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 that those who weren’t familiarised with sustainability before COVID after COVID started paying more attention to it. However, I think we all have so much to learn. We began to think more about how we could contribute to the community and have a less negative environmental impact. That is a good thing. I believe that our knowledge will stay, and we will continue to learn more about implementing sustainability into our events daily.
Q2: What should we stop doing in regard to in-person events? Vice versa, what element should we not abandon at all costs?
It is well known that transportation is the most significant source of CO2 emissions. For that reason, we should limit it. It is not a popular opinion, but we should limit our events by doing online sessions with speakers who need to travel far and by plane. Also, we need to think more about hybrid events because participants can be at the event but don’t need to travel, which will contribute to less CO2 emission per event. I don’t think it is necessary to mention this, but we should replace printed materials with online ones and ban fireworks. We should stick to more environmentally friendly catering, less food and more sustainable events that educate its attendees on sustainability. Also, it is always good to say what we are doing regarding sustainability so that others can learn from our experience.
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?
During COVID, online was our best option or, I can even say, the only option. After COVID, everyone was so happy that we didn’t need to do events online, and it was live again. But, I believe that the best solution is the hybrid event. Event managers need to be more creative when creating hybrid events, but that is the point. That extra effort is much appreciated by the audience, in my experience. So, I believe that hybrid is the way to go.
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?
Live events are definitely the alpha and omega of human interaction. It doesn’t matter if it is the conference we are talking about, education, schools, consultations, entertainment etc. We saw that attendees are not connected as much or at all in online events. It depends on the group. At one event, at the beginning of COVID, we had a group of attendees who turned off cameras, and you weren’t sure if anyone was listening. Then we started doing break-out rooms, small games and similar things, so we knew someone was there. A few weeks later, we had another group – all attendees had cameras on and contributed to the workshop. If you are organising an event on the online platform, you can have features that can be interesting to attendees and will contribute their time willingly and participate more.
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?
To contribute to the carbon-neutral meetings industry, we have three fields of activities. The first one is the obvious one – we organise sustainable events. The second and the third ones are not familiar to those who are not following our work, and they are: education and consultations. We educate event managers, tourist destinations, hotels, event venues, marketing managers and others on how to organise a sustainable event and be more sustainable. Also, we consult other event profs on topics regarding sustainability, so I can say we are doing a lot. Clients coming to us to make a sustainable event for them are conscious and aware of sustainability benefits, which is the part we love. However, we have other clients who come to us so that we can organise an unsustainable event for them. In that case, we educate clients and explain the benefits and impacts of the event so they eventually, at least most of them, agree on a sustainable event. You know, not every client and agency is a fit. We declined to work with one client because they wanted to do an unsustainable event, and we didn’t want to do it.
Q6: How do you imagine an ideal meetings industry? What should be its core value?
In my opinion – ethics, transparency, sustainability, honesty and support are the basics. We can see so many things said but not done in the industry. We see a lack of support towards each other. We see many proud agencies doing many things, but if you scratch a bit under the surface, it is not really what they are doing. So, I believe these five things are the bare minimum each individual can give to the industry.
Q7: What is your advice for younger colleagues starting their careers in the meetings industry?
Learn as much as possible, share your knowledge with like-minded people, do your best every day and do not take things personally.
Q8: Who do you believe deserves the title of the TOP influencer if you had to select them from the list of finalists?
I believe that all people who are on that short list of finalists deserve it. Why? Because when you are selected to a list of 5 or 10, or 15 people inside your industry on the European level, it means you are doing the right thing. Only if we all do the right things together can we be successful. It doesn’t matter what your field is. It matters if you are doing your best and contributing to the industry so it can be better each day.