Jari Vähänen: I have missed you!

Image source: SBC

The Covid-19 pandemic has disturbed our lives already, possibly by up to five years. We are used to working remotely and keeping our distance from other people. Yet somehow the effectiveness of daily work has increased when we have done things from a home environment. Virtual meetings are quicker than live ones because people concentrate on official issues only. There is not so much space for social communication. That is perfect for introverts but not good for extroverts. 

Virtual meetings work well if the purpose is to share information about a joint project or make precise decisions. But I don’t like those team meetings if the goal is to plan something together. There is quite a significant risk that a few people are active, and the others just listen and don’t give 100 % effort to a common goal. I have seldom seen a lively discussion in remote meetings, and without that, we can’t get the best outcome. 

The lack of physical events has been a massive problem for business events and seminars. I haven’t calculated how many virtual seminars I have participated in during this Covid time, but there have been many of them. Technically those events have worked well. It has been easy to follow presentations and panel discussions from homes. 

I have also acted as a panelist many times, and everything has gone well, but something has still been missing. If you want to get information, it is as easy to get from virtual presentations as from live ones. But if you would like to listen to lively debates and disagreements, you can’t get them from virtual seminars. 

Although the Covid numbers are still high, it seems to be possible to reach the “new normal life” soon. The summer holiday season is already over here in the northern part of Europe. I have now worked a few weeks and have had some live meetings, and I have enjoyed them a lot. It has been great to meet other people than just your own family members. Somehow the results of those meetings have been productive, or at least it feels like that. I’ll continue to work at home, but I have decided to meet some of my colleagues and customers live at least a few times a week. 

I want to get that same good feeling also from business seminars. That is why I have now checked the list of live gambling business seminars and have picked many where I’m planning to be. Probably, I have been too eager when I have promised to be the potential panelist in many of them. But, surely, I’ll travel and meet my global business colleagues again after a too-long break. I know that flights cause problems for nature, and traveling increases the risk of Covid, but it is possible to do that on the right scale and in a responsible way. 

The reasons why I’m so keen on participating in business seminars have changed compared to the time when I worked at lottery company Veikkaus where I was responsible for business development and international affairs. In that role, I had to know what was going on in the lottery world and, especially in the gambling business. I liked to participate in gambling business events where I could hear something new. Lottery-specific events had another purpose for me. They were places where I could meet my international colleagues, and that was really important also. 

Now, when I’m working as a business consultant, those reasons are slightly different. It is still important to know what is happening in our industry. I don’t need detailed information anymore, but I should better understand every gambling vertical. It is also essential to contact your professional network. I want to know what has happened in the companies where my friends work, but I would also like to hear what they have done as individuals during this difficult time. 

Of course, as an entrepreneur, I should try to get new customers and contact my existing ones. I decided to resign from Veikkaus precisely at the same time when Covid-19 started. So, the timing for my new business was not perfect at all. I planned to meet my former colleagues at lottery events and let them know what I would do and how I could help them and their companies. But there has been no live lottery seminar after my resignation, and it has not been easy to market my new business. 

I noticed that both European Lotteries (EL) and the World Lottery Association (WLA) will have all their events as virtual ones. According to their event calendar, the next live event is the EL’s Industry Days in June 2022. So, it is not possible to meet our lottery colleagues and friends in live lottery-specific seminars in almost one year. 

Luckily there will be many other gambling events where also lottery directors and experts could, and should, participate. Those “private sector” seminars are valuable places for lottery people because they can learn a lot there. Even the most advanced lotteries are not so good compared to the best private operators. The speed of development is so much faster in the private sector than in the state lottery world. As I have mentioned many times before, lotteries must develop their products and services all the time. That is the only way to keep their customers satisfied. 

So, where could you meet me? I have cooperated with SBC Events for many years. I like the way they organize their events and take care of their partners and visitors. That’s why I have picked two of their events on my calendar. The first event will be SBC Summit in Barcelona in late September, and the second one is Betting on Sports Europe in November in London. 

It might be possible that I will travel to New Jersey for the SBC Summit North America in early December, but that’s not for certain because I don’t have any customers in the USA. I also plan to go to the Scandinavian Gaming Show, SiGMA, and World Gaming Executive Summit events. Let’s see if I could spend so much time traveling.

I have missed all of you, my colleagues! Hopefully, we could meet live at those events or somewhere else. Please, come to say hello when you see me. I’m so curious to hear how your life and business are going.

Jari Vähänen