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Colja Dams updates us about the situation in Germany

Colja Dams updates us about the situation in Germany

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We all know the madness that we have experienced in recent months in Spain’s event activity, but… how are other countries doing? We spoke to Colja Dams, CEO of Germany's leading event agency Vok Dams, to find out how this huge market is experiencing its return to events, as well as the million-dollar question: face-to-face, hybrid or virtual? Read, and check that we are not alone... Eric Mottard

The level of event activity in Spain is quite frantic now… how about Germany?

Same here, it is a general market situation. Agencies are often saturated, and this creates a pretty unique market situation. We even see clients having difficulty to find agencies to serve them; I know of procurement managers in big companies having difficulty finding agencies to participate in pitches.

It even leads to some clients “locking” capacity with long-term contracts which ensure availability of the agency’s team and prices, which is good, but also puts a high demand on the agency to ensure they have the capacity to serve them. Frame contracts were already quite common in Germany, but they used to be 1- or 2-year contracts, now they tend to be longer-term.

Is the current level of activity sustainable, or are companies just catching up? The experience is the same we are having in Germany and everywhere. People just want to get together, and fill the “human batteries”. Another factor is that in Germany, face-to-face activity is forecast to be very low in winter, when companies will organise rather digital and hybrid events, which will be a challenge in terms of workload management.

Will hybrid events come back? Hybrid events are coming back, yes, and when you think of it, it is not just about events: we are all developing a hybrid lifestyle; our lives are flexible; we consume content and experiences when and where and in the format we can. Take the example of a soccer game: you can experience it live in the stadium or enjoy it home, and both are real experiences. In the stadium, you have the enthusiasm, the human shared experience, and on TV, the experience at home involves 27 cameras, a lot of background information which you don’t get in the stadium. Likewise, we need to deliver two different, high-quality information. Putting a camera doesn’t make a hybrid event (imagine a soccer game with just one camera!!). We hold digital events which include a live audience which claps and enhance the experience just like in a tv show, as an example. We see a lot of hybrid event strategies coming, this will keep getting more sophisticated and engaging.

Can you make the two audiences (live and remote) interact, be part of the same experience… or are communication styles and codes too different? The two experiences don’t really interact, it is very hard to make people really share an experience. We had this misunderstanding at the beginning: we wanted everyone to interact and it is difficult. But you do feel some connection, just like when fans are interviewed for the broadcast version of a soccer game. To facilitate this integration, we developed the idea of the “virtual buddy”, someone physically in the event, who helps a remote attendee navigate the event, see what happens, ask questions. He/she takes their virtual buddy and proposes “let’s go to this session”, and that works quite well. It is not for all events, but for a corporate content festival where you can decide on attending multiple types of sessions, this is really interesting.

Another innovation: you launched a “vegetarian-first” catering policy, systematically suggesting clients to have a vegetarian catering (and they can ask for meat if they wish so). What do clients say? They appreciate it. The idea is to help launch the conversation, help clients be part of a positive change for society. Let’s face it: for one lunch or dinner at an event, you can live with not meat, and the fact of offering them a nice vegetarian option is a good way to get them to try, and starts the conversation on this topic which is important today. Sustainability is big now; we have several people purely specialised on sustainability. 

You also brought in the concept of agile events. Is a significant part of your events agile? We started it 7 years before the pandemic, and it helped us go through the pandemic. With clients, working on eye level to really create solutions, it is a great way to be flexible and adaptative. We apply it in many events.

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