Hidden in a Tempelhof backyard, I find the entrance to the Berlin office of Eventwide after a long search. There I’m first greeted by office dog Emma and then by Henning himself. After a short setup of the interview setup and the first coffee we start. Henning gives me deep insights into the last 1.5 years at Eventwide Berlin and what we can expect in the coming time. But read for yourself:
Henning, how did you get into the event industry and then to Eventwide Berlin?
It’s a very classic way for me: as a typical career changer. I came to Berlin in 2005 to study pharmacy. Like many of my fellow students, I failed the physics exam in the third semester and was quickly exmatriculated. At that time, my roommate finished an apprenticeship as an event manager at the Philharmonia of Nations under the direction of Justus Frantz. A project that is supposed to build bridges and connect through the common passion – music. And that’s when she said, “yeah great, you have to do something now and we’re currently looking for an intern who will then start training as an event manager [i.e. her successor].” No sooner said than done, and so I found myself in the event industry in the classic way and immediately went on tour with her.
After 2 years there was a break with one of the main sponsors of the philharmonic orchestra and since I also had a private change coming up, I went to Bremen and to the company Kampen – rentanevent, a classic non-food caterer. I completed my training there and then worked for almost two years.
Bremen is pretty, but in the long run it’s too small for someone who used to live and work in Berlin (laughs…). So I went back to Berlin, where I worked in the Berlin studio of the Kampen company, first as a project manager and then, after completing my training as an event manager, as an advisor to the management. The desire to take on more responsibility failed because of the distance to Neustadt-Glewe and a move there was unimaginable – if Bremen doesn’t work out, then Neustadt-Glewe won’t be for me (a broad grin flits across Henning’s face…).
Door to door with Kampen was the company Eventwide Berlin and I already got along well with the owner Bodo Haas at that time. At first as a cooperation partner for Kampen purely on a business basis and later also on a friendly basis. And so it came, as it had to come, after some constructive discussions I changed in 2015 from Kampen to Eventwide Berlin – so to speak in the neighboring hall. At that time, Eventwide Berlin still had a lot of potential for development, which we then tackled together in a concentrated and fortunately successful manner – otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here together today.
One can see your passion for the event industry all the time and even before we started the interview I noticed how passionately you talk about Eventwide Berlin, so what is the fascination of event equipment for you?
Yes of course, the most exciting thing is that we are a building block, a cog in the overall complex of an event. It’s always something new. Every location is different, every “job” is different and this variety is what makes it for me. After all, as a service provider, we sometimes have 10 events or more a week that we supply – from 5 bar tables to 5 trucks full of furniture.
We have a very flat structure, so that everyone is part of the whole process, i.e. has their time in the office as well as in the warehouse and on site during set-up and dismantling. That makes the event work environment even more varied – I love spending three days in the warehouse with the whole team just preparing for the upcoming events.
Of course, the event industry is often a stressful field of work, but nevertheless, for me, for us, fun is never neglected. There is constant development, you have to deal with a wide variety of people and at the end of the day, the goal is always to put a smile on the faces of customers and participants.
The industry is a peoples business, people meet people and this togetherness and the “nose factor” naturally play a major role, which is why this fascination for the industry remains what drives us every day.
The industry is rebooting and we’re just about to go to the MEET GERMANY SUMMIT in Berlin together, which we’re really looking forward to. How have the last 1.5 years been for you and how has the situation affected your business model?
It’s still tough. Let’s not kid ourselves, the streaming events are not generating any revenue. The lockdown is dragging on for us until now, the end of the summer vacations, and with your event, the MEET GERMANY SUMMIT in Berlin, there is a first impact for this year. Now the first bookings are coming in. But honestly, the calendar beyond October looks pretty lean. We have a lot of offers out there, but despite that, many bookers are asking the question, until when can I cancel, until when do I have to make a final decision, and that makes future-proof planning quite difficult. No one really dares!
But at this point I have to take up the cudgels for the politicians, even if I would have preferred a clear statement on longer-term planning, the aid has been exactly right for our company size. We have always received the aid quickly and without complications. Of course, I know that it was and still is much more difficult for other companies.
Of course, it’s difficult for us to adapt our business model; we rent out furniture physically, which is difficult in the digital space. We did enter into a cooperation with allseated, that our furniture is directly available in the program, but even that can only be a supplement. We have, so to speak, brought the topic of site inspection into the digital realm.
However, we have focused primarily on our sustainability efforts. We are now certified through Sustainable Meetings Berlin and are listed as a leader here. With regard to the future, this will also become increasingly important. The climate targets have just been brought forward from 2050 to 2035 and we are seeing it more and more on our own doorstep right now, the effects of climate change are coming to bear more and more.
Sooner or later, there will also be legal framework conditions in the future and every company should already be prepared for this. But we are not doing this out of a calculation, but because we are convinced that it is important to work in a climate-friendly or climate-neutral way. And we believe that we are well positioned to do so (laughs again…).
Can you give us a little preview of what we can expect from you in the near future?
As I just said, we will continue to work on our sustainability. There are still many things that need to be addressed here. For example, the topic of mobility. It is still difficult from an economic point of view to operate transport in a truly climate-neutral way beyond compensation. But we will want to change over here in the medium term and are preparing everything for this.
Nonetheless, there will always be new developments in our core topic, mobility. For example, we will be presenting our new Blackline at MEET GERMANY NIGHT, and next year we will be launching a modular outdoor lounge system, I can reveal that much already.
Of course, we always pick up on trends and then try to implement and think about them in Eventwide style. As you can see, if you let your eyes wander around the room (editor’s note: we did the interview in the Eventwide Berlin warehouse), we have virtually no pallets or stretch film here. We have racks optimized for transport. So the sustainability idea is already embedded in the design process.
Finally, what would you like to leave our COMMUNITY with?
We as the event industry need to stand up for our interests together. That means getting involved in the individual associations and initiatives, taking on honorary positions in order to communicate our concerns to politicians. Not that nobody knows us when it comes to a crisis again…. This must not happen again, i.e. stay on the ball now, so that we are all still around in 20, 30 years!
Patrick Bergmann | MEET GERMANY