SolarPower Europe is a member-led association representing more than 130 organisations active along the whole solar value chain Tina Stojanovic, Event Manager, tells us how they operate and what challenges they’ve had to overcome over the years.
Could you please present Solar Power Europe?
SolarPower Europe is a member-led association representing more than 130 organisations active along the whole solar value chain. Our aim is to shape the regulatory environment and enhance business opportunities for solar power in Europe. In 2015 we achieved three milestones: 1) We celebrated our 30th Anniversary; 2) We rebranded, changing our name from EPIA (European Photovoltaic Industry Association) to SolarPower Europe; 3) With our new brand identity and business-model, we saw a 53% increase in membership.
What kind of events do you organise?
We organise two annual events in Brussels – the Annual General Meeting and the Solar Market Workshop. Now in its 11th consecutive year, the Solar Market Workshop focuses on the latest industry performance, forecasts and trends and is a great networking opportunity. Aside from these events we organise several webinars, meetings and workshops.
We also work closely with our long-term partners and organise events outside Brussels and provide quality content and organisation of the whole event from start to finish. For example we regularly hold events in Munich and also for the European Commission anywhere in Europe.
What is the decision process behind the selection of a destination/venue?
As a European association, we first and foremost look for destinations in Europe. If it is a policy related event, Brussels is the natural choice.
Aside from budget, the most important factor when selecting a venue is the human aspect. My golden rule is to meet the event planner in charge of my file and do a quick assessment: will they go the extra mile? Depending on the answer, the decision is easy.
Can you describe the challenges your association had to face over the last few years?
The withdrawal of financial support schemes across Europe took a heavy toll on the solar sector and we saw a steep decline in membership. But with hardship also comes opportunity. With a new leadership team we have expanded the association’s activities and services, and are firmly on our way to becoming one of the most influential, credible and sophisticated associations in Brussels and beyond.
What do you find most challenging as an Event Manager?
Working in an association is a challenge by itself since events are only a part of the whole package we offer to our members. Avoiding a negative event experience is so important, as such a feeling can easily affect much more than just losing future participants.
So it is up to us (event planners) to step up. We are ambassadors of our associations, we are the face that delegates remember and a name they connect with a good or negative experience. I try to remember that every step of the way. I made it my top priority to think of our members first and I make sure they are aware I am there for them. Not just to assist when there is a problem, but also to listen when it is time to listen and laugh when there is time to laugh. There is a lot of pressure, but the reward for a good event is so great it’s worth it.
Do suppliers play by the rules?
I have both good and bad experience with suppliers. Usually suppliers understand that they are offering you a service and therefore behave with characteristic charm and efficiency. Sadly some look to try and take advantage of any opportunity presented and charge too much or offer too little. I am sure that such suppliers will become fewer and fewer. Firstly, because the association community (especially in Brussels) is relatively small and we all talk to each other and share our experiences. Secondly you simply won’t work with that supplier again if you have a bad experience.
Can you share your insights about the latest trends in the association community?
Thought leadership, being the leading voice and source in a specialised field, is a major trend. Partnerships are important; teaming up with companies, organisations and individuals with different expertise can produce unique concepts that can make your event really stand out from the crowd. More targeted, focused and topic oriented events are also a clear trend. Tapping into a niche market can bring great rewards.
Social media will play an even bigger role in the future. My tip is to sponsor a social media post, many hundreds will see your event, increasing chances of registrations!
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