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?
I have a feeling that two years into the pandemic, we have seen all the benefits of online and hybrid meeting models, albeit involuntarily. Thus I am convinced such meetings will never completely disappear. They will perhaps be further adjusted and turn out to be just as relevant as live meetings. Until recently, we shied away from virtual meetings, ready to travel the world for important face-to-face business appointments. But nowadays, VCs have taken over as their equal counterparts regardless of our whereabouts.
Q2: How do you see the future of digital, hybrid and metaverse events?
Hybrid events have been around for years. Only before, that meant someone would put up a camera and live stream the event for those who could not be there in person for this or that reason. With the pandemic outbreak, all of us had to follow suit because life and work had to go on. We have only made those same events a little bit more sophisticated. Having seen all the benefits of digital events, we obviously had to carry on with such practice. I believe that in due course of time, digital events will convert into metaverse events, which are ominously knocking on our door anyway. Soon you will be “paying a visit” to your architect at their office in the metaverse, where they will show you all the blueprints and project sketches while you sit in the comfort of your home. Of course, this is great for multiple reasons – it removes the borders, your whereabouts become irrelevant, and you save time and protect the environment.
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?
Unfortunately, I am afraid that at such moments, the majority of us feel overwhelmed by the torrents of negative news we are flooded with every day, believing there is not much we can do. I have learned that the smartest thing to do in life, in general, is to take one step at a time; to focus on smaller goals in seemingly harsh and hopeless situations, not only on a global scale but also in our everyday, fast-paced lives. During the pandemic, we did our best to redistribute the funds and enable everyone to keep their jobs. When the world was faced with the war in Ukraine, we offered help to Ukrainians in need… The bottom line is that while we evidently cannot change the world, we can certainly change something. Hold on, seek advice and take action. We always come up with solutions together, sometimes they are creative, but sometimes they have to do with our lives and business.
Q4: What does the future bring for the meetings industry in the next decade? Which challenges should we address immediately?
Technology is developing rapidly, and those who manage to keep pace with it are likely to become market leaders. Initially, everything new and unknown is complicated and ridden with obstacles, but by no means wrong or bad. I guess we just need to get a better grip on emerging technologies, which takes time and practice. In my opinion, a current lack of adequate supporting infrastructure will be the biggest challenge to the metaverse, along with the common misconception about this type of event by larger masses. If we talk about hybrid events, which are definitely very popular in this transition period, we clearly have to change our way of thinking and tap into creativity inherent to all of us. Hybrid events require two different scenarios and two programs side by side to appeal to the face-to-face audience and those following the event online.
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 situation has changed a lot over the past few years, and event organisers are driven to keep abreast of such changes, and they really do. They use numerous platforms developed in the meantime and most often suggest hybrid event models. Live contact is still a powerful factor that people have been missing, and the industry is currently trying to bring together the best sides of both worlds. Having that in mind, we organised a live product launch for Untouched by Light in Gornja Radgona, Slovenia. A group of journalists were there with us, and some attended online. The program was adapted to suit both audiences.
Untouched by Light
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 am glad that the trend of corporate sustainability and social responsibility is on the rise. I think it is absolutely essential, and, as an agency, we have been investing a lot of energy in this respect even earlier. The way we do our business, and not only the kind of service we deliver and the cost of such service, is becoming increasingly important to the consumers we address, our prospective talents and partners. As for the events themselves, you can no longer just do the talking. You need to provide the whole experience as well. You have to walk the talk.
When organising an event in the past, we required a lot of handouts, paper, wristbands, etc. Today, we have the opportunity, regardless of the theme, to hold a sustainable event and make sustainability part of the experience. Corporate social responsibility and climate changes go hand in hand. They are not two worlds apart. All the participants in the market must think about what and how they can do better for themselves and the environment. Even seemingly small things become big things if they scale up. Thus in 2019, we joined, inter alia, the initiative Become a Plastic-Free Company. All of us inside the agency try to reduce the use of plastic and dispose of it properly if we use it.
Q7: Which trend inspires you the most, and where do you see immense potential for event organisers?
The metaverse unlocks immense potential for event organisers. Brands are increasingly starting to tap into the possibilities provided by the metaverse, which, in these initial stages, is a win-win situation allowing them to position themselves as market leaders. We have recently partnered up with 24sata to set up a similar event, Oriđiđi Video Awards (OVA), for which we created a visual identity. The OVA was the first awards ceremony in the region held in the metaverse. Admittedly, there is still a lot of work ahead, and development is required, but the metaverse opens up unlimited possibilities since it is location-time-weather-forecast-free.
Q8: What perils do new technologies adopted during the corona crisis hide?
There are always hidden perils in the transition period. Such periods are always tainted with uncertainty. What we should strive for is progress while trying to mitigate risks as much as possible. Every innovation and technological progress is disruptive and often everything falls apart just to be put back together again. That does not mean it is necessarily bad. It is new and unknown, and the pitfalls are harder to predict. In this case, the biggest stumbling block is probably the legal framework, given it cannot follow the technological development as quickly and efficiently as needed to protect all the engaged stakeholders. A high-quality legal infrastructure should be developed to facilitate everyone’s clear understanding of emerging technologies, rights and opportunities, fostering their effective adoption.
Q9: What should the meetings industry do to attract talented individuals among its ranks?
Firstly, this industry is intensive and fast-paced, the working hours are unconventional, and it is crucial to take care of the people it engages. Secondly, there is a general lack of knowledge. When we think about events and those behind them, in fact, we have limited knowledge about their job.
What we see is the finished product and people on stage, but little do we know about those backstage. In terms of employer branding, it would be good to put people who organise such events in the foreground. That way, they would be able to bring their job duties closer to the youngsters interested in the event industry. Event organisers are not merely organisers. They are also the creatives doing a very creative job, especially when it comes to digital events.
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?
I would not say the industry is undesirable. Some positions, like social media managers, seem to be very alluring to young people, and they work really hard to attain them. At the end of the day, social media comes naturally to them.
What I see as a potential reason for the shortage of qualified staff within the industry is its strong rival, the IT industry. It is simply more profitable and therefore offers better terms, while the marketing industry is quite volatile: you are here today and gone tomorrow. And whether you are here or go depends largely on the clients who will be the first to suspend marketing services in times of crisis when the costs have to be cut down. We have already had two such downturns in the last 15 years, which surely led to some misperceptions about this industry.
Q11: What is your recommendation for young colleagues starting their professional path?
Don’t be lazy, be persistent and don’t let anything bring you down or discourage you. Absorb all the knowledge you might find at hand.
Q12: What is a good practice case in 2022, in your opinion?
Customer experience is the key. The audiences really have to experience the event and leave with a strong impression. Every day I watch our event team, which is superbly run by Tomislav Zeljko, holding incredible and innovative events in the event industry for years. They are living proof of how creative and resourceful the event industry must be and how many hurdles have to be overcome along the way. That is why I appreciate them so much. In 2020 Vegeta celebrated its 60th anniversary. The invitees were taken on a historical and unique train journey from Zagreb to Koprivnica, Vegeta’s hometown, and back. During the trip, our event team marked all the historical and evolutionary stages of this iconic Croatian product. Another example is the Untouched by Light B2B event we held at the Savoy Hotel in London, where we staged a darkroom. This project has put us on the shortlist for this year’s Cannes Lions competition in the Creative B2B category. The event team was also in charge of the Untouched by Light product launch held in the dark caves of Gornja Radgona. They also organised a great event at the top of the Sljeme Tower in Zagreb in collaboration with Ajmo! – Proud To Be Rare app. The invitees were able to enjoy dancing on four different floors, interesting performances on one of them and an incredible view from the top of the tower. For the opening event of the FACC aircraft components plant in Jakovlje this June, the client and the agency team organised the superstar Felix Baumgartner to “crash” the party by performing helicopter stunts, bring down the factory key and unlocking the factory doors.
Another good practice example is the Adris Group’s exhibition and promotion pavilions, staged by Brigada for years. As you can see, all the above-mentioned events have a common denominator: unique audience experience. You can’t go wrong with that.
Find out more about one of the most renowned regional agencies, Bruketa&Žinić&Grey, here.