CIM: Who is Timo Feuerbach?
Timo Feuerbach: I am someone who wants to make a difference, am ambitious and eager to knuckle down and get things done in a team. I love it when good ideas become reality. Besides, I like working in a team, I’m not a loner who broods in seclusion and does everything to push his own ideas. In private, I’m also a team player in my local football team - TSG Ober-Wöllstadt - but go running on my own to compensate. As the TSG’s youth officer I know all about volunteering, so I’m actively involved in association work both in private and in my job.
What is an engineer doing in the meetings industry?
After finishing my studies I worked as a conference manager for two years, so I’ve come full circle with the EVVC. Then I landed at the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) - in the world of associations. After ten years there and a job in logistics, it was finally time for something new. I knew the event industry with local sponsorships but lots of action from the perspective of a customer and am happy to contribute my experience now. Europe is also a matter of great concern to me.
How can you use your many years of association experience for the EVVC?
In the past I learnt to work with volunteers and explore what measures produce what benefits. The value of association work is all about give and take. In my experience, it is okay not to please everybody as long as all aspects are considered in the decision-making process.
How do you feel as the only man in the EVVC head office?
So far neither the ladies nor I have tried to escape, so everything is fine. We work together as colleagues, respectfully and very open-mindedly - so gender doesn’t really matter. We share many laughs and don't just talk about MICE all the time. But I also find it important to discuss matters controversially in our team of eight in the head office, so that we can find solutions together.
What are the three greatest challenges?
First of all, finding the right balance between fast-paced innovation and the role of the association as a reliable partner and pillar of strength. After all, the EVVC has been completely restructured with new statutes and a new division of tasks between volunteers and full-time staff. Plus, the anxiety people feel about digitisation. For me, this is not an end in itself, but needs to make sense and be implemented sensibly - both in the association and among its members. Making member benefits even more transparent is challenge number 3. This is achieved through a threefold focus on networking, interest representation and services.
Your predecessor was a Secretary General. According to protocol, a managing director ranks two levels beneath that. Is that an understatement?
The EVVC statutes say “Secretary General”. This title sounds a bit old-fashioned to many managers and is not so important to me. The days when people could only reach a position via their title are over. The important thing is what you have to say. So far there have been no serious inquiries in this regard, but very good discussions on the subject.
How important is it for the EVVC to host events of its own?
Extremely important. Our annual general meeting with our strong partners Prolight + Sound and Messe Frankfurt is much more than just a statutory obligation. The conference for our members is our flagship event. Because we want to address more people than just managers in future, we will drop the word “management” in front of “conference”. With the Rosengarten in Mannheim and a dedicated team, we are preparing the next conference from 15 to 17 September. The GCB is another important partner as a marketing organisation, with whom we take turns at organising Mexcon and the greenmeetings and events conference. This rhythm and the different locations allow us to try out new themes.
What is more important for EVVC members: sharing experiences and getting advice or lobbying?
Sharing experiences is the most important for everyone, because a space of trust and a network are indispensable. Lobbying is expected of us, even if nobody will join just because of it. This is an important task but difficult to measure for the management and myself. But we are addressing it and want to become more visible as an industry. For our third, equally important pillar, “services”, it is easier to put our achievements into figures.
How European is the EVVC really?
Our commitment to Europe goes far beyond the name. We rather need more than less of Europe. On the other hand, we must admit that most EVVC members are from German-speaking regions. In the Joint Meetings Industry Council, we are helping to raise awareness of the industry’s vital role on an international level and to speak with one voice. We support the Iceberg case studies. With the step2mice initiative, we support the employment of refugees, migrants and foreign workers. When our Erasmus funding ends, we want to tackle further European projects.
Where do you see the EVVC’s position in the future?
We have a good standing with members and partners and have a large network in the industry. Our honorary management and the head office team are working with great commitment on major tasks: We want to raise our profile, further professionalise the EVVC and enrich our know-how.
Do you see any need to work on the EVVC’s digital communication?
Digitisation is a major issue for us. The transformed “digital communication and marketing” function in our head office drives exactly this development. Last year we sought a new contractor for our website including our entire member management and location portal and found cekom from Cologne as a service provider. The revamp is in full swing. It will include webinars, integration into social media, and a new e-newsletter.
How do you help your members compete for young talents?
Triggered by full employment, “young talents” are a major topic across all areas. There's a battle for the best brains. We help raise understanding, attention and awareness and thus promote the attractiveness of the industry. One of the projects for this purpose is our 100pro training initiative in alliance with AUMA, VPLT and Famab.
What is the EVVC’s approach to training and CPD?
With its offers, the EVVC Academy wants to address all topics of concern to our members. Last year, the General Data Protection Regulation caused a stir, followed by the exciting question of what happens after the hype? Now digitisation is a hot topic. Legal questions and evacuation concepts for events are perennial issues. These are areas where we are willing and able to help.
How green is the work of the EVVC?
Together with the GCB, we are initiators of the “right and fair” sustainability code as a voluntary commitment of the industry. For those who want more, we are a Green Globe member and auditor and have been certified for over five years. Every two years, the EVVC and GCB host the greenmeetings and events conference; the latest edition brought together 250 attendees in Leipzig last February. We are also a member and supporter of the German Charter of Diversity.
Thank you very much for the interview, Mr. Feuerbach!