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. Melinda Rebrek, Executive Producer of #LJFW shared why she pins her hopes on younger generations to foster the development of the meetings industry.

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?

The message we are all sending out is important: steps towards more sustainable events must be taken on several levels. With each new event, we notice that clients have started to act more responsibly, so I guess the era of irresponsible abundance is over. Educational events about sustainable ways are not a ‘rare animal’ anymore. But planning a zero (or at least low) waste event is not as simple as it sounds, and it comes with a price, too. Good event planning can go a long way, but educating the general population is the one that will make a difference. I am betting on the next generations. I believe in their relentless insistence on achieving the goal and trust that the now 20-and-under-year-olds will save the world. We should pay more attention to what they have to say.

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 stop asking if they are here to stay. Human interaction is important – now more than ever – so let’s hang on to it.

Photo Credit: Marko Delbello Ocepek

“The meetings industry is a feel-good service, not rocket science – even if it sometimes feels as such.”

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?

An event is an event in any form. There is a lot of work behind all types, but my favourite ones are live events; nothing can beat networking and partying in person. However, all the variations are here to stay since they have made the reachability and connectivity of people globally easier. The sensible thing would be reaching for the most practical solution at the given time and not forgetting that humans need humans in a ‘touchable’, not only ‘watchable’ form.

Photo Credit: Marko Delbello Ocepek

“We will never be carbon neutral with all the travelling we induce to organise or attend an event.”

Q4: 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?

Let’s face it, we will never be carbon neutral with all the travelling we induce to organise or attend an event, but we can work towards reducing our footprint. We recycle and tend to prolong the life span of everything we possibly can. That is not only sustainable but also cost-effective; all it takes is a responsible team, a bit of imagination and some extra time. I have even earned the nickname ‘smetar’ (garbage man) because I find a reusable way for everything in our warehouse.

Clients are leaning towards sustainability with fewer prints and plastic, digitalisation, and careful planning of catering as well as waste management. With smaller events, it is all very doable, but zero-waste events have certain rules that involve all aspects – from travel to materials usage, strict waste management and everything in between. Therefore, a bigger, educated team is needed to execute it. More people means bigger budgets and bigger budgets are not always available for the cause. So, it is moving, but slowly.

Photo Credit: M. Zupanov

Q5: How do you imagine an ideal meetings industry? What should be its core value?

The meetings industry is a feel-good service, not rocket science – even if it sometimes feels as such. Effectively achieving the goals of our clients with no harm done on the way, with well-paid and respected creative teams, should be enough. Learning on the way is a bonus, and sharing knowledge is a must.

Q6: What is your advice for younger colleagues starting their careers in the meetings industry?

Forget ‘normal’: be open to everything, travel, listen, learn, communicate, and evolve. Take nothing for granted and remember, you are nothing without a good team.

Q7: Who do you believe deserves the title of the TOP influencer if you had to select them from the list of finalists?

All of us have a certain speciality, so I believe we all are top for something. Or someone.

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