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. Tanja Bogdanov, Managing Partner and Founder at Vekol DMC, talked about the seismic change rendering the MICE industry vacant of fresh talent and what the future will bring for the industry.

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?

The hunger for live events feels stronger than ever, as they add irreplaceable value to companies in terms of encouraging exchange between teammates. However, we are witnessing some essential changes most businesses have made – people have formed different perspectives on family, life and work after the pandemic. Hosting live corporate meetings and in-person events will, for sure, require quite a few adjustments. We have already changed how we manage attendance, starting from the new venue configuration, contactless audience journey and much more.

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

We have been living the Metaverse – embodied super-connected VR experience – way before COVID-19 redefined how we gather and work. The definition of “live event” only continues to evolve as new kinds of cross-platforms fuse together.

But although virtual meeting attendance has boomed in the face of lock-downs, online events keep falling short – even when “gamified”. I do understand some people prefer virtual environments, but the vast majority continue to find value only in unfiltered human interaction. Virtual components can support live events and upgrade guest experience but only to a certain level. If we don’t invest as much in events’ content as we do in technology, our industry could suffer, and the Metaverse could reveal itself as just another passing fad.

Photo Credit: Vekol DMC

“One thing I truly believe is that there’s no ‘settlement’ in the Metaverse – things are fluid, fast-evolving and unpredictable. Leaders will have to rely on their intuition more than ever.”

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?

The global meetings & events industry turned out to be hypersensitive to crises of all kinds. International conflicts affect our industry in more than one way – they send strong shockwaves through the global economy, well beyond the conflict zone. We are already facing major losses of delegates coming from the war-inflicted areas, restrictions on airlines and use of airspace, much higher food and fuel costs and, of course, a big hit to traveller confidence and disposable incomes. The only way of facing such unpredictability is to arm yourself with patience and goodwill – business always finds its way through hard times.

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

I believe times when the industry leaders felt comfortable with making predictions are long gone. One thing I truly believe is that there’s no ‘settlement’ in the Metaverse – things are fluid, fast-evolving and unpredictable. Leaders will have to rely on their own intuition more than ever when navigating this new shaky landscape.

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 up with changes in a way that we are setting them. We deal individually with every new challenge we face and then merge all our knowledge and insights into finding the best-fit solution. This approach is the only thing that will never ever change in my existence.

Photo Credit: Vekol DMC

“A seismic change in how people view work has created the greatest talent crisis in the MICE industry in history.”

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?

Few people may be aware of this, but MICE is considered to be the second most wasteful industry, right after heavy construction. For us at Vekol DMC, sustainability has become a way of life. Our #WarOnWaste Green Commitment Policy means we think about sustainability early in the planning: we give priority to paperless meetings, choose eco-minded suppliers, make plans for all sorts of leftovers beforehand and try hard to make choices that are good for both our business – and for our home planet.

In a couple of years, you won’t be able to survive on the market without the “green glow”. But please, don’t just green-wash because sustainability is suddenly on everyone’s agenda. Do try to leave the world a slightly better place.

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

I am not inspired by trends but by human achievement, endurance and ingenuity.

Q8: What should the meetings industry do to attract talented individuals among its ranks?

A seismic change in how people view work and the meaning that work brings to their lives has created the greatest talent crisis in the MICE industry in history.

To attract top talent, your organisation needs to be a place where people advance their careers. It needs to be a place where people are given opportunities to learn new skills and take on new challenges. Agencies need to update their talent strategy – start with a culture where everyone can bring their full range of potential and feel seen, valued and awarded.

Q9: 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?

It’s not only the staff shortage that should concern us but also a shortage of skilled talent.

Some reasons why work within the meetings & events industry is fairly unpopular have been there for a while. They include unsociable hours, heavy workload and a strong sentiment of being underpaid and undervalued.

To only add on, uncertainty is never appealing, and as hospitality remains one of the riskiest areas due to the latest global issues, we will most certainly continue to struggle with attracting skilled professionals. Once we are lucky enough to acquire talent from the market, we as employers need to help them achieve the work-life balance they need through efficient leader management and payroll functionality.

Q10: What is your recommendation for young colleagues starting their professional path?

Find (or create!) a supportive working environment that resonates with your personal values and beliefs in order to perform your best. As I said, change is the only permanent thing here to stay. The key for you is to remain ahead of the change curve and remember – learning is the greatest life-going event you’ll ever work on.

Find out more about the trailblazing Vekol DMC here

Conventa Week 2022

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