Kongres Magazine chatted with the trendsetters of the Meetings Star influencers selection. Innovating and sustainably-oriented stars of the meetings industry shared their thoughts on sustainable transformation in the meetings industry. Kadri Karu, Managing Director of the Estonian Convention Bureau, talked about the Estonian sustainable way of living and why young talents represent the future.

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?

In times of crises, the meetings industry has proved to be resilient and flexible but, at the same time, curious for new, innovative and open to change. Crises have, of course, challenged us; however, I believe that because of our overall consider-it-done attitude towards development, we can be the forerunners in implementing innovative solutions that support both environmental/sustainability developments as well as meaningful attendee experiences, equity and inclusion.

Q2: What should we stop doing in regard to in-person events? Vice versa, what element should we not abandon at all costs?

The main value of in-person events is human-to-human interaction – this is the element that meetings and events should emphasise the most and abandon all the bits and pieces that do not support the possibility of connections. Also, the value of live events is emotions and spontaneous connections. That is what we should keep, alongside seeking innovative ways to maximise the ROI of being on-site in person.

Photo Credit: Estonian Convention Bureau

“Being very digital and close to nature is at the core of everyday life in Estonia.”

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 actually find it good that the corona crisis accelerated the developments towards event digitalisation we were only forecasting in 2019. We are now living in this predicted future, and with the various event formats and digital solutions out there, event organisers can choose the most suitable one depending on their event goals, audiences etc. Live has proved to be irreplaceable as a format also in the future. But I’m sure that the new developing technologies are also here to stay and have a strong role in making the event experience more personalised, interesting, better accessible and valuable for attendees.

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?

For now, at least, the live format seems still to be the best way to achieve meaningful connections and provides the best interaction possibilities. But it will be interesting to see how this will change when the new young generations start being the organisers as well as delegates of the events. Considering how they are used to interaction via digital platforms, it might significantly change the game. We will see!

Photo Credit: Estonian Convention Bureau

“Because of our overall consider-it-done attitude towards development, we can be the forerunners in implementing innovative solutions.”

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?

In Estonia, being very digital and close to nature is at the core of our everyday life, how we operate as an organisation, and how meetings and events are organised. As we are such a boutique events destination where everything is within walking distance, then this is already a big advantage that we can offer to clients. Sustainable solutions have been there and are constantly developing. We see that clients are now starting to prioritise sustainability and asking for sustainable services too. I’m sure it will come with a „boom“ both on the demand and supply side over the next 18 months.

Q6: How do you imagine an ideal meetings industry? What should be its core value?

In my opinion, one of our industry’s core values is its role as a facilitator of important discussions, developments and chance. Meetings between people, no matter in what format, are places where decisions are taken, cooperation started, and where impact is made. Therefore, I think meetings should be part of any destination’s long-term vision and strategic development plans, not as an industry in itself, but as a pathway to achieve greater goals.

Q7: What is your advice for younger colleagues starting their careers in the meetings industry?

In Estonian, we have a saying – give a finger, and you lose a hand – so if a young colleague starts in this industry, they must be prepared: it might be a career for a lifetime. But I would warmly recommend a career in this industry, as it is so diverse, international and interesting. You will never get bored, always find interesting challenges and have the opportunity to work with the coolest people in the world.

Q8: Who do you believe deserves the title of the TOP influencer if you had to select them from the list of finalists?

All the finalists are great leaders in the meetings industry and great colleagues who are wonderful role models to us all! I would not pick one person but rather embrace that we have many opinion leaders and spokespersons in our countries and internationally – that also makes our industry strong and visible among others!

Learn more about the Estonian Convention Bureau here.