Colja M. Dams is president / CEO of the VOK DAMS GRUPPE since 1998. Since the foundation in 1971, the agency has been one of the international market leaders in Live-Marketing and Events. This August, Colja will show the Crossover audience how they can turn their event into a Live Campaign and thus ensure that it becomes the epicenter of a campaign, rather than just one communication channel amongst many. How to utilize trends and their impact on audience behavior, in getting the most out of an event and fully unleashing the potential of the audience. Also, some ideas on what ideas we have had to encounter changed expectations. And, last but not least, hopefully some insight into some of our “wow” projects.

GENERAL
Q:  How would you describe your job in under 50 words?
Simply the best job in the world. And that’s no “marketing speech”, but I truly believe this mixture of emotion, of creativity and strategy at their best, and this pure, direct impact on people cannot be beaten. It’s the “wow” that comes with the job, which wows me everyday.

Q:  What advice would you offer to all soon to be working in marketing in the meetings industry?
Over the past few years we have seen how quickly people change their behavior and expectations – you only need to look at how smartphones have changed us. A lot of people in our industry see this as a challenge, we believe it is a huge chance, especially for our industry. Instead of trying to turn people away from their “smartphone habits” we actively encourage them to use them – and to have them apply attitudes and skills they are acquainted with in the virtual world, such as co-creation, in the event itself. We integrate and actively embrace these changed behaviors. So my advice would be: stay on top of what is hot, and make sure you know how to utilize it. We need to screen the newest trends and look at how they affect the social behavior and expectations of people. In a way, it is more than just trend-scouting (which has always been an integral part of what we do at VOK DAMS), but also studying the sociological impact. And if we look at our industry, it has been profoundly shaped by what is happening. You only need to look at the use and integration of social media and of voting apps etc. in the meetings industry. At VOK DAMS we are convinced that our industry benefits from this development. Because events increasingly move into the epicenter of a campaign, with other communication channels merely supporting the content generated at the event. We call these type of events “Live Campaigns”. And they are not just a trend, they are a development, they are here to stay. So my advice to all those soon to be working in marketing in the meetings industry: learn to utilize Live Campaigns to fully unleash the potential of your target groups, make smartphones work for you turn members of your target group into brand ambassadors. But to do this properly, you need to break up the old distinctions of sender and addressee, of standard marketing and of viewing smartphones as a threat. There is still a lot of potential to be unleashed – my advice: just go ahead and do it! And be aware that you are in one of the finest and most exciting industries.

Q:  How to develop talent and how to help people grow to the next level?
Integrate them as early on. Let them have their say. And let them have responsibility. At VOK DAMS we believe that we need to listen and learn from young talents. And merge their experience with those of the “old talents” to come to some exciting new results. In a way, we try and keep hierarchies low to encourage people to speak up and have their share. Far too often, in our industry, people turn along the well-trodden paths, because they seem safe. But they are not as effective as they used to be though. So we need to keep our eyes and ears open and see what new trends and developments are emerging all over the world. That’s the basis of talent development. And then we encourage young people to take on responsibility early on. To travel to one of our offices abroad and try their hands at, say, a Chinese event. To learn as much as possible about different cultures – what makes them different and what they have in common. Also, we do not think so much in terms of levels, we think more in terms of ideas and strategy. And what better way to develop talent by having them voice and later realize their ideas and input.

Q: What are you most excited about at the moment?
Difficult to say. In my private life: about going away on holiday with my three kids and spending as much time as possible with them. Professionally: well, we have just won our first entry into the Guinness Book of World Records. And if course, I am excited about each Live Campaign I see successfully implemented. And I just today I had a very important client thanking our team profusely for the creative ideas and professional, minute implementation. Of course I get excited about such moments, just as much as about every award we win. But to be honest, I stay with German football legend Sepp Herberger who once said “After the game is before the game”. And maybe that’s what drives all of us in this mad and fast industry: the buzz of the next big thing, of the new idea, that is “in creation”, of the next pitch that is being prepared for, of the next brainstorming. So right now I am excited about joining a presentation rehearsal prepared by one of our teams to convince a completely new client to work with us. And I am excited to see how they want to “wow” not just me, as their first audience, but the client and, most of all, the audience. To cut a long answer short: it’s the next “wow” that gets me most excited.

Q: Your advice/suggestion for turning a boring event into a memorable one?
There are such things as boring events? It has been a long, long time since I last encountered one. My suggestion would be to not just integrate but to activate the audience, to turn them into makers and doers and have them design the event and outcome. By using media apps, but also applying co-creation elements on site and in the real world. Nobody wants to be bored, so they will be eager to contribute. One example: At VOK DAMS we have conducted a research that three minutes into a speech, people will have checked their smartphone. So why not let them use it, and have them work with their smartphones throughout the speech? And then have them come together and think and contribute and create new solutions? So my advice on breaking up a “boring” or conventional event would be by doing the unexpected, by turning it onto its head and turning the audience into contributors. This way you gain in two ways: you stop boredom immediately and you unleash the formerly unused potential of your target group. And in doing so, you can make sure the vital messages hit home.

PERSONAL – BACKGROUND
Q: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
If I am at home: (the excitement of seeing) my three kids. If I am at working away at a client project: (the excitement of) experiencing first hand this unique mixture of creativity and strategy, and seeing how we sincerely and deeply move people.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully still doing the same thing as I am now, albeit a little greyer and looking back on even more amazing experiences and projects.

CROSSOVER
Q: What kind of knowledge will participants of Conventa Crossover gain from listening to your lecture?
How they can turn their event into a Live Campaign and thus ensure that it becomes the epicenter of a campaign, rather than just one communication channel amongst many. How to utilizes trends and their impact on audience behavior, in getting the most out of an event and fully unleashing the potential of the audience. Also, some ideas on what ideas we have had to encounter changed expectations. And, last but not least, hopefully some insight into some of our “wow” projects.

Q: What do you expect from Conventa Crossover?
Exciting insights, inspiration, meeting new people and old acquaintances, in short: time well spent.