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Jan Wittkopp: Celebrating 20 years with the business

From an initial desire to build rollercoasters, to studies in event management and building a successful career in healthcare events, we’re very proud that our Head of Events Jan Wittkopp has been with us for 20 years! To mark the occasion, we caught up with Jan to ask him about some of his most memorable moments and how the industry has changed over the past two decades…

June, 2023

Tell us about your journey into the event industry.

When I was younger, I really wanted to build rollercoasters, but thanks to terrible math skills (and to the relief of my dad) I changed routes! I was really interested in film production and worked in film festival management in Berlin and Oldenburg, which gave me some great experience in logistics, event management, resource management and budgeting.

I started to look beyond Germany, as I was keen to travel and get new experiences, and ultimately went to study event management at Leeds Beckett University. It was my year-long placement for an earlier incarnation of the business that really gave me the event industry bug and I started freelancing for them while completing my degree.

I joined full time in 2003 as a Delegate Manager and worked my way up to my current role as Head of Events.

What has kept you at the same company for 20 years?

Three things, really:

  • The business’ flexibility – even in the early 2000s, when remote working was not that common, the company allowed me to live in Belgium as the first-ever remote worker in the business. They trusted me and accommodated my personal circumstances, which really promotes loyalty
  • Secondly, good managers and good people are everything. Every job has its highs and lows and the event industry often means long hours and high stress levels, but I have always had great, supportive managers. I never felt that there was a strict hierarchy or that there was anyone I couldn’t speak to, whatever their role. I always felt that I could raise any frustrations or difficulties and I would be listened to
  • And of course, it’s a fantastic job! I have traveled all over the world and worked with some amazing people


What are some of your most memorable moments?

Many of them are around traveling. I remember the excitement of my first work trip abroad, to Florence. I was not well-traveled and my vacations as a kid involved being dragged by my parents to the same German island for 13 years in a row, so it was exciting to be staying in a hotel I couldn’t have afforded myself and experiencing the sights and sounds of a new city.

Back then, we didn’t routinely take laptops on site and I had this huge, brick-like mobile phone. It wasn’t working very well, so I asked for technical support and was told to “throw it on the floor.” I did and it started working (though I wouldn’t recommend it with today’s smartphones)!

I’ve travelled to 51 countries (and counting) for events including the US many times as well as more unusual destinations such as Zanzibar, Malawi, Senegal, Mauritius, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Sydney, to name but a few.

My work has also allowed me to develop a network of colleagues and friends all over the globe. The perks of traveling has also meant that the team and I have often extended our stay for a few days, for example to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge together. Not bad for a team-building exercise!



What are some of the more challenging moments you’ve overcome?

I’ve run events in some pretty challenging places, particularly in Africa. On one occasion, we were waiting for clients to fly in; when the airline suddenly decided to fly to another city in the same country. As it was getting dark it was too dangerous to do last-minute transfers. So, we had to source a hotel last minute and book a local airline for the next day. At the same time, I was supposed to be running a client dinner – the driver got lost, so while booking hotel rooms and flights, I also had to try to direct the driver! Luckily, the clients were understanding and it all went successfully in the end!

On another event in Copenhagen, the congress housing bureau contact left the business at short notice and none of the rooming lists (for any clients) were passed on to the hotels, which resulted in 20-hour days for the event team sorting it all out.

Having said all of that, overcoming these challenges is incredibly satisfying and it’s at times like these that you really appreciate the friendship and emotional support of your colleagues.


How has the industry changed?

The industry operates at a much faster pace nowadays. In the past, when on-site you only had to focus on that one event. These days, you work on multiple projects at any one time, which is both challenging and exciting!

Additionally, in healthcare, there are an increasing number of regulations and compliance restrictions to consider. What hasn’t changed is that if you are producing a live event, you have one chance to get it right, and that brings both pressure and excitement.



What are you excited about when it comes to the future of the event industry, and what advice would you give to those wanting to get into the industry?

I’m excited about the role we can play in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and creating a positive impact, both socially and environmentally. It would be great to see events and programs have CSR as their real focus, not just as a one-off activity as part of the event. Likewise, we can reduce the environmental impact of events, which is also becoming a much bigger focus for our clients. Virtual and hybrid technology is great for that, though I’m excited that people do really value the face-to-face experience. For me, nothing beats catching up with people in person. So, let’s embrace the benefits of remote working and hybrid tech, but always remember the importance of human connection.

My advice to those entering the industry would be that you don’t have to have an event management degree to have a successful career! There are so many transferable skills that you can bring into events: people skills, an understanding of logistics, attention to detail, and pride in delivering brilliant events and experiences for people. We have had some great team members come from the hospitality and hotel industries, as well as undergraduates studying a variety of subjects. Finally, look after your clients and get to know them. I have developed some great relationships with clients I have worked with year after year, and it’s really satisfying when you work on a project as one team.



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