Maarten Schram believes it's time for a European network for associations in the event industry. Why and how his new initiative Livecom Alliance can give an answer, he explains himself.
Hi Maarten, welcome to our studio.
You started a new initiative: Livecom Alliance. Why?
Well, in my role as managing director of the Dutch associations, I'm also invited in an advisory board and some jurors of international awards, among them the European Best Event Awards, then, 2 years ago, during an advisory board meeting, I was talking to some colleagues again, and the idea raised: why don't we have structured way of meeting each other? So that was the idea. It was 2 years ago and we tried to discuss it with some other associations during the festival November that year, but somehow, due to a full program, it failed to become a proper discussion. And during the most recent advisory board meeting last year, we talked it over again. And meeting my colleagues on some occasions during the year is always interesting and inspiring also. But it's missing a proper and structured way: meeting each other and staying in contact. So on my way back in the plane I just thought: "okay, let's write a plan, and write a concept and think of a name and design a logo and just do it". So during the last edition of the festival, last November in Seville, I launched the initiative and I presented it to 10 countries, 10 associations. And they were all very enthusiastic about it and so I launched it this year.
Congratulations with that.
Thank you, thank you!
And why is there a need for an association of associations in Europe?
It sounds really big, 'a federation of associations'. First of all, we tried to keep it plain and simple. So we've chosen the word Alliance, a platform with an online connecting tool, and of course some live events during the year. I think the why is to build an industry and evolve, to develop. It's necessary to be in contact with each other, and every association in every country does its work in the way they think it should be done. But there is a lot to be learned. During my conversations, among all those occasions, talking to my Belgian and French and British colleagues, all over Europe, I thought: "there is a lot that can be learned here, so let's facilitate that".
And learning what exactly?
Well, how to improve benefits and products and services and tools of the association. Benefits for the members, the agencies. But also dealing with major topics, like law topics or several things like that. It could be very interesting to share opinions and to share experience. But for example, another very interesting thing... And it's high on our priority list. Is to investigate and do some proper market research. How big is our industry?
That's a difficult question still.
That's a really difficult one, yes. And I think it remains difficult. But during our upcoming meeting this Thursday in Italy, we try to first of all make an inventory: what is done in every country? And try to put it together, and try to create the outlines for: "okay, what do we really want to know and how can we figure out how to get the results?"
And if you're talking about sharing knowledge, is it then only about how to run an association, or also on more topics like event management knowledge and things like that?
Yes, of course. No it's certainly not only about the association. I think that's an interesting thing, but it's only small. In fact it's only interesting for the managing directors or chairmen involved in the association. But of course it should directly have effect on the members of the associations, which are the agencies. And it should also effect the clients and suppliers behind that. So we are really aiming to contribute to the development of the whole industry.
And what can the agencies, your members, expect from an alliance like this?
In this digital age I think it's more and more common that clients, brands, need live contact. And what we also see is that globalization is a thing which is becoming important. So boundaries of countries are not that important any longer, and agencies are trying to explore markets outside their own country, and also clients are trying to find agencies working all Europe, for example.
Absolutely, our readers also tell us many times that they are looking for solutions to organise mainly the big companies like Coca-Cola or companies like that. They want a European event taking place in different countries, They don't want an agency for every country, because that's difficult for them to handle. How do you see that?
I think we're in a process there. I think from my point of view there are still some differences between the countries. Even Belgium and the Netherlands for example. Maybe they're small and subtle, but still they are. For some other countries the difficulties may be bigger. So it's really useful and necessary to use local expertise. But at the same time, what we also see is that agencies are opening up to collaborate and to look for partners in other countries and try to work together. I think it's a process, both on the industry side as also from the client side. That it's an interesting thing to share that vision and speak it out. And show to the world.
Maybe to conclude with: Is there a place where we can follow what you are doing on a European level?
Yes, of course there is. For now, there is a temporary website: livecomalliance.eu.
Didn't see that coming!
No, of course. But another important way for us to show the world what we are doing is of course PR.
Okay great, so subscribe to our newsletter and we will share all the press releases coming from you.
Yes, would be great, would be great. Thanks.
Thank you for coming over to our studio.
Thanks for the invitation, Kevin.
And you at home: thanks for watching our show. I hope to see you next week!