What does innovation mean to the GCB?

An interview with Matthias Schultze


Matthias Schultze, Managing Director of the GCB, was recently awarded the EIC’s Innovation and Adaptation Award. The award recognizes extraordinary effort in the areas of adaptation and innovation to ensure the business events industry’s relevance - now and in the future. We took this as an opportunity to take a look at what innovation means to him, how this is reflected in Germany and what business events of the future may look like.

Matthias Schultze

What does innovation mean to you personally?  

Matthias Schultze: The easy answer would be that innovation is needed to move forward. And even though this statement is quite bold, it is true: We do need innovative ideas and solutions to keep moving forward. But why? Today’s generation has more products and services available to them than any generation before them. These offers represent the status quo and are what we’re basing our decisions on. However, we live in a fast paced and ever-changing world. New technologies are being introduced daily and social patterns are changing rapidly. Therefore, standing still and waiting for new solutions to come our way isn’t an option. Instead, we must learn more about the future to base our decisions on what’s to come. We must look for unexpected ideas and work on new concepts and technologies. And we must collaborate with each other and other industries if we want to stay relevant, tap into new markets and create meaningful events in the future. 

My personal motivation towards innovation is based on two main pillars. Firstly, it’s incredibly exciting to discover and work on how we will meet in the future. Secondly, it is the German Convention Bureau’s responsibility to not only represent and market Germany as a leading business events destination, but also prepare our partners for the future.  

How is this reflected in the German Convention Bureau’s work?  

Our industry is all about bringing people together and that’s why collaboration and strong partnerships play a crucial role in our work. Of course, we’re in close touch with our members to stay up to date with their latest developments and needs. However, we’ve also built an extensive network of creative minds and thought leaders from within and outside of the industry.  

The strong partnerships with our members and partners have allowed us to launch exciting projects, such as the innovation network Future Meeting Space. In 2015 we teamed up with the Fraunhofer IAO and our research partners to develop ideas, concepts and practical advice for the continuous development of the German business event industry. The research focuses on trends and innovations as well as technological and social developments, identifies their potential influence on the events industry and provides insights on which solutions the industry must provide to meet participants’ changed demands. An important aspect in this context is sustainability – one of the mega trends of our times.  

Collaboration is also the key word for our open innovation platform Response Room. The platform was launched as a joint project of the GCB, IMEX and PCMA in January 2021. Its main goal is to drive collaboration and co-creation within the events industry and enable all stakeholders to work together on the future of business events, develop creative ideas and ideally take them to a new level. We’re hopeful that the Response Room will help our industry move away from the prevalent silo mentality and instead promote collaboration inside our global community. 

Even though we try to include new approaches and technologies in all of our events, I must point out last year’s BOCOM. "BOCOM - Experience Borderless Communication" was the first event of its kind, featuring an integrated research concept, two agendas divided into morning and afternoon sessions, four focus topics, four venues, 25 project partners and supporters as well as some 30 speakers. Several hundred attendees joined us in one of our four hubs and online to learn more about the future of human communication and collaboration.  

These are just three of our recent and ongoing innovative projects that provide us with valuable insights that are being shared with our members and the industry as a whole. We want to assume responsibility and play our part in shaping the future of business events. 

How innovative is the business event destination Germany?  

It speaks volumes that many of our partners from this year’s summer campaign have chosen to display their destination’s unique combination of tradition and innovation. Business events made in Germany can be innovative in many ways, though. Germany provides event planners and attendees with first-class infrastructure, excellent providers and state-of-the-art event venues that can host any format – digital, hybrid or face-to-face. Since we’re talking about innovation: If you have an entirely new format, I’m confident that we’ll find the right partner in Germany for you, too! Additionally, Germany is the home of many industry-leading companies, organizations, and research institutions. Their industry expertise and innovative approaches are valuable contributions to any event. Ultimately, events in Germany can be as innovative as planners want them to be. 

What do you expect business events of the future to look like?  

There are many trends we can observe right now, but one aspect stands out in particular: We must put the customer first. Event planners and attendees are calling for more sustainable events, they want more opportunities to participate and contribute, and they want to attend events that will leave them with meaningful experiences. Of course, this also means that not every format from the past will survive, but that will also create opportunities for new exciting concepts.  

I believe that last year’s BOCOM has given us a good idea of what future events may look like – it put a focus on sustainability, connected attendees and speakers from around the world and on-site, and the display and use of new technologies enabled attendees to participate and play an active role in the event. Even though the event took place only a little more than a year ago, we’ve already seen many new developments since. It will be exciting to see customers’ future needs and our industry’s solutions align.  

You were recently awarded the EIC’s Innovation and Adaptation Award. The award recognizes extraordinary effort in the areas of adaptation and innovation to ensure our industry’s relevance now and into the future. What does the award mean to you?  

I am deeply honored and grateful to have been chosen as the recipient for this year. It fills me with great pride to know that the German Convention Bureau’s and our partners’ commitment to shaping the future of business events is being recognized by such a prestigious organization. Not only is this a testimony to the importance of always challenging the status quo and a desire to continuously learn, but it also puts a spotlight on German providers’ dedication towards securing Germany’s position as a leading business event destination. Ultimately, it’s a great source of motivation for all of us to keep doing what we’re doing: Moving forward. 

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