely find the trends of tackling climate change and promoting sustainable development in all areas most inspiring. An event organiser should take into account all sustainability and climate principles contained in the Agenda for Sustainable Development – the 17 sustainability goals of the United Nations Summit: good health and well-being, reducing inequalities, clean water, affordable and clean energy, quality education for everyone, waste separation and natural food production, carbon footprint reduction, green and clean environment, preserving life below water, partnership for the goals of sustainability, decent work and economic growth, innovative approach to event implementation, sustainable cities and communities.

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

I am of the opinion that new technologies bring progress to every society, so I believe they pose no perils. Change has occurred in all areas throughout human history. However, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, and what is good for one person might be bad for another. We need to consider the matter also from that angle.

Photo Credit: Marko Delbello Ocepek

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

Most of us work for a living as a means of supporting one’s existence. In order to attract and retain talented staff, we need to motivate them, which does not necessarily mean financially but also with other benefits that are important to them, including more leisure time, education, position in the company…

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?

One of the reasons for the current situation is certainly the complete lack of congresses over the past two years during the corona crisis. Younger professionals have restructured to other, more profitable areas (e.g., IT). Another reason is that this industry is highly demanding and labour-intensive, requiring a large number of hours worked by the employees in order to be successful.

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

It is a beautiful profession, but you have to put your heart and soul into it, stay dedicated and not care about the hours worked. You are surrounded by top experts with a wealth of knowledge and au courant with the latest innovations and information in all scientific fields. To those of you just starting out in your careers, I advise you to pursue education as long as you can and acquire as much knowledge as possible because this is the only path towards contentment and personal happiness. Only this way will you share the joy of life and your enthusiasm with your business and local communities.

Q12: What is a good practice case in 2022, in your opinion?

I will name two: the 7th EUROPEAN CONGRESS OF PSYCHOLOGY – ECP 2022, with the largest international attendance after COVID-19. The conference’s official program included a lecture on bees that enable our life on earth. As an urban beekeeper, the CD provides a home to several families of bees on its roof. A large-scale Carniolan bee, which was displayed at the Slovenian pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai, was on view throughout the congress at the Grand Reception Hall. Socially responsible activity and engagement go hand in hand.

The second event was the ICCA International Workshop hosted by CD together with its congress industry partners, which has put Ljubljana and Slovenia firmly and prominently on the map of congress destinations. The organisation of the event has exceeded all previous standards and set new ones.

Find out more about Cankarjev dom here. 

Conventa Week 2022

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