I have been fully involved in the MICE industry since 2011. During this time, I have attended numerous business events. For not a single moment during these years has the thought of attending as an exhibitor myself crossed my mind.
Nine years on, and this exciting day has arrived. On 18 July 2019, I exhibited for the very first time at a leading industry event in Germany called MICE Branchentreff, which took place at Lake Starnberg and was organised by Illerhaus Marketing.
For those of you who have been following my business activities closely, you will know that next year I’m launching the first international Event Planners Talk conference, which will take place in the beautiful city of Bern, the Swiss capital. The event will be held from 27–30 August 2020 and will bring an innovative combination of content, venues and side programmes for delegates to learn in the most inspiring environment.
With this exciting product, I decided to get on board (literally speaking because the event was on a boat—the MS Starnberg!) and get involved as an exhibitor. My very first MICE Branchentreff that I attended as a visitor was in Mainz back in March, and I loved the concept and the business approach; after interviewing the founder Susanne Illerhaus, I got to understand the success of this concept even better. The longevity, passion and the extensive network that Susanne Illerhaus and her team bring to her events make it stand out in the marketplace and be a ‘connector.’ Next year, she will celebrate 20 years in business with her company Illerhaus Marketing.
It’s great to see that an inspiring business leader and an event professional such as Susanne is constantly innovating and growing, both her team internally, and also externally, bringing more exhibitors and buyers to take part in her events. This July, she added a new member to the team, Claudia Gschwentner, who will be responsible for sales and brings extensive know-how from her previous roles in the hotel industry.
Next year, event professionals can expect a new concept addition to the existent roadshow, this time a multi-destination event on a boat, called the ‘MICE Boat Show.’ The first one will sail from Bonn-Cologne-Dusseldorf from 24–26 March, with the second one sailing from Frankfurt-Mainz-Mannheim from 15–17 September 2020. Event planners can visit each city for site inspections and expand their database with new contacts and locations, with more dates also having been already fixed for next year for the regular events. Event planners can pin down Hamburg on 13 February, Dresden on 18 June and the legendary Starnberg event, the flagship of the tour, on 9 July 2020.
The success story can be measured by the high demand for the exhibition space, where all the allotments have been already allocated to exhibitors for the three remaining events in 2019, in Kassel, Konstanz and Salzburg. It’s great to see the mix of local and international suppliers at her events, about which Susanne commented, ‘Our portfolio of providers has risen sharply, offering all planners and organisers of events a comprehensive new networking format; each of our events is valuable, profitable and inspirational, and planners can stay curious about what’s to come.’
Illerhaus Marketing understands the winning formula to connect buyers and suppliers, to a significant extent thanks to a comprehensive empirical study that she commissioned in 2016 at the University of Applied Science in Cologne (Rheinische Fachhochschule Köln). The result of this study is the current format of the MICE events. I am very happy that it’s been my first event to exhibit, and I can vouch for myself for the high-profile leads I’ve generated from this event.
One of the elements that I particularly like about this concept is conducting business outside the metropolitan areas at the so-called 2nd-tier destinations. After visiting Starnberg for the first time and discovering this little gem just 30 minutes outside Munich, for the next event, I’ll have the chance to visit Kassel, also a new destination for me; later in October, also I’ll be in Konstanz, a city which is actively increasing its profile for MICE this year.
Another impressive aspect of the events is that each one has a new mix of suppliers and buyers, keeping it highly regional and adapted to the needs of the respective market. The team at Illerhaus Marketing don’t have a ‘one-fits-all’ approach, and this difference also comes across through their pre-event communication and at the event itself. The events are about building trust and involving the participants to explore as much as possible in this compact and effective format.
‘I do not know what I do not know’
The events encourage participants to get out of their comfort zone, learn about the various supplies and network with each other because, ‘we don’t know what we don’t know,’ and the opportunity might be standing next to us to discover the next big idea. The encounters that may be difficult to have at a big exhibition may be more easily available at the 1-on-1 speed networking appointments in a ‘speed-dating format’, while there is still plenty of time later during the dinner for more informal and spontaneous discussions.
Networking shouldn’t be left to chance—it needs the right setting, guidance, introductions and community management, and Illerhaus Marketing gets all the parts of this equation together to facilitate business opportunities!
I’m particularly grateful that events such as this one encourage me to explore new destinations, and this time I got to visit Starnberg for the first time. Starnberg is only 30 minutes from Munich by public transport. Lake Starnberg is the fifth-largest lake in Germany, and the event took place on the MS Starnberg boat while touring the lake.
The event was divided into three main parts, with a short presentation by Martina Eberl, European Golf Champion. She spoke about how the principles of golf apply to business, ‘You make your luck. It’s hit for hit—focus on the small steps, and the result will come by itself.’ There are parallels between golf and management, ‘you must focus—focus on yourself, be consistent and take the steps. In golf, you focus just on one thing, so it is in business as well.’ The second part of the event was networking and concluded with dinner.
I stayed at the nearby Vier Jahreszeiten Starnberg Hotel. It’s just under a 10-minute walk from the Suburban railway station and the pier. They have 126 spacious rooms, and I especially loved mine because the room and bathroom are separated by a glass wall, giving the room a brighter and larger appeal. They also have five event spaces that can be used separately or jointly for up to 256 people. Either you are travelling to Starnberg for business or looking for a stand-alone venue that has both accommodation and full conference facilities—the hotel has a corporate and modern feel that I particularly enjoyed. The hotel also has an amazing breakfast buffet with a variety of Bavarian specialities, healthy smoothies, freshly made omelettes, fluffy pancakes and a wide selection of cheeses so that you are just spoiled for choice. Even if you just want to add an extra day to your stay in Munich, this hotel and the destination of Starnberg is a little gem, I’m quite surprised it took me so long to find out about it because I lived in Munich for 10 months in 2010/11 and didn’t know about it!
Save the date!
Now it’s time to follow up on the leads and get ready for the next events, which will take place in the following month. For many event planners, these will be first weeks back from holidays, when the ‘event season’ begins again. On 12 September, I’ll be in Kassel and on 10 October in Konstanz. I’m also particularly excited to share with you that in Konstanz, I’ll do a presentation entitled, ‘How can event organisers design their social media plan based on the principles of event design?’ I’ll be joined by Natallia Zaremba from Zaremba Consulting, and we’ll share our experience as well as take questions from the audience. With an online presence event, agencies can inspire their audience to educate, entertain or change behaviour. Event design takes many different elements of the event planning process to create a meaningful and memorable experience, looking beyond the logistics; such design creates a conceptual framework that can deliver a better experience for the delegates. During this talk, we’ll look at this framework and how it applies to the online presence. We’ll also present how to create innovative and engaging content before, during and after the event to ultimately increase the bottom line.
For more information about the event and to sign up, check out the official event website. The event is free to attend for event organisers.
Photos: Thomas Loris