Shut up and take my money: catchBOX

Attending the FRESH Conference in Copenhagen, I met a new player in the AV section: catchBOX.

Mikrofon-Catchbox-WerfenImagine a large building block with a microphone – made out of soft foam. Essentially you get a throwable microphone.

Having worked as a “microphone carrier” at festivals, including the Edinburgh Film Festival, there are two problems inherent with audience feedback: a) you lose time while running around with the microphone, b) it’s super awkward to run around (oh yes, I do have fallen)

The catchBOX is a throwable microphone and, while in the air, it shuts off so you won’t have any unwanted sound. It is a steep investment (4oo Euro), but for that you get a new tool that helps to engage the audience, while solving classical conference problems.

EventManagerBlog post

Ever since I started working at EventMobi, I was laying a little low over here. When Julius at EventMangerBlog offered the opportunity to write a blog post, I immediately wanted to participate. Writing something that is really useful for you as a planner or event manager, here are three things you should know about mobile event apps.

Read the post. It also has a pretty picture of me.

A glance at ExhibitMatch

There are a gazillion contractor finding pages on the internet. So why not have a page that matches exhibitors with booth builders? The advantage of such sites is pretty obvious:

  • Less work for you as an exhibitor
  • More RFPs could mean paying less for the same service
  • You might get proposals from places you weren’t expecting to get proposals from

The sign-up process is fairly straightforward. You sign up, confirm your email address and dive straight into creating your RFP. The process, again, is fairly easy. You start by defining a trade show and a time (my first date and time got lost after the sign-up and set back to Jan 1 1970 – there are still a few bugs) and the basic specifications.

The second page provides you with the space to define a creative brief, a budget and support documents. The more data you enter, the better, supposedly, the RFP quality gets. Still, as I was enquiring about a small project, I left many questions open – after all the creative brief is an optional field.

Before submitting your proposal, I realised that the registration process did not capture enough data to actually submit my RFP, so I had to come back and fill out some more details before being finally able to kick it off.

I can’t judge the quality of the RFPs so far, and setting up an RFP in Spain might not make it too easy for potential RFPs. But the idea is great, and lining up with booth builders is much more efficient than posting a RFP on a normal contractor site.

Next time you’ll go to a trade show, try ExhibitMatch. It’s free, there’s nothing that can go wrong.

So why study something fancy after all?

I was on a roll after PCMA12 – during the conference, I had three job offers, and I had a few more at home, as well as offers for internships and so on. In the end, things seem to have worked out for me, for now.  A few days ago, I signed with Toronto-based startup EventMobi, working with them from May.

Despite all happiness, when I first got offered the job, there was a question nagging me: Why on earth would I spend four years reading books, slaving away at internships (most of them were great nevertheless), going to lectures and accumulating $30k in debt if my first employer would not even bother looking at my CV or grades or education in general?


This is especially true for fancy subjects: I am more than happy that my GP studied medicine, bus drivers have a driving licence and my lecturers have been to university before. But you don’t really need to have studied event management, marketing management, tourism management or Bachelor of Honours in Fashion Knitwear Design and Knitted Textiles (I did NOT make that up). Should you actually study?

The short answer is: Absolutely.

Reason 1: It buys you time.

After finishing high school, going to university gave me extra time to figure out what I would like to try in life. Even though students keep complaining about the massive work load, it actually is a quite care-free time of your life. So why not take this time, study something, earn a degree, but keep enough time on the side to think things over.

Reason 2: It gives you an opportunity to try.

University gives you three or four years in which you can do internships, volunteer or work in various places. Nobody will question why you changed jobs often, nobody will question why you worked as a gardener one and as an accountant the other year. Also, people will most likely forgive your mistakes. Screwing something up as an intern does not really damage anything, but it will teach you a lot. That is, if you find internships that allow you to experiment.

Reason 3: A degree is a degree is a degree.

Even though it might not be a classical engineering, medical or law degree, most “fancy” degrees still root on a business degree. That being said, even though you specialise, you will still find ways to use your general knowledge in other jobs and other areas. Also, often in job adverts, employers are not too fussed about what you have studies, as long as you have. In turn, they might even look for diversity in their workforce.

Reason 4: It is a great time.

University does not only teach you useful and serious stuff. It will also teach you a million useless things, how to shotgun a can of beer, how to play beer pong or how to brew beer in the first place. It also leaves you the space to travel and do stupid things. Doing stupid things is really important. Trust me.

Also, studying is a time where you can find out more about people, and increasing your social skills. While watching a movie or going to a bar. Brilliant, eh?

Reason 5: You learn.

Stating the obvious, going to university or college gives you the opportunity to sharpen your learning skills and raise the bar of your method. Profs are terrible when it comes to form, and here’s your chance: learn how to properly format documents, how to present facts and so on. Of course, the real world will look different from what you learn inside the university walls, but the foundation will be rock-solid and of much use later on.

Reason 6: You can start your network

As a student, you will often find that, if you ask the right questions, people will be more than happy to help you and to teach you. People don’t see you either as competitors or employees, they see you as students, and are often more frank and honest about their feelings and impressions. Sometimes at conferences, you will find that attendees don’t like students because they are there on business and time is money. However, mostly people will enjoy your company and you can learn.

So, don’t be afraid when your granny asks “What are you going to do with media studies? Won’t you be unemployed?”. Universities (unless you go to Oxford or Cambridge) are about what you make of them. And if you decide to make something good of your university career, in the end things will work out. It is more important to see that you have a blank canvas, and it’s your choice to have it painted by the end of your four years.

I am not sure if that’s the right advice to give, but it worked for me. What do you think?

(Picture link)

Greg Ruby guest blog on mobile apps in events

I matched my dissertation’s word limit, so now the cleaning process kicks in. Because I’ve got so little time, I figured it would be a good idea to finish a guest blog on my new old passion: mobile devices in events management.

You can read the article,  How To Make A Mobile App Work For Your Event on Greg’s blog.

As mobile devices are my passion and Greg Ruby is one of my secret PCO rock stars, I was more than flattered to meet him in San Diego, and, later on being asked to blog for him. I hope you like it.

PCMA Convening Leaders 2012 in San Diego

Right now I am on a Greyhound bus hitting Los Angeles.

My first Convening Leaders session was fabulous and I hope it won’t be my last. For me there were three important elements, my mobile dissertation research, networking and the events.

Events at PCMA12

The range of events at PCMA12 was great and well thought-of. This is true for both, the social and the educational events. TED fellows, entrepreneurs, motivational speakers – there was something for every kind. The Closing Block Party was being imagination, partying with Kool and the Gang brilliant, and free F&B a dream. Well done – however, SDCC, how is that sustainable to use paper cups for coffee?


Networking was a big theme for me, especially as I am leaving university soon. Talking to Art, who suggested I should not start working, but instead, for two months, go somewhere, sounded daring and intriguing. Who knows. Many people that I met were inspiring, and it was fascinating, how easy it was to bump into legends such as Greg Ruby, Jeff Hurt or the CEO of Cvent.

Mobile research

I went into the conference and wanted to interview two people. I ended with four – Bob Vaez of EventMobiMatthew Donegan-Ryan of Crowd Compass, Trevor Roald of QuickMobile and Silke Fleischer of ATIV. Besides meeting four inspirational personalities, I got a lot out for my dissertation. Also, all agree that the PCMA Convening Leaders app was a disgrace for PCMA and the programming company. It seems for now that a lot about mobile apps is about educating conference organisers, even more than attendees. As Bob Vaez said: If you need to explain how your app works, you might not do one at all.

I will go into more details in the following weeks.

For now that’s it. Thank you PCMA. Thank you Frederike, Jascha, Nikolina, Vanja and Tom. Thanks Dr. Joe. And thanks to all the awesome people I met.

Syn2Cat Talk on Event Marketing

What a great pleasure it was to give a talk on Event Marketing in front of the syn2cat crowd. It was a lovely night, a great crowd and once again it has proven useful to bring contingency material (including projector and speakers, even though those guys have everything).

As requested, I put the script and the slides online. While the slides are not very wordy (I dislike too many words on slides), feel free to have a look at the script. That is, if you understand Luxembourgish.

To put the set into context – this talk was a 101 crash course to event marketing – key definitions, why we do it, who we do it for and basic principles of how to successfully market an event. Feedback is more than welcome, I would be happy to come back with something more specific to talk about. Thanks folks.

Check the script here. And watch the slides below:

Brewing Dogs – Marketing in homogeneous markets

As a student I don’t spend all my time studying. And of course I enjoy a nice beer. Now, even if everybody likes to think that they have a preference and a special taste in beer, beer is a largely homogenous market. They do all the same thing: it’s a brown-ish liquid with a bitter fresh taste that will eventually get you drunk. Period. That makes marketing beer a highly tricky game, even more so as markets are largely dominated by a few brands like Stella, Tennents, Heineken and the likes, which, in turn, are mostly part of large corporations like Scottish&Newcastle or AB InBev.

So along come these guys from Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire to produce beer and become the largest independent brewery in Scotland. How does that work?

Be passionate

Their products are, so they claim, made to be something that the owners of the company would drink themselves. This fosters an unconquerable link between the producer and the product. It is always easier to sell a product or idea if you are passionate about it. They are, and they know how much that’s worth. Their beers have a very distinct, hoppy taste, and come in quite unusual strengths (1.1%, 4%, 5.6%, 9.2%, 18%, 28%, 55%). The ethos they use in beer making is phenomenal: they are really aware and picky in which hops they use, which barley and which water. Of course, large corporations like InBev have dedicated buying teams for the ingredients, but this is different: BrewDog tries to source special ingredients. This leads to a marketing paradox: BrewDog is a beer not everyone can agree on. Many beers, especially the new light generation of 4% brews (Stella Quatre, Becks Vier), are almost without any taste so that a maximum audience can agree on it. So even though they choose their market to be smaller, they still sell – actually because of that. Because they don’t want to be part of that homogenous beer culture.

Find an enemy

If you walk into the BrewDog bar in Edinburgh, there’s a clear mission statement on the door “No Stella, no shots, no football – but we have boardgames.”. BrewDog tries to get away from two or three very distinct stereotypical beer drinkers: the wife beater, the footie and the young lad. The first two could be one and the same person, you’ve seen them: middle-aged men, sitting at the bar since noon and just drinking beer after beer after beer and complaining about everything. Watching football, betting at Ladbrokes or eating fish supper. The shots aim at young binge drinking kinds of persons, not what BrewDog is looking for.

But hey, if you are young and intelligent and smart, sociable and like board games, this is your place to stay, and have intelligent conversations while getting hammered. Well done.

Apart from the social enemy, there’s also a beer enemy: mass-produced beer, such as Becks, Stella or Tennents. BrewDog is a way of defining yourself by drinking beer, as somebody who does not settle with standards, but rather wants to be special. That’s actually a classic marketing strategy. However, their tone is more aggressive.

Express yourself

By agressive I mean elitist, maybe arrogant. They use some of the finest copy I have ever read, Robby Macbeathwas so kind to write down the copy of a bottle Punk IPA:

“This is not a lowest common denominator beer. This is an aggressive beer. We don’t care if you don’t like it.

We do not merely aspire to the proclaimed heady heights of conformity through neutrality and blandness.

It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or the sophistication to appreciate the depth, character and quality of this premium craft-brewed beer.

You probably don’t even care that this rebellious little beer has no preservatives or additives and only the finest fresh natural ingredients.

Just go back to drinking your mass-produced, bland, cheaply made, watered down lager and close the door behind you.”

Notice the stark contrast of words such as “rebellion”, “sophistication”, “character” or “craft-brewed” and “bland”, “cheap” or “watered down”. A similar aggressive approach can be found with another product from Scotland, Hendricks Gin – some of their copy starts with “The world has long been filled with ordinary things that conform to ones expectations”.

They keep their tone consistently up – they bottles have that special copy, their website uses the same tone and they have a lot of videos that help creating that brand image making BrewDog the very excellent beer it is. Have a look at one of their videos:

BrewDog do not list a marketing manager on their website: That leaves the impression that they might have perfected their marketing by rendering it superflous to employ a dedicated person, but, instead, having every managing employee in the same boat and having marketing as a fundamental function, and not a department.

Remember every little detail

Finally, BrewDog are incredibly attentive of the details: their bottles use brown glass to protect the beer, their bars are lovingly designed, their whole application of copy as well as the visuals are stunning. They put effort into everything, with the pay off that you are being served something that’s rather special.

And it is.

BrewDog is a company that seems to be incredibly aware (whether they know it or not) of marketing principles,  but do not abuse their power. Rather, they decide to walk another way, and producing something that is well-crafted and well worth they money. I believe they are an example of how marketing should be done.

Yes, you could argue whether it’s good or not to be so bold and arrogant, and whether it’s noble to feed and grow these elitist views – but I don’t feel that they are fostering any kind of social segregation that would make their approach immoral.

World’s first Meeting and Event Technology Curriculum

The following post is from our university internal news letter from August 19th 2011 announcing the new curriculum in Meeting and Event Technology. Also via Yasha Bergmann.

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh has completed the development of the world’s first curriculum for meeting and events technology in higher education.

Partnering with MeetingMatrix International and event experts around the world, QMU created a curriculum guide which will equip university students with cutting edge technology skills in meeting and event planning. This is the first time a university level events curriculum received input from industry experts worldwide and integrated technology supplied by a leading commercial company. The new curriculum and technology are offered by Queen Margaret University and MeetingMatrix free of charge to universities worldwide.

The project was funded by MeetingMatrix, suppliers of the most advanced room diagramming programme and venue sourcing technology on the global market. The technology allows event planners and clients to see exactly what their rooms and events will look like even if both parties are in different countries.

Professor Joe Goldblatt, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Planned Events at QMU, explained: “Across the globe, events are becoming extremely sophisticated and often employ increasing levels of technology in order to meet their goals – whether that be in sales, customer satisfaction, business partner relations or costs. For example, The Edinburgh Festivals is always looking to improve its communication with its audiences by employing more advanced technology systems which will ultimately impact positively on sales and customer satisfaction, as well as social welfare and the local economy. The event planner is also under pressure to provide evidence of a successful outcome to event sponsors.   In order to successfully achieve this, event planners need to be technically savvy, whilst also have the ability to innovate and provide direction for the future evolution of events.”

“Together with its partners, QMU has developed a pioneering curriculum which will equip event management students with the technical ability and knowledge to gain a competitive advantage in the fast paced meeting and events industry” said Professor Goldblatt.

Beginning in autumn this year, QMU students will be benefitting from the newly developed ‘MeetingMatrix Meeting and Event Technology Curriculum’.

Kuan-wen Lin, PhD student, has worked solidly on the development of this project for the last year. He said: “In order to ensure that the Curriculum can be utilised by undergraduate students and universities globally, it was reviewed by an impressive range of international event experts from Boston, Las Vegas, New York, Switzerland and Hong Kong.  Thanks to the support of MeetingMatrix, the Curriculum, which is valued at between £30,600 – £91,800 ($50,000 -$150,000) per year, is now available free of charge to universities all over the world.”

Lynne Russel
Press and PR Officer