Get to know one of PouchNATION’s Top Expert on Operating Large Scale Events, KOEN VAN GEENE.
Koen is our Director of Special Projects and Country Head for Thailand and Myanmar.
Prior to joining PouchNATION Koen worked as live event director specialising in large scale events. With experience reaching across all corners of the globe, planning and delivering major concerts, festivals and sporting events. After helping delivering the London Olympics in 2012, Koen moved to SE Asia where he took positions in Singapore and later Jakarta. It was here that he got a real grasp of the local market, its challenges and opportunities.
We asked him a few questions about his success in operating large scale events.
When and why did you decide to join PouchNATION?
While working with PouchNATION, in the early years, as a client in Indonesia, I got very familiar with the system, the benefits and the (then) Pouch team. When I decided it was time for me to leave Indonesia, in late 2016, the founders approached me and asked me to join the team. The decision was made quite quick and in January 2017 I moved to Bangkok to open the Thai and Vietnam offices.
Can you share some of the largest events you have worked on and main learnings you’ve gathered?
The pinnacle of my career was working at the London 2012 Olympic Games as a Project and Site manager. The sheer size of the event, the highest International standards in planning, delivery, safety and communications gave me a unique experience which, I hope, I have been able to carry forward and share with others.
What are the challenges of doing events in SEA compared to other parts of the world and how you handle them?
Delivering events in “The West” can be very “generic”. Oppose to each country where we operate is very unique. From a sales point-of-view, in Bali the high season is June – September. In Bangkok it is November – March. In Jakarta and Malaysia we have had issues with the sales of alcohol. In Bangkok we are not allowed to use any tobacco branding/sponsors or operate events past midnight. And when it comes to operating events in China, Vietnam and Thailand language can be a real stumbling block. Did you know that Thai laptops have different key-boards?
I guess the (only) way to handle all the different cultures and customs is to act local but think global. Go in with and open mind, respect local cultures, listen and learn. Meanwhile introducing the local market to our products and services and all the benefits that come with it. Once you have the relationship and the client has seen our system and team in action it will become easier to strike longer-term partnerships. I am a great believer in strategic-partnerships.
You have successfully deployed many events in the region, how do you prep your team to deal with those large events?
Working in events is not easy and not everyone is cut-out to work in this industry. We are expected to work when everyone else is having fun, often on holidays, weekends and through the night. It’s not unusual for us to work 18-hour days, 3 days in a row. It’s our job to stay calm and professional no matter the situation. When I scout for staff I spell this out. If you are not able to cope with these extremes and challenges, a job in events is simply not for you.
In your opinion, What is the role of technology in large scale events nowadays?
The world of events is extremely competitive. To be successful you need to be very smart. Using tools like ours will help organisers plan better, be more efficient (thus saving money) and give their guests a more smooth experience. Events may have the biggest artist line up and most amazing laser shows but if the queues at the gates and bars are long and the beer runs our mid event, this is what people will take home.. and to social media.
Working in this industry, what’s your secret to find a balance between personal and professional life?
Events are my life. When I operate events adrenaline rushes through my veins at crazy speeds. This gives more more pleasure than sitting at home watching NetFlix.