Q&A with John Jossifakis, one of the event industry's most prolific characters

J.J. Productions, General Manager John Jossifakis CSEP, is one of the most sought-after certified special events professionals today. He has delivered thousands of events in more than 100 countries. Jossifakis has also worked on several major events, including World Music Tours, the Olympics and the FIFA Club World Cup. Despite his busy schedule, we got a hold of him for a couple of questions to talk about the event management trends and how he got into the industry.

Can you tell us about your background?

I was born in 1979 in Athens, Greece, where I also grew up. But, by the time I was 12, we had moved to Toronto in Ontario, Canada. I attended high school at Northern Secondary School from 1994 to 1998 and after finishing my secondary education, I travelled extensively around the world. Though I hold a residence in Athens, I currently live in Dubai in UAE.

I have a Masters degree in Events Management from Leeds Beckett University. I also hold a diploma from the Harvard Business School in the Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports and a diploma in Digital Strategy from MIT Sloan Business School.

What got you into event management?

I've always been drawn to event management for as long as I can remember. I was an active member of the Stage Crew and Set Crew in high school and was also the recipient of the James M. McCarron Principals Award for Co-Op Student of the Year. It was a recognition given to high school students who made a difference in the lives of others in the community through a specific industry. So, to say that I've been doing this all my life is an understatement. I can't see myself doing anything else.

As an adrenaline junkie, I enjoy the excitement event management brings. I also find the human factor of the business incredibly appealing. There's a certain kind of fulfillment to bringing a smile to people's faces every time we successfully deliver an event, whether it is a global concert tour, a sporting event or a spectacular displays of fireworks. To me, event management is a way of pulling together what I've learned from previous experiences to create a momentary reality, allowing people to take a break from their usual day-to-day routine and for a short span of time, transfer them to a new reality, whether through a gala, a concert, a sporting event, or a theatre play.

I also find giving back to the community by cultivating opportunities for the younger generation interested in entering the event industry. I enjoy traveling around the world, educating younger professionals about the industry, fireworks, pyrotechnics, risk management, and all other aspects of event management. I've always believed that what we give to the world is so much more important than what we get out of it. This creates a lasting legacy in the industry and grooms the up and coming talents of tomorrow.

Can you tell us about your recent works?

I'm currently the executive producer for various large-scale events. I was part of the recently concluded DAKAR 2022, serving as the executive producer for the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the start and finish podiums. This project was in collaboration with STAMiNA Productions, an agency that I have worked with and consulted since its inception.

I've also partnered with various governmental entities as part of their large-scale events portfolios and vision as a consultant. I've worked with the governments of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and the State of Qatar under JJ. Productions, a boutique events agency I founded over 15 years ago, that caters to clients globally.

Tell us about the biggest events you did and your roles in those events.

I have produced a couple of major sporting events in the past-the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, consulted for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2018, to name a few.

For the Olympic Games in Athens, I coordinated torch relay operations and celebrations for the first Greek leg which gave me a seat in the Ceremonies Department, very quickly. I was appointed as the Venue Project Manager in charge of the ceremonies' technical infrastructure and operational planning for both the Olympics and Paralympics and worked closely with Jack Morton Public Events and ECA2.

In the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, as part of a consultancy project, I was the overall master planner for the victories and medal ceremonies, including movements, operations, and logistics.

In the FIFA Club World Cup 2018, I was the local organizing committee Ceremonies Manager and overall in charge of the final celebrations.

What are the current trends in event management?

In the last couple of years, the event management industry has grown in size and budget, with demands calling for more than what was offered by previous events. The world is constantly after the next big spectacle, and people expect something more than the ones they've seen before. The industry has also changed from physical to virtual spaces, and the events participation has grown exponentially due to this shift in events delivery.

I think the event clients and committees today are called to reach new heights, push boundaries, digitize their presence and deliver designs and performances so advanced that they give a new meaning to the realms of entertainment and communication. This trend of wanting to see something more, something different, something never seen before, will require all high-profile events to have specialist technical knowledge and operational understanding. Event professionals must be dynamic and grow their knowledge base. The events industry has become a full fledged industry, where extensive knowledge is mandatory across multiple technical disciplines and human factors.

What are the challenges that event professionals such as yourself experience?

What makes the industry challenging for some is that from the opening ceremony of a major sporting event like the Olympics to a concert, you rarely get an idea of what your next event will require of you. Every day is different. Every meeting you go into can pose a challenge, this sparks a domino effect of adapting and making swift decisions. So, it's constantly pushing you to your limits and testing how your problem-solving skills fair under stress.

Apart from event management, what keeps you preoccupied?

I'm into precision sports, so I train and compete as a shooter in the 10M Olympic Air Pistol discipline under the Canadian flag in my downtime.

I'm also an entrepreneur. I founded a company called Candy Dream Confectionery and Chocolate Trading in Dubai. The company trades across various food industry streams. It focuses on bringing together the people, the residents, and the visitors of the UAE through sweet offerings made only with the finest and freshest of materials, in a thematic fairytale setting.

Jennyfer Smith
Senior Journalist

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