The ninth selection of influencers by Kongres Magazine concluded with the award ceremony hosted in Cankarjev dom. The selected influencers are pioneers 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: In times of crisis, we tend to draw parallels with the past. What have we learned so far to make our industry better and more responsible to attendees and the environment in the future?
I believe the last years, and especially the Covid-19 pandemic, which was a very taxing time for all of us, have shown us how important it is to stay connected within the industry and to work together in order to create the best possible experience for our guests. People place a lot of value on good relationships with each other. Both community spirit in the industry and hospitality towards our guests play an immensely important role here.
But of course, environmental and climate protection are aspects of our industry that should not be neglected. We, as an industry, can make a huge contribution by adapting our product portfolio and communicating our contribution to climate protection and our goals in this regard to our guests. We need to educate ourselves as well as our guests on what we can do to save our planet. And on what we are already doing.
Q2: What should we stop doing in regard to in-person events? Vice versa, what element should we not abandon at all costs?
We should not forget the impact of human interaction. Hospitality, personal contact and personal relationships are at the core of our industry. But every event is different. I would not speak of no-gos here. With good planning and good communication, a suitable solution can be found for every challenge and every customer request. The most important thing is that the guests feel comfortable and well looked after. So in some way, the only thing we should stop is underestimating the importance of our guests’ well-being.
Q3: What is your take on the various event types, some invented during the corona crisis (live, digital, hybrid, metaverse)? How will we transition in the future?
I think the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about some innovations that will stick in the industry in the long run. I am talking about hybrid events in particular, which allow participants to take part in the event regardless of location and to interact as part of the community. This will also be an important part of our future.
Nevertheless, live events will never completely disappear. As practical as digital events are – and there will undoubtedly be more of them in the future if the framework allows it – a crucial factor missing here is face-to-face communication. It is not as easy to establish personal relationships via Skype, Zoom or similar.
Q4: How do different event types address the topical problem of human interaction, which is at the core of our industry and a basis for learning?
Different event types have a huge impact on the interactions that take place at each and every event. Both F&B and the look & feel of an event create an atmosphere and, thus, the framework in which guests move. And this framework must influence the interactions of the guests – there is no other way.
A casual setting with a flying buffet, for example, will always create different situations than a formal setting with a served menu. Of course, the guests also play an important role here – every guest is different. But with our setup and service, we can support and encourage interactions. The stiff waiter who serves silently and does not interact with the guests has long been out of fashion. Interactions between our staff and the guests are also encouraged and play an essential part in our understanding of guest relations.
Q5: What are your priorities to reach the goal of creating a carbon-neutral meetings industry? How environmentally aware is your organisation? How do your clients see sustainability? Can you illustrate with case studies?
Environmental protection is extremely important in our organisation. We are proud owners of the Austrian Ecolabel, and we also communicate this to our guests because it is also highly sought after by them. Green events are more and more in demand.
Our contribution to climate protection is very diverse. We place great importance on the use of regional and seasonal food. Our menu in September looks very different from that of April, for example. We also work with many regional producers. Our cheese comes from the Weinviertel area, our fruit juices from Styria, and so on. But of course, we don’t stop there! We work in an electricity- and resource-saving way, only use environmentally certified cleaning agents, and work continuously on the development of vegan dishes… I could go on with this list forever.
The Austria Center Vienna and many other locations we work with are also environmentally certified – and the trend is rising. This topic is close to my heart, and I am happy to see that the whole industry is pulling in the same direction!
Q6: How do you imagine an ideal meetings industry? What should be its core value?
Hospitality is very important to me. Our Guests must feel welcome – that’s the be-all and end-all. In an ideal industry, we all work together towards this goal. And I do believe that we are already on the right track.
Q7: What is your advice for younger colleagues starting their careers in the meetings industry?
No one is born a master. Mistakes happen, especially at the beginning. But that’s how it is for everyone who wants to make it in our industry. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t bury your head in the sand. Ask for help when you need it. The most important thing is to enjoy your job, have a good team around you and have the ability to learn and adapt. We can’t grow without challenges, so I am a huge advocate of supporting but also pushing and challenging young talents.
Q8: Who do you believe deserves the title of the TOP influencer if you had to select them from the list of finalists?
That is an impossible choice you are giving me! I am truly honoured to be nominated for such a great competition. Every colleague deserves the nomination and would also deserve the win. They are all impressive people, and I believe we share a lot of the same values and ambitions. How do you expect me to choose just one? I am glad to be nominated – and not one of the jurors. :)