"We will be different"

GCB FutureTalks #3 with Miriam Janke


"A time of moulting and innovation is coming," says Miriam Janke, moderator and event designer, in view of the current crisis. For our series GCB FutureTalks, issue #3, she spoke to Matthias Schultze, Managing Director of the GCB, about the systemic relevance of the event industry, creative role changes and the future design of spaces.

Matthias Schultze: These days there is a lot of talk about "systemically relevant" industries and professions. Where do you see the event industry in this discussion?

Miriam Janke: Events provide communication, proximity, community, learning and transformation - all this is offered by conferences, festivals, sports events, symposia, workshops and many other events where people meet. This is where we negotiate and change our society. What would civil society, culture, business, sport, politics and our institutions be without public or personal meetings?

The current situation shows us how interwoven we all are with each other, financially as well as socially - who wants to go outside after the contact ban and find out that their favorite pub, the neighborhood bookshop and the gym are broke? As well as the sound engineering company, the booth builder, the moderators and the venues?

The system is all of us. We work together and for each other. Now we have the chance to consciously examine how we design this system and what kind of future we desire.

Matthias Schultze: What can this future look like?

Miriam Janke: What can emerge from this crisis is a change of role: the old sovereignty is gone. The organizers and service providers on the one hand, the visitors on the other - this clear confrontation could go overboard.

I wouldn't throw out a life preserver. Because the clearly organized principle of "money against conference day" also has its side effects: Dull, but so beautifully controllable formats, block seating, a consumerist attitude on the part of the participants, perfectionism in planning, which kills liveliness. Everything should work 100 percent, after all, they are paying customers.

But participants can also be contributors: People who contribute with their ideas and talents, who take on roles themselves during the day, new non-conference formats in which we are in demand as facilitators and which are participative.

Matthias Schultze:  Is the industry ready yet? Or to put it another way: what else is needed to fill these new approaches with life?

Miriam Janke: The good news: the learning curve is steep. We are currently rushing to open new spaces and try out other types of encounters. For example, grandpa walking across the fields with his smartphone and looking at the budding spring flowers with his grandchildren sitting in homeschooling quarantine 800 km away.

Our personal experiences as people help us to discover and try out new formats for business. Hybrid formats are the industry buzzword of the hour and are sprouting like those flowers in the field: some are more sustainable and inclusive than analog events, cheaper and more easily accessible, e.g. barrier-free and visa-free.

What will be interesting here is how we create entertaining dramaturgies for the screen at home and how we really bring participants who are present and absent into contact with each other. How does proximity go digital? How does internet warmth work?

Matthias Schultze: Your forecast for the time after the crisis?

Miriam Janke: Quite clearly, whatever the outcome of the moulting process just described may be in the end: we will be different. Closer and more aware.

The classic event organizers could become interior designers who also stand out for their hospitality and relationship with their customers - who feel comfortable, understood and welcome as people.

For this we need new event concepts, a different self-image, flexible physical spaces, a culture of welcome, a sincere interest in people. It’s all there? Then we are ready for the post-crisis!

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