After another year of disruption, members of PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties class of 2022 are proof positive that adaptability is a requisite skill for business events industry professionals. Katharina Path, marketing manager for conventions at the Frankfurt Convention Bureau in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, shares what advice she gleaned about the events industry from Grand Master Yoda of “Star Wars” fame.
What do you like most about your job?
The events industry is like one big family. Regardless of whether you’re dealing with a competitor, supplier, or customer, the interaction and communication is always friendly and driven by the love for our industry. All of us help people come together, exchange ideas, and learn from each other. This common goal is what connects us and makes working within our industry something very special.
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from someone in the industry?
A few weeks back during a virtual networking session I heard one of the other attendees quoting from “Star Wars”: “You must unlearn what you have learned.” I’ve never considered Grand Master Yoda to be an event professional, but many pieces of wisdom he shares also apply to our industry. “You must unlearn what you have learned” is just one of them. Our industry is constantly changing, which means that we also have to keep adapting. Humans are creatures of habit, but at some point, we need to break with our routines, follow new paths, and shake up our processes in order to remain successful. So big thanks to this unknown attendee, for putting Yoda’s wisdom in a completely new context.
How do you see the industry changing as a result of the pandemic?
In terms of digitalization, the pandemic has acted like an accelerant and confronted our industry with new challenges. New event formats emerged, yet the desire for personal exchange is currently giving old-school, face-to-face events new impetus after so many months of social distancing and travel restrictions. In the long run, however, we have to rethink the purpose of our industry. Regardless of the pandemic, the needs of event planners and delegates are constantly evolving. Factors such as new working models, urban migration, and political decisions have a direct impact on how events should be designed. In a post-COVID era, we will need to find the ideal balance of digital and analogue components for events and create added value for all participants.
What new skills has the pandemic led you to pursue?
If the pandemic has taught me anything, it is to communicate more effectively. For several months, we could only plan and attend events virtually, while sitting alone in our home offices doing laundry at the same time. There was no coincidental small talk at the coffee machine, while body language and moods were difficult to sense over video calls. Tasks and feedback had to be addressed clearly to be properly received.
Communication was not only a key takeaway from the last few months, but also an improved skill along with new technical skills and creative problem solving. New tools for digital networking and communication have opened up new possibilities for hybrid and virtual events. To make the most of these tools, a comprehensive technical understanding and the ability to think outside the box are essential. These are skills I believe we should constantly work on in order to be good leaders and change the future of our industry for the better.