Kyiv Post had the pleasure of being the first to congratulate The Big Meet, the number one networking organization in Kyiv, on its 6-year anniversary.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Olga Kearley, the owner, and organizer, to reflect on this significant milestone. From navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine to witnessing the evolution of The Big Meet’s networking culture and its impact on the community, Olga shared her insights and experiences as The Big Meet prepares to celebrate on Feb16.

Congratulations on reaching the 6-year milestone! How does it feel to look back at your journey with The Big Meet?

To be completely honest, it feels surreal! The multitude of events, the countless people involved – it’s overwhelming. Surprisingly, it doesn’t seem like it’s been six years already. It’s truly hard to believe.

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The events industry has faced numerous challenges, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

What were some of the challenges you faced, and how did you manage to continue providing networking opportunities?

Life threw us a curveball, but we learned to dance with it. Safety and well-being have always been our top priorities and when the pandemic hit and lockdowns were implemented, the idea of hosting events seemed implausible, we accepted the reality of the situation.

As restrictions eased, we cautiously resumed our events. So, depending on what was allowed by the Kyiv City Administration we were doing open air events with spacious venues.

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Upon entry we were checking vaccination certificates/proof of recovery/PCR tests, and we even had to gently remind folks to dial down the handshakes. Of course, many didn’t listen, and I can’t blame them. People felt lonely, people felt disconnected, people wanted to feel other people’s touch.

From July 2021 to January 2022, we successfully conducted multiple events. However, the full-scale invasion in February 2022 forced a temporary hiatus, but we made a resilient comeback in February 2023 with The Big Meet at Ostannya Barykada.

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It felt like a natural choice to mark our 6-year anniversary at this iconic venue. And what better way to celebrate unity and diversity than with our chosen dress code: Vyshyvanka! We welcome everyone to join us in honoring the rich cultural heritage of Ukraine by showcasing your unique style in Vyshyvanka attire.

How do you think The Big Meet has evolved over the last six years, and what are your thoughts on the changes in the networking scene in Kyiv during this time?

The biggest change I’ve observed in The Big Meet is that it’s no longer just about networking; it’s become a platform for something greater.

Over time, I’ve noticed a significant shift in people’s priorities and values, especially when the full-scale war started. While building connections has always been a core aspect of The Big Meet’s networking culture in Kyiv, it’s incredibly rewarding to witness its evolution into something more impactful – supporting charities. I’m delighted that we’ve embraced this evolution by incorporating charitable initiatives into our events. Whether it’s through donations, facilitating connections between NGOs and potential investors, or simply raising awareness about these organizations, I believe we’re making a meaningful impact beyond traditional networking.

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It’s fulfilling to witness how The Big Meet has grown into a vehicle for positive change, bringing together both individuals and causes in a spirit of collaboration and support.

As for the changes in the networking scene over the years, I’ve noticed some intriguing developments.

Initially, it seemed like expats were leading the charge, bringing their expertise and confidence to the table. But lately, there’s been a refreshing shift. More and more locals are stepping up, bravely venturing into the world of networking, despite any initial hesitation.

What’s really heartening to see is how people’s attitudes towards networking have softened. It used to feel like this formal, daunting affair, but now, it’s become much more relaxed and open.

Events are less about rigid structures and more about genuine connections. It’s like we’re all learning together, creating a warmer and more welcoming atmosphere for everyone involved.

It’s these human connections that truly make the networking scene in Kyiv special.

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Is there anyone you would like to express gratitude to, whether it's sponsors, partners or the attendees, for their support throughout these six years?

People, all those that supported us during these years. The Big Meet is about people, and it wouldn’t have been possible without all of the amazing souls from all over the globe. Especially now I consider myself lucky to have witnessed the community coming together during challenging times.

Ostannya Barykada is a unique choice for the anniversary party. What influenced the decision to host the celebration at this venue? What can attendees look forward to at the event?

Oh, Ostannya Barykada holds a special place in our hearts. It was our first post-full-scale-invasion event, and I can’t express enough gratitude to them for welcoming us.

I vividly remember our first meeting – my emotions were running high, and I wasn’t sure how many would join given the uncertainties and concerns about potential attacks.

As people started gathering, a wave of relief washed over me, seeing familiar faces. That sense of unity and togetherness was simply amazing, and I hold that memory close to my heart.

So, celebrating our 6-year anniversary at Ostannya Barykada just felt right – it’s where we felt the power of community, and we want to share that with our attendees.

What exciting experiences and highlights can attendees anticipate at the event?

Oh, we’ve pulled out all the stops to ensure it’s a night to remember. There’ll be amazing prizes generously provided by our partners, welcome drinks to kick off the festivities, a lively DJ set to keep the energy high, and, of course, a cake to mark the occasion!

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We believe that even in the darkest times, there should always be a place for light and celebration.

We’re also thrilled to announce a special partnership with Pravda Brewery, hailing from the vibrant city of Lviv. What makes Pravda Brewery so exceptional is its truly international expertise – Czech engineering, Belgian consulting, German bottling line, Spanish pouring system, and an American brewer all came together to create their remarkable beers!

Their journey is as fascinating as their brews. Just six months after launching in late 2014, their stout “Vid Syanu do Donu” earned them a bronze at the prestigious Brussels Beer Challenge – talk about making an entrance! From classic brews to adventurous sours, Pravda Brewery covers the spectrum of beer styles.

The Big Meet is honored to collaborate with such an iconic Ukrainian beer manufacturer, renowned not only in Ukraine but also abroad for its funky designs and bold flavors.

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The labels on their beer bottles, bearing messages like “Putin Huilo,” “Obama Hope,” and “JOHNSONUK,” serve as ambassadors, spreading their unique brand of Ukrainian wit and humor across the globe.

It’s partnerships like these that truly make our events memorable, and we can’t wait to share the [beer] experience with you all!

So, get ready to join us for an evening filled with joy, celebration, and a few delightful moments along the way as we commemorate our 6-year journey together!

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