In Insider Tips, Interviews

Claudia Kohler, Corporate Vice President of VOK DAMS Agency, joined us to share her thoughts on the future of the event industry. VOK DAMS is one of the leading agencies worldwide with over 50 years of history and a long list of multinational clients and awards. The agency won 4 gold and 1 silver award from Eventex 2020 including 1st place in the Grand Prix category for Best Event. It is also ranked in the top 10 of the Eventex Index – Top 50 Event Organizers & Agencies this year.

You are one of the Eventex Awards 2020 winners. What does this recognition mean to you?

We are proud and honored to win the Eventex Award 2020. It is always great to have the hard work, the commitment and energy that went into designing and implementing an event recognized and appreciated – not just at the event itself but afterward, too. And even more so, as it is always a great motivation. After all, our amazing employees make this happen, they work hard and put in a lot of effort and thought – and winning an award recognizes and appreciates their work, long after the actual event took place. It is always a great reminder of the work we do, of wow-ing people not just at the actual event but even weeks or months afterward. And that is at the core of what we do and what drives us. So, winning an award is always a moment to step back from the daily nitty-gritty, to smile, to high-five one another, and to confirm that we really do have the best job in the world.

What is your “recipe” for an award-winning event?

In a way, it is easy: doing everything with dedication. Not just the big, fancy brilliant and creative moments on stage but also the small details. Planning for the “ifs” and “whens”. Making sure that, for example at a multi-day event, everyone’s suitcase arrives at their rooms. Or that everyone’s dietary requirements are recognized. So that the audience can concentrate on the messages and images we want to transport rather than being preoccupied by other stuff. In German we say: “the devil is in the details”. It is easy to get carried away by the fancy and creative big bangs – but even they need to be carefully planned and executed. You need to put yourself in the shoes of the audience – which pictures do you want them to take? What wow-moments do you want them to experience? What do you want them to feel? So much about the planning and executing. However, another important ingredient, if not the most important one, are the people who plan and implement the event. At VOK DAMS we have set out to become the first agile event agency and working in agile settings has really unleashed even more potential than before. Our teams are not just highly experienced, but working in agile settings has increased the efficiency, the motivation and the fun – and our clients benefit from being more involved at all stages.

How did the current crisis affect you? How did you adapt to the situation and what are your plans in the near future?

Well, it has been a tough time for all our industry. “First out and last in” – that’s what has characterized the events industry in this crisis. So even though we are currently experiencing new regulations in Europe and certain events are possible in certain areas under certain rules it will be a long way until we are back to usual. To be honest, we feel this has really changed the industry and the way we will conduct events in the long term. The digitization trend was massively accelerated. We are experiencing a surge in virtual events. But they also follow a certain dramaturgy, you cannot simply take the program of a live event and “virtualize” it. Virtual events need different didactics and dramaturgy. And getting the technology right is also quite tricky. So, it has been a steep learning curve for our industry and our clients alike. We were lucky in that we have been working on and with virtual events for a while. But the former ratio of 30% virtual to 70% live events was, of course, massively changed by the Covid-19 pandemic, so that at times we went up to 100% virtual. We also experienced – and that was probably rather typical for most industries – that a lot was put “on hold” or cancelled. Or that clients felt they could simply use a virtual format and implement it themselves. Not always very successfully, however. So it is a learning curve for agencies and clients alike. I am confident, however, that the past weeks have shown how precious and important “encounters” are. How important it is for us to meet others. To exchange views and ideas, to communicate. So live marketing will remain a core element of all marketing efforts. Possibly even emerge stronger than before. But it will do so in a different way and ultimately altered.

What do you think is the future of virtual and hybrid events? Do you plan to organize such events even after the crisis is over?

We are convinced: the future is hybrid. But it is a different understanding of hybrid than before. While in the past, hybrid events often meant that merely a few virtual elements or social media channels were integrated into the event, now hybrid takes on a whole new meaning. In future, it is going to be possible to attend events both “live” and “virtually” – at the same time. So hybrid means planning in parallel – and allowing for encounters and overlaps between those, who are attending the event on site and in person and those who are attending the event virtually, from their offices. This will require a whole new approach to event planning, to didactics, to communication at and sequencing of events. So, while we expect that we shall continue with “live” events and experience more requests for virtual events, the future of events will be “hybrid” which also will boost marketing-automation in the event sector and will put the customer/guest in the center of the communication. Keyword: Costumer Centricity.

What do you think will be the trends in the events industry in 2021?

In a way, people are going to be glad to be able to meet again in person, at “live” events. But we have also learned the benefits of less travel and of home offices. Thus, events will need to cater for both those, who want to meet up live and in person and those, who for several reasons will prefer virtual and online encounters. Merging these two worlds, allowing for encounters between those two groups of participants at eye-level, creating wow-moments that transport the emotion and thrill both live and virtually – these are going to be the challenges and trends in the next few years. For 2021 and beyond we envisage a surge in hybrid events, a focus on encounters on eye-level, wow-moments that wow both live and virtual audiences, a whole new way to event sequences and a focus on getting the technology right to allow for hybrid and virtual formats. One thing won’t change, though – the power of personal encounters, be they live or virtual. And making these happen and making these special – this is what we shall all focus more on in the months and years to come.


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