As we approach the long-anticipated Eurovision Song Contest 2023 and the excitement is sizzling in the air, we were lucky to catch a moment with the Finnish Head of Delegation, Annastiina Paavola.

Described as a”people-oriented producer who calls for diversity, inclusion and emotional leadership”, Annastiina sat down with us for a little chit chat ahead of the contest.

Hello there Annastiina – thanks for taking some time out of your busy Eurovision preparations to chat with us! How are things coming along as we approach the final days before Liverpool?

Hi there! I’m happy to answer your questions. We’ve had busy weeks and our creatives, artist and dancers have been working a lot with the show and for myself it’s been putting together many tiny pieces so that we can head to Liverpool with restful mind. It’s been good, we are all very excited.

Now I wanted to center our interview around the role and responsibilities of being Head of Delegation, which you’ve been for three years now after a career in TV and film. How did you end up in this role? Did you ever imagine your work in media would lead to a job like this?

I still work in tv and film and my employer is the Finnish National Broadcaster YLE. I’m a Line Producer of our national selection show UMK. Back in 2020 I was an associate producer and I was producing my first season of UMK and I was asked to do this role by our executive producers. I think it’s my character, well orientated, calm, responsible and I get along with people, in other words, good social skills.

I was a volunteering in 2007 when ESC was held in Helsinki. Back then I really didn’t have a clue that someday I would work in TV and film industry. I was young and still doing my studies. But when I first started to work in YLE (2016) I noticed that it’s possible to do anything, it was all up to myself. So it wasn’t a surprise when they asked me to do this role because it’s all about leading a project and managing the big picture.

Photo: LinkedIn

I feel like most Eurovision fans know that each country has a Head of Delegation, but have no idea what they actually do. Could you briefly explain the responsibilities of the Head of Delegation (HoD) role to us?

This is the difficult one. I sum it up in short; it’s operational management and being the contact person between EBU and YLE. There are dozens of files, information, contracts, budgeting, insurances, travel bookings, meetings and such responsibilities. And of course, leading the delegation while in Liverpool, being available 24/7 during those two weeks.

I imagine that being the Head of a Delegation takes up a significant portion of your week. How many hours a day do you spend on Eurovision? Is it your full time job or do you do this on top of other work related responsibilities?

For me it’s not a full time job. Together UMK and ESC is a full time job. There are some duties around a year I have to do. But of course this Spring time is the busiest and I think I spend half of the week doing HoD related tasks while setting up a new season of UMK.

Looking back at your involvement over the last three years, what has been your favorite part of being head of delegation?

It’s really the whole experience. I first meet the entry early in September, of course then we don’t know yet who will win the UMK, and to be able to see the whole process during the year. We’ve been lucky to qualify for grand finals past years and those moments in Semifinals when we’ve heard the result, I like the best.

Outside of your work with Eurovision – what do you do for fun?

I play quitar and piano and love to sing as well. I do sports, mostly gym and swimming. I love infrared sauna. And of course I spend a lot of time with my dog, teenage Walesh Corgi Cardigan named Pulla (bun).

If someone out there wanted to be a member of a Eurovision delegation one day, what would be your advice to them?

Just be yourself, believe in yourself, give yourself time to grow, make yourself visible and when you are ready, everything is possible.

What are you looking forward to the most when the Finnish delegation touches down in Liverpool next week?

I’m looking forward to get to know this year’s song and see the shows, meet my colleagues and of course, Käärijä’s sauna truck.

And of course I have to ask as Finland is currently 2nd in the betting odds to win Eurovision 2023. Does Finland and YLE have a plan ready to go in the event that Kaarija takes the crystal microphone home on May 13th?

Yes, we have a plan. Actually we have a plan every year but of course this year we must have planned it even more from a practical point of view.

And there you have it – plenty of responsibilities and even more fun! We are very grateful to Annastiina Paavola for taking the time to talk to us and give us a little bit of an insight into the busy role of the Head of Delegation. Until next time!

Photo: Chloe Hashemi / EBU

Finland will perform in the first semi final of the Eurovision Song Contest on May 9 in position 15.

What do #YOU think about the job of the Head of Delegation for Eurovision? Let us know on social media @ESCUnited, on our Discord, or on our forum page!

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