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The Business of Meetings

Feb 16, 2021

We are happy to be speaking to Ori Lahav today. Ori is the Vice-President of Clients and Operations for the Kenes Group and is also the current President of IAPCO (International Association of Professional Congress Organisers). He has a wealth of career experience, even having worked on the startup of an electric car. 

In this episode, Ori will be talking about pandemic leadership, virtual events, and event marketing.  

We know that you are going to enjoy our conversation with Ori, so stay tuned!

Ori Lahav’s bio:

Ori Lahav joined the Kenes Group in 2013 as AVP Marketing, bringing more than 15 years of marketing experience to the management team. Ori’s expertise includes implementing marketing strategies, above the line marketing/below the line marketing, and leading digital campaigns in online/social media channels. He began his career in the communications industry, where he held marketing positions at internet, voice, and mobile telecom providers. This was followed by a senior role in the automotive sector with a start-up that raised US$ 900M to manufacture electric cars. After 4 years at Kenes Group, Ori moved to manage the Client Accounts & Operations unit. At the beginning of 2017, Ori also became an IAPCO Council Member (IAPCO – the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers), and in 2020, he got announced as the president of the association. Lahav got recognized by event professionals in the Eventex Top 100 Most Influential People in the industry for two consecutive years. Ori holds a BA in Statistics from the University of Haifa and an MBA from the University of Derby, UK.

Ori’s background

Ori got into the meetings and events industry by chance. His background is in marketing, and he has worked in many different marketing positions and industries over the years. 

VP marketing

Shortly before Better Place, the startup he was involved with for three years, closed, and Ori interviewed for a VP marketing position at Kenes Marketing, a sub-company within the Kenes Group. He landed the job. At the time, he had no clue about the meetings and events industry and how big it is, but he learned quickly.


Ori ran a team of about thirty internationally-experienced marketing people. It felt natural for him because the basics of marketing are similar, regardless of which industry you are doing the marketing for.


After Ori had been working in that position for four years, the company did some restructuring. He got asked to lead the restructuring and execute the congresses and events for the Clients and Operations Business Unit. He then became the VP of Clients and Operations. 

Electric cars 

Ori had his first 100% electric car more than ten years ago.

The startup of Better Place was all about a mission to “drive the world electric.” They had a great team, and they managed to raise $900,000,000 from international investors. Unfortunately, it was a complicated project, the cost was huge, and it happened before the market was ready. So, their private investor lost patience and decided to stop investing in the project.

Educating the market

This year, Ori has been educating the market. When he talks about educating the market, he is referring to three main audiences. Those are the speakers for the virtual events, the participants, and the sponsors and exhibitors because those are the three key stakeholders of the event.

Their first fully virtual meeting

Their first fully virtual meeting was in the first week of April. Because of the pandemic, they had only three weeks to pivot to virtual. They had to record 250 presentations, explain everything to the speakers, connect with Zoom, and record all the sessions. 

Investing in the speakers

They invested a lot in educating the speakers on how to speak in a virtual space with no visible audience and no interaction. They put a lot of effort into explaining to the delegates how to get the most out of the virtual events by creating tons of different explanatory videos.

Educating sponsors and exhibitors

Educating the sponsors and exhibitors is still an effort and quite challenging for Ori because it is more complicated to see a return on investment in the virtual space.

What Ori Lahav learned at Better Place

What Ori Lahav learned at Better Place, about how to educate the market, has helped him with virtual events.

Ori’s approach to shifting to virtual

When it comes to leadership, business owners, and strategy, it is important for leaders, especially in crisis management, not to panic and to create a task force or a war room quickly. 

Status meeting

In March and April, Ori and his team had daily status meetings with all the different stakeholders within the company, including the CEO, the management, and the stakeholders from mid-level management, to help them gain control of the situation and strategize.

Being proactive

To ensure your financial stability, you need to be proactive with your clients and direct them towards where you want to take the meeting. 

Good leadership

To be a good leader, you need to be an example and get everyone to follow you.

In-house solutions

Initially, they worked with many third-parties and suppliers to provide virtual services. They quickly realized that they preferred to create in-house solutions. In November of 2020, they launched their in-house platform. 

The future of event marketing is in real-time marketing

The pandemic has accelerated many of the processes of event marketing. The current trend is real-time marketing or response in real-time. To be successful with real-time marketing, you have to have all your responses ready before you need them so that you know how to respond immediately, regardless of what happens.

Hybrid and virtual marketing

Virtual is here to stay, and in the future, the standard will most likely become hybrid.

The in-person experience

Ori thinks that the in-person experience will become a little different in the future because organizations have learned from the pandemic that education can get done online. The in-person experience in the future will be more about people getting together to socialize, network, have hands-on workshops, and meet the experts. 

Added value

People will need to focus on the added value of virtual versus the in-person experience.

Return on investment

It is hard to show a return on investment with marketing because you don’t know the specific activities that bring the participants to the event. 

A rule of thumb is that you need to see something three times to be convinced. So, you might need to see an ad on LinkedIn, get some email marketing, and hear something from a colleague about it. 

Lower marketing costs 

Ori sees things trending in the direction of lower marketing costs. The cost of marketing has decreased a lot recently, so now you can be a lot more cost-efficient while spending the same amount of money. With $100, you can currently do targeted advertising on YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn. 

Who owns the budget?

Ori sees that the client owns the budget. For a profitable outcome, you need to invest the right amount in marketing, and there has to be a good connection between the business owner and the marketing team. 

Ori Lahav and his relationship with IAPCO

Ori Lahav got involved with IAPCO because he loves to educate people, and he likes to speak at industry events to share his knowledge. He decided to run for a council position on the board of IAPCO. After two or three years, he first became the Vice-President and then the President of IAPCO.

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