Speak the Future: Interview with Violeta Salonen, Experience Manager

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Conferize’s “Speak the Future” series features speakers who are currently changing the conference world. For more info check out our “Speak the Future” Manifesto. 

Can you tell us a little about yourself? What is your favorite area of expertise to present?

My name is Violeta Salonen and I’m originally from Montenegro. I’ve studied music (conducting, theory and piano) most of my life but then due to an illness, I had to change professions and decided to study Experience and Wellness Management at HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences. Experience management deals with the creation of new concepts and experiences for tourism and culture. During my studies, I got involved with a project at our university called “Future Conference Hotel”, where I worked closely with concept developments for meetings in the future and where I came across meeting architecture as a concept. I have created a concept called “meeting design” which consists of many dimensions.

On top of that, I have done service design for it as well. The project has been a big success and is currently undergoing commercialization. I am also working on another project at our university which deals with eLearning, gamification in education, integration of tablets into learning and development of new learning management systems. When it comes to presenting, I do feel comfortable presenting in general, but at the moment I would say I am very good with presentations about music customization, experience creation and eLearning.

How did you start speaking at conferences?

The first time I spoke at a conference was in Dubrovnik, Croatia in 2011, where I presented my own research called “Use and Management of Music in High-End Restaurants in Helsinki”. After that I was invited to talk at a seminar at our university about the same topic. The following year, I presented the concept of meeting design (mentioned above) at FRESH conference and attended another few small conferences and seminars in Helsinki.

Are conferences important? Why or why not?

I think conferences are very important because you are able to meet people there with similar interests and discuss things face to face (which very often gives you a new perspective) and can lead to possible collaborations. The only problem with conferences is that they are way too packed with programs and you often do not have time to concentrate on everything you would like to. However, I still think they are very good since you get to expand your network.

Do you have any specific goals for your speaking career?

I do not currently have any specific goals related to speaking. I do enjoy speaking and presenting in general, but I do not strive to become a professional conference speaker.

Have you noticed any significant trends in the meetings industry in the wake of digital/mobile developments? How would you like to see conferences change more in the future?

There have been many changes in the meetings industry, starting from different applications that can be used before/during/after the meeting to different boards (such as Smart Board) that can be modified with templates that can help you reach your goals faster as well as the use of smart phones and their various applications. There’s also Podio/Skype/Google hangouts/WebEx, which have helped us all with distance meetings.

The changes that I would like to see are maybe not big changes and are not only technological but human. More contact and possibly more personalization when it comes to small meetings and then socialization and free time when it comes to conferences. It is good to have a good overview of the conference happenings through some of these devices but it is also important not to overdo it. The human factor is quickly being forgotten and we need to pay attention to that as well.

As a speaker, what do you feel you need right now to strengthen your profile in the conference world? Tools, technology, network etc.?

Right now, I think it is important to have good technology (and encourage others to use it as well), but then in general I think networking is the most important thing. If you lack the network, the other two are then not so important. When it comes to me, I would say that since I am not looking into becoming a full time conference speaker, maintenance of network is very important, but then again it is crucial to follow technological developments and then be offered a set of tools which will help you achieve your goal as a speaker

Any advice to aspiring speakers? Things you’ve learned or are struggling with just starting out?

It is important to have clear vision of your goals and achievements and map out networks and people that can help you reach it.