Gorazd, you work and live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. How would you describe Slovenia in 5 words?
If I had to describe Slovenia as a woman, I would say she is charming, sometimes mysterious, healthy, warm and very kind.
With so many ongoing projects and responsibilities that you have, how and where do you like to spend your free time? Is there a spot in Slovenia that you absolutely love going to unwind after a long work week?
For me, the most relaxing spot in Slovenia is actually the place where I live with my family – Dol pri Ljubljani, the easternmost part of the Ljubljana plain. I like to call it the Gates of the Zasavje region. The charming Zasavje hills have been my sanctuary for many years. The area is relatively unknown, waiting to be discovered by avid hikers and cyclists. Easily accessible peaks like Murovica, Cicely or Miklavž are only about 20 kilometers from Ljubljana. In my opinion, they are much more attractive than many other popular hiking spots around the capital.
With decades of experience in the marketing and tourism industry. Could you tell us what is the one thing that intrigues you the most when it comes to the marketing and tourism industry?
I have to emphasize that we specialise in B2B marketing with a focus on the meetings industry. What intrigues me the most when it comes to marketing in the tourism industry is the massive shift towards sustainability and how destinations will adapt to this new trend. In the future, sustainability will be one of the key testaments of our industry. This crisis is a cleanse. Spring cleaning. It is time to question, who we are, what we want to achieve and how to make our industry better, more sustainable. If we look at event marketing, I am fascinated by the fact that the importance of communication in relation to production/logistics has changed according to the Pareto law – the ratio is now close to 80:20. Creating a story around an event and building a community has become way more important than just focusing on high-end, fancy production. I have to say that communication and creating content is our forte.
Among the many “hats you wear” in the aspect of your business and career, you are known as the co-founder of Conventa. Could you tell us what inspired you to get into the meetings industry and later on start the Conventa Crossover event?
When we were planning Conventa in the middle of the worst economic crisis in 2009, the response from our colleagues and the media was unanimous. You are brave to embark on such a project and dive into the unknown. Conventa was born in a crisis and grew from a crisis. We are used to crisis management and changes in the Conventa team. This too has enabled Conventa’s development. The event was a classical entrepreneurial response to the needs of the market and a lack of similar events. At the same time, it was a carefully-planned story that has been focused on the regional market from the get-go. Every year, the expectations from our partners, exhibitors and hosted buyers get raised higher and higher and that’s what drives us to keep going.
Conventa is an event that brings together leading experts from different fields in order for them to share their knowledge. How important is to share knowledge and pass it on to the younger generations? What knowledge and skills do you find most useful at work?
A healthy relationship towards the world, compassion and solidarity are all part of the Conventa story. This has helped us overcome crises in the past and I am certain that we will beat this one as well. The current situation calls for empathy and camaraderie. Our way of spreading empathy is through education and Conventa’s educational platforms are truly important for us:
CONVENTA CROSSOVER – Festival of events and live marketing
CONVENTA TREND BAR – A series of educational events across cities of New Europe
CONVENTA YOUNG TALENTS – More contacts, more contracts – career development fair
As you can probably tell, sharing knowledge means a lot to us and gives our project width that not a lot of events have. I personally think that meeting planners must have multifaceted expertise and skills that simply can’t be learnt through listening, but only with doing. More than that, they should have a lot of patience and flexibility. These are some of the key characteristics of good meeting planners. When it comes to events, theatre and literature are always an endless source of knowledge and inspiration for me.
Conventa Crossover event happened a few weeks ago. How difficult was it to prepare and carry out this year’s event based on the restrictions due to COVID-19? How was this year’s event concept developed in terms of that?
Yes, we successfully carried out the first hybrid edition of our Conventa Crossover project. Our team has proven that events can be successfully and safely carried out even in the midst of a global epidemic. Uncertainty, strict safety measures, limited resources for marketing and stunted airline connections are challenges that meeting planners around the world are facing right now and they are challenges that we faced when preparing the project. Our estimate is that events will be taking place in hybrid form for quite some time. Because you are not limited by the usual physical barriers, you can very easily expand the audience and make the event safer. The key challenge with hybrid events is connecting the live & online audience. In my opinion, the best way to do this is through top-notch content. A well-prepared programme with amazing speakers opens the door for monetisation, as people are willing to pay for good content.
We must imagine that COVID-19 will bring more changes to the event industry. What do you think will happen and how will the future of the event and meetings industry change?
Tectonic changes are happening in front of our very eyes. In just a couple of months, the entire meetings industry has gone digital and made a quantum leap. At the same time, the turbulent situation has caused a major terminological mix-up. Defining virtual, online and every other new subgroup of events has become rather confusing. I like to explain the difference to my colleagues like this; virtual events are accessed through interfaces like virtual goggles, helmets, implants etc. and online events are accessed through a computer. Despite all these new solutions, the basic human need of socialising and meeting in person is still very high. We are a Human2Human industry, but we have to realise that this new technology is a huge opportunity. I am not a big proponent of completely virtual events, but I do think that hybrid formats will become a popular alternative. Technology is a tool that will help us create better, more sustainable events, so don’t be afraid of taking advantage of it.
Since you have the experience of working for both Slovenian and international companies we are sure you have noticed differences between the way one and the other work and communicate. What is the biggest difference between working with Slovenian and international companies?
Our industry is very specific. I can always tell when someone is passionate about what they do. It’s like we are speaking the same language and it doesn’t matter where we are coming from. When you meet someone, who shares the same passion, a creative energy forms that can move mountains. In bigger productions, companies are usually international and I can’t say there is a major difference. We have however noticed a big difference between the public and private sector. Companies working in the private sector realise that events are a strategic marketing tool and they aren’t just carried out because they need to be carried out. This has become even more evident during the epidemic. Every meeting planner has to meticulously measure the effects of their event and KPI has become a buzz word during the crisis.
Any future projects we should know about that you can share with our audience?
We took advantage of the crisis to develop our own hybrid and online event solutions. They are the most logical response to the new pandemic reality. We are actually one of the first Slovenian DCO’s (Digital Conference Organiser). We have successfully carried out over 50 webinars, online conferences and the first hybrid edition of Conventa Crossover. A lot more hybrid/online projects are in the talks and will be revealed soon.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you over the years?
I often compare the meetings industry to rock’n’roll. It’s passion, dedication and striving to be different. It’s showing the best of what you’ve got with all your heart and voice at the right moment. It’s impressing your audience and leaving an impression. It’s establishing an authentic connection with every participant and listening to their wishes. It’s making sure that attendees become your fans. The secret and essence of rock’n’roll is a good idea. The best ideas are simple, clear and unambiguous. Those that speak to the heart and soul. Just like music, events are a universal language that everyone understands. The idea of rock’n’roll is closely connected to the idea of freedom. Rock’n’roll is a way of life.
What is your personal motto or philosophy in life?
Power to the meetings!
I will reveal more about this philosophy in my book that is coming out soon.