For Nicole Boujibar, the SEF begins long before the official start date. The set-up at the Congress Centre and the Hotel Viktoria Jungfrau in Interlaken starts three days beforehand, and Boujibar is always right in the centre of it all as “chief helper”. “My team and I are responsible for setting up the partner stands, the illuminated walls, the bars and the ‘spaghettata’ welcome dinner,” says Boujibar. “We also oversee the installation of the electrics and exhibits and make sure the partners have everything they need.” They are demanding days, with few breaks and a lot of last-minute adjustments to be made.
Over 1,000 participants are involved in the event, so good planning and improvisation skills are indispensable to ensure it runs smoothly. “It gets a little easier once you’ve done it a few times before,” says Boujibar. “The most satisfying thing is to see how the different elements flow seamlessly into each other during the one-and-a-half-day forum.”
And Boujibar knows what she’s talking about. The 43-year-old has been involved since 2009, when she started out at the coffee bar and serving drinks at the round bar in the evening. She has also worked in the cloakroom and assisted with the technical side of the event. Since 2012, she has led a team of around five people responsible for setting up and dismantling the event.
“It was my sister who brought me to the SEF, and I’m still grateful to her for that,” says Boujibar, as the annual commitment has also resulted in a host of friendships. “The forum is a very multicultural and international event, especially among the helpers,” says Boujibar. “I have got to know people that I would probably never have met otherwise. It is always a great joy to see each other again: It feels like a family reunion.”
One thing that does bother Boujibar, however, is that she has less and less opportunity to listen to the presentations and seminars. “At previous events, we were able to follow the high-profile presentations online during our breaks. For example, I remember the incredible presentation from the sports shoes brand ‘On’, long before Roger Federer made it famous,” says Boujibar. “I wish that all the staff and helpers in the background could get back to following the active part of the event again.”
Recorded by Mirko Plüss