Maarten Schram is managing director at the Independent Dutch Event Association (IDEA), Advisory Board & jury member of EuBEA (international festival of events & live communications). Since he graduated from the InterCollege Business School in The Hague, he is working in the event and live communication business for almost 20 years. Before accepting his position as managing director at IDEA, Maarten Schram was a director at the well-established Dutch event agency Effectgroep.
So the European live communication alliance, an alliance of event associations from all over the EU. The key, yet obvious question is “Why?”
In my role as managing director of IDEA (Independent Dutch Event Association) as well as an Advisory Board member of the European festival of events & live communication and jury member of different professional awards, I usually meet my colleagues several times a year. These meetings are occasional and there is no follow-up and no official connection, which is obviously required. So to make it simple&effeceint , I decided to create this official connection and I’m confident that it’s the right thing to do and the right time for it.
And why do you think that it’s the right time to launch this kind of Alliance? Why do you think that the industry requires it?
People want to be connected, to share expertise, to get new ideas, to meet each other for certain purposes and have certain follow-ups, and to have inspiring yet effective meetings. It’s a logical stage of development for any industry — building the professional network, connecting different markets and sharing local expertise. It’s not just a nice thing to get inspiration, it’s an essential thing for industry development. And this is relevant for the local, global, and pan-European levels. Plus there is an obvious trend for globalization. More and more agencies are aiming to play on an international level and more and more corporations are looking for global partners to lead projects in several countries. Event associations should be competent in this area, they should support their members (agencies) and become a sort of provider to international markets. It’s possible only if the association is part of a solid international networking platform, namely LiveCom Alliance.
Goals and aims
What are the key goals of the project? Certain Alliance goals for 2016.
- Connect as many associations as possible. Specifically, 15 associations at least.
- Form a solid agenda of business activities, which can be fulfilled by or with the help of Alliance members. Currently I’ve already planned several important activities such as leading a survey on the definition of ‘live communication’. It’s surprising, but there is still no certain definition of it which is accepted by everyone. So who if not the Alliance should do that?! The same applies to detailed market research — in order to develop the industry, first we should measure its size, understand its nature, point out key differences and similarities of local markets, define trends, clarify formats, etc.
- Create the ‘inspirational gallery’ — we will collect all the winning cases of key local awards and put them in one place, divided by category and type. So it will be very convenient to find new brilliant ideas. Everything in one place and always accessible.
- Schedule a calendar of the Alliance, including visits to local markets in order to bring local expertise to the global level.
About communication among Alliance members
What channels do you plan to use for connecting members of the Alliance?
We are developing a unique interactive online communication platform, which will be launched early 2016. It’s a very convenient tool for two-way communication, sharing best practices, leading webcasts, chatting, contributing to the inspirational gallery, staying updated and connected — so basically solving all the aims of the Alliance. But of course it will be supported by social media channels (closed groups in FB and LinkedIN for members only) and several live meetings during the year.
What is the frequency of these live meetings?
I plan to do 2 live events: annual and semi-annual conference for all members — so it will be in February and July. Then we’ll have a special section at the EuBea festival in October and local market board trips and visits, which should be arranged and hosted by the member. So actually we will meet rather often. And of course as I’ve already mentioned, our meetings will have a certain agenda and a solid follow-up, so they won’t be meetings just for the sake of meeting, it’s decision making through discussions and exchange of expertise of local market leaders.
You’ve mentioned EuBea already several times during our talk. What are your connections with the festival?
We are more than partners, the idea came up during EuBea meetings! I’ve been part of the team for over three years now, so it’s obvious that we support each other! For the festival the associations are good spokespersons to promote it in local markets, for the Alliance EuBea is a great media partner as they have media coverage of over 150 000 event professionals. So it’s totally a win-win partnership and moreover we’re looking in the same direction, having the same goal — to develop the industry and connect people.
You had an idea of creating a kind of Advisory Board, which will be the wider version of the Board, representing corporate clients and other opinion leaders. What is the goal of this Advisory Board of the Alliance?
Indeed, that’s exactly the plan. Corporate clients, industry opinion leaders, media partners will be involved. We have invited some of them and will finalize this soon. The main goal is to monitor our direction, our relevance to the industry and have a direct connection to the client side.
One of the key challenges of the industry is communication between agency and client. I personally see your Alliance as a great opportunity to improve this communication, to become a so-called bridge for building constructive, open dialogue. What are your plans for this?
Yes indeed and so true. That was also one of the goals of launching the Alliance. I really want and I believe we can improve the communication between event agencies and clients. I plan to actively attract corporate clients to live meetings of the Alliance as well as to partner with several key client associations. Currently we are in the process of negotiating these partnerships aiming to build much stronger connection between the agencies and corporates, to build strong communicational platform for solving all the issues, regularly raised between the two sides.
Let’s talk about membership and structure in more detail. Suppose I’m a member of a local event association, can I join the Alliance? Or only the Chairman and the MD of the association can join What’s in it for me?
Funny question taking into account everything we’ve just discussed. What’s in it for you?! Well, it’s an opportunity to really claim your leadership, your position as a headliner, a pioneer of the industry. Members of the Alliance will literally build the future of live communication in Europe, they will literally be the decision makers and real leaders. Moreover they will bring global expertise to the local markets thus significantly developing it and bringing it to a completely higher level. These associations will become so much more attractive to current and future members as they will become real providers to international markets. Why join the Alliance? Well, because it’s a great chance to strengthen your authority and prove you as a developer of the industry.
Ok. Convincing. You mentioned that only the Chairman and the MD of the association can join the Alliance. Why so strict?
Actually, it depends on the structure of the association. For example, if there are so-called committees inside the association and one of them is, for example, the international committee (basically responsibly for networking on a global level), it’s obvious that the head of this committee will represent the association in the Alliance. But still I leave this decision up to the Chairman. The Alliance (and it’s very important, I want to emphasize) is a network of professional associations, not individuals or agencies.
What is the procedure of applying/enterin g the Alliance. What are the steps?
Just visit our website — Livecomalliance. eu and fill in the application form.
By the way the first meeting of the liveCom Alliance is scheduled for the 1st quarter of 2016, so it would be wise to hurry up in order to not miss the opportunity to join it from the very beginning.
Based on your expertise, what is the future of events?
We’re facing the most exciting and interesting time for the industry. I’m convinced that there is a great future. It may sound contradictory, but together with the rapid burst of world digitalization and all the buzz around social media, texting and staying online all the time, the role and importance of live meetings will grow accordingly. People want and need to meet live. Meet, connect, eat, drink, talk, look into each other’s eyes… It’s crucial, it’s in our nature. So the event industry is changing and it’s totally blending. Somehow it’s mixing with the MarCom industry, digital marketing industry, and SMM. We have to open our eyes to other disciplines, we have to adapt in order to not miss all the opportunities coming in this rapidly changing area. And again that’s why organizations such as the Alliance of professional associations are so crucial. It’s impossible to stay ahead on your own and/or sticking to your local market, needs and interests only. It’s all about globalization, digitalization, creating new opportunities and building new successful partnerships. Exciting times indeed!
Fotocredits: Yvette Kulkens