Shining a spotlight on an under-the-radar MICE destination: Illerhaus Marketing MICE Branchentreff premiere in Kassel

Recently, I’ve been asked what trends I see for the MICE industry for 2020. One of these trends, in my opinion, is the rise of the 2nd– and 3rd-tier MICE destinations. These are the rising stars of the MICE industry; they are smaller, affordable and offer good value for money but are still under the radar for the particularly large conventions. The 2nd– and 3rd-tier destinations have matured to serve the local and national MICE markets and developed rapidly to win international congresses. 

After visiting some of the most surprising off-the-beaten-path destinations this year including Mainz, Starnberg, Karlsruhe, Calgary and Trento, on 12 September 2019, I was in Kassel on a business trip to attend the Illerhaus Marketing MICE Branchentreff event, where I was an exhibitor; I met local event planners and shared information about the upcoming Event Planners Talk Conference from 27–30 August 2020 in Bern, Switzerland.

This was my third Illerhaus Marketing event this year, and it was completely different from the previous two. Each event organised by the Illerhaus Marketing team is adapted to the locality; there is no one-size-fits-all concept, an approach that I really like!! The event took place in the Alte Brüderkirche, a church that is now a fully functional event venue connected to the Renthof Kassel hotel and also operated by this hotel.

The evening was divided into three main parts. First was a keynote by Sister Teresa, then a speed networking session (that also included dinner) for suppliers and event planners, and the last part involved networking in the hotel’s Poodle Bar. There is a ‘secret door’ from the church to the bar; this was unexpected because just when you think the event is over, there is an after party waiting for your delegates.

Why was Kassel chosen by Illerhaus Marketing?

This was the fourth event this year, and it took place in Kassel because no other major MICE industry event had previously occurred in this city. Accessibility to Kassel is particularly easy and quick via train and is a key consideration for the target audience. For example, there are direct train connections from Heidelberg, Frankfurt and from Munich to Kassel. The venue, Alte Brüderkirche, is a converted chapel and now serves as an event location for up to 350 people. Susanne Illerhaus’s aim is to always offer more value to planners, who’ve generally seen a lot throughout their career. This is not an easy task, requiring constant inspiration. The inspiration for Susanne is the ‘movie playing in her head.’ Susanne shared that ‘When I go somewhere and visit a venue and I like it, I’m sure others will love it too, and that’s the movie playing in my head—what the event will look like when it takes place.’ 

Although each event is regional, event planners can attend each one knowing that there’s no repeating venues, speakers, and there are always new suppliers and buyers. Each event is deliberately different to add more value to the delegates, and Susanne shared the purpose behind it, ‘First of all, with our event portfolio, we present destinations off the beaten path that otherwise are “under the radar” for event planners. Of course, we can go to the big destinations, but Kassel has so much to offer for MICE organisers that we said we have to make it happen in Kassel.’ And what inspired the choice of venue? ‘The Alte Brüderkirche is a unique venue that makes a great addition to the venue portfolio this year; we’ve been to an industrial building, a castle and on a ship this year, so viewing a venue such as this in Kassel provides novelty and inspiration for attendees.’

Keynote presentation by Sister Teresa: eliminate negative thoughts with a smile

Sister Teresa opened the evening with a keynote entitled, ‘Everyone is normal until you get to know them.’ In her engaging and entertaining art, she captivated the audience with the key message that encouraged people to take charge of their thoughts and emotions and control them —whether these are positive, negative or neutral. She said that the thoughts lead to feelings, and if you think positively, you will feel positive. If you encounter negative people, you shouldn’t let these people influence the way you think because that changes the way you feel. Say ‘stop’ to your negative thinking; if someone says something negative about you, it starts a chain reaction that leads to negative feelings. And when you think so much anyway, you may as well think about something positive. She concluded by saying that conflicts occur every day, and a smile solves conflicts.

Sister Teresa is in high demand as a corporate speaker and gives over 180 presentations a year that require 70,000km of travel. The audience and I were highly captivated by her positive energy! 

After this talk, it was time for networking with local event planners. As always, it was great to meet new contacts and start new discussions. Between the meetings, I took the time to interview Michaela Willmann and Anke Mueller from the Kassel Convention Bureau who were also partners of this event with Illerhaus Marketing. 

What should event professionals know about Kassel from a MICE perspective? 

Kassel has three highlights of international significance: 1) the UNESCO world heritage site of Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, 2) the Documenta, an exhibition of contemporary art which takes place in Kassel every five years and 3) the Grimm World Kassel, an immersive experience of the famous fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, adapted to the modern era. 

For events which are looking for a link to local knowledge hubs and industries, Kassel has three main clusters: energy/mobility/logistics, health and IT. The Kassel Convention Bureau supports these clusters and can also organise technical visits and networking with local experts. Another advantage of working with the Kassel Convention Bureau is that they manage the Kassel Convention Network, which is a group of approximately 50 partners who are local companies the business actives of which are related to MICE in the region, including congress centres, hotels, technical companies and event agencies. The Kassel Convention Bureau works closely with this group and conducts innovative and interactive campaigns for MICE in the region.

For incentive opportunities, event professionals can consider the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe with the historical ‘Wasserspiele’ and the significant Hercules monument. The Grimm World is a unique attraction for bleisure (business and leisure) or just for exploring the inner city. Furthermore, there are additional ways to incorporate elements of the Documenta and its artistic and creative influence on the city—every five years, art pieces remain in the city after it takes place.

There are also unconventional social programmes, such as a graffiti workshop or using a skating hall as a venue. There are endless opportunities to get creative and choose from the variety of unique venues that have a less corporate feel, such as the creative co-working space Neue Denkerei or the Neo-Hub, a Co-Creation-Hub. You can find the entire list of venues in Kassel here

For a hotel tip, I can recommend the Hotel Gude, where I stayed on this occasion. It’s easily connected by public transport to the main train station Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, and it has the feel of a corporate boutique hotel with a local charm. 

Save the date!

Kassel was a phenomenal success. The next event is fast approaching and will take place at another off-the-beaten-track destination, Konstanz, on 10 October 2019. The event will be held at the impressive Bodenseeforum Konstanz and this time, attendees can again expect new topical discussions and format. This time, the event will start at 2 pm, so it’s worth taking the full day off to take advantage of the educational sessions about event design. Gerrit Jessen, Event Designer, will open the programme with a presentation about event design and the event canvas method, and afterwards, at 4.30 pm Natallia Zaremba and I will host a discussion about ‘How can event organisers design their social media plan based on the principles of event design?’ We’ll share highly practical tips about how to promote and sell events and venues to your target audience through social media, highlighting the customer journey on social media as opposed to other touchpoints, such as websites, exhibitions, mailing and answering the following questions: How to create the right content for the right platform? How to stand out on social media? How to find new clients on social media? How to raise your brand awareness on social media? And much more. In this Q & A format, we’ll also take questions from the audience. 

If you have any questions that you’d like us to cover let me know, and for more information about the event and how to sign up, check out the official event website. The event is free to attend for event organisers. 

Photos: Thomas Loris

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