For a perspective on what young professionals in Europe are looking for when it comes to digital/hybrid events, DEI reached out to Irena Jelenova, a recent DES graduate and a winner of the Calgary DES Scholarship.
Please tell us something about yourself.
I was born in Prague, but I am a mix of Czech, Slovakian, Hungarian, and German. I grew up in Slovakia until I was six. Then I lived for two years in Egypt because my father was working in the import/export business. I graduated from the Hotel Management School of Prague, a specialized, four-year high school. I went on to get my M.A. in hospitality management and to study and work abroad. Eventually, I settled down in Amsterdam, where I got my perfect career kick-off job as an event assistant then an event executive with the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).
Recently, I changed jobs. I’m now a sales and operations manager at Blofield, an innovative design company that creates products filled with air – specifically furniture. These products are a great solution to professional event companies. They create a special atmosphere in networking areas and are simple to store and transport when deflated.
What spurred your interest in digital events?
Working as an event planner with ICCA, I did my best to stay on top of the trends, or even one step ahead. That’s how I applied for the scholarship with DEI and I got it! It’s so cool to know how digital differs from planning a face-to-face event. Even though I don’t organize digital events, I attend them to learn more about specific topics. I meet people online from around the world with the same interest. For example, I met one person during the DES online course whom I later met at a trade show, and suddenly I was renting her friend’s cottage during my holidays. How small the world has become, can you believe it?
A digital event is a great tool that any company can use to provide information, education and training, or to boost audience and clients. I think that nowadays, unfortunately, “if you are not online, you don’t exist.”
How should digital events be designed to engage young, international professionals?
- It goes without saying that quality audiovisual and mobile-friendly technology are two musts!
- Highly interactive sessions are as well.
- If there are tools to learn — for example an app —practice how to use the app immediately online.
- Include photos of participants in profiles and chat. This helps enormously to remember individual participants and to network. Believe me, people in my generation want to be known and if you give them a change to upload their photo for the chat, they will do it!
What are some other key points from your perspective?
Sessions should be information-packed and a maximum of 15 minutes long. I usually don’t have more time for a random session.
Here are some other considerations:
- Don’t forget, live digital events need to be suitable to the time zones of participants.
- Pick a moderator who makes the digital audience feel like they are in the same room.
- Provide detailed info before and after the event.
- Give handouts ahead of time so that participants have an option prepare.
- Happy hour after the event! Awesome idea! Announce it well before the event so that people know that they don’t have to worry that they have not spoken to somebody during the session. Sometimes people worry if they chat, they might miss part of an interesting session.
- Social media: Connect participants before the event and after. Create groups that would get a certain name/nickname and keep reconnecting them again and again in their small group regularly. The Happy Hour of DEI is a great example of that.
How do you think digital/hybrid meetings will likely be different 10 years from now?
I believe in the future the voice of a speaker will be translated by robot to any language of choice. I would love to have a smart computer that will select the best digital event for me based on my key words and interest. It would be sort of a TripAdviser of digital events!