The Events Expert Interview Series #30: Victoria Matey

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Victoria Matey is co-founder of Seattle-based Matey Events, a business events consulting firm for event organisers and event attendees. With 15 years of events industry experience and a Master’s in International Events Management, she helps event organisers design impactful events and provide quality event experiences. 

Through her bilingual blog and contributions to other publications (e.g., Forbes Russia), she brings together Russian and English-speaking professionals to contribute to the development of the MICE sector. 

We've been honored to interview quite a range of fascinating event professionals, but you are probably the first bilingual expert we've spoken with, and certainly the first with a degree in English and Russian Philology. How did your career path take you from working as a translator in Russia to work and study at the University of Surrey in the UK to founding your own event consultancy in Seattle 

At one of my earlier roles I worked for the International Office of the University located in the North-West of Russia. Apart from interpreting and translating I assisted in cross-border international projects; organizing small and large meetings, conferences, workshops and the like made up a big part of that job. This is how I got introduced to the world of events.  

Eventually I gained a lot of experience but I was eager to get a theoretical background in the field - so I ended up getting my MSc in International Events Management at the University of Surrey in 2011. Then I got to work with events at SETsquared Partnership in the UK, and that was invaluable experience which further expanded my knowledge and network.  

Fast forward to 2015, when I was on maternity leave and started thinking about my next career move, I realized I’d accumulated a lot of information and expertise that I wanted to share with my fellow Russian event professionals. That’s how the idea of Matey Events was born.  

Initially it was more of an educational project aimed to be the bridge between Russian event industry and western events community ; in some way, a reflection of my experience.  So it was about blogging, advocating, sharing ideas and trends, and joint initiatives. For example, together with the Meeting Design Institute, I worked on translating and publishing the first-ever Russian edition of Meeting Architecture book so that a wider circle of event organizers in Russia would be able to get familiar with the approach. 

 What type of clients do you most frequently work with?  

As Matey Events evolved over time, I started providing consultations on specific requests, mostly from non-for-profits, small companies and individuals. When I moved to the US, my consultancy moved here, too - but I kept the dual and bilingual nature of my work.  

What has changed is that I’ve sharpened my focus to provide help with what I’m truly passionate about: creating meaningful event experience, connecting dots between event strategy and its logistics, and applying knowledge from psychology and neuroscience to event planning.  

What does a typical day look like for you now? 

My typical day is all about juggling work and parenting: I am a working mom, so I have to set family-work priorities every day. I try to keep my mornings for creative work and calls (especially when I work with partners/clients from Russia - mind the time difference) and leave more routine work for evenings.  

Recently, my schedule has somewhat changed because I have been working on my first book on the principles of strategic event planning. Writing a book is a completely new exercise for me, and it takes a large chunk of my morning time now. 

What's the biggest challenge you face in your work? 

Business events consulting is somewhat of a new type of service, which brings value through external analysis and fresh look at the event design and strategy. Also, in my work I concentrate on strategy and content, and do not provide classic operational support like an independent event planner or agency would do.  

These are things that not many clients are used to yet. They approach events with little thought about its long-term development, event mission, participants’ needs, and aligning content accordingly. So my challenge is to change the current way events are done and contribute to building a new paradigm where a strategic approach to planning becomes the new norm. 

What types of event-related technology do you use or interact with? 

I do not use event technologies extensively - mostly these are event apps, survey tools, productivity tech -  however, I am very much interested in and like learning about and testing new tools and watching how the event tech world develops.  

I am fascinated with the opportunities event technology offers - in particular, everything that relates to measuring emotions, analyzing attendee behavior, etc.  

Having said that, I believe that leveraging technology at an event should not be a goal in itself or a "wow factor." It should be closely and purposefully tied to event strategy and the event’s "why." 

What do you see as the biggest trend(s) in events this year, particularly in relation to event technology? 

Personalization continues to be one of the biggest trends, and so I believe event technologies that can provide, enhance, or facilitate personalization of various parts or stages of an event will gain traction. 

If you could give event planners / marketers one piece of advice, what would that be? 

Be aware of the impact you create with events, regardless of how small they are. It’s a useful exercise in two ways: first, it levels up your work to the scale it is supposed (and deserves) to be at, and makes you feel the true value of what you do every day.  

Second, such awareness brings along a more responsible approach to event planning and thus improves its quality.