Berlin’s Awakening Beauties

Episode 11: Futurehain

In this, the final edition of BAB series 2, our host Mark Felstead channels his inner starship Enterprise as he is clearly inspired and extra enthused by two exceptional members of the Berlin ‘events intelligentsia’, the co-founders of the Futurehain agency.

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As Mark, in a typical flight of fancy puts it:

Berlin, the final frontier

This is the podcast of the digital agency Futurehain

Their 10-year mission:

To explore digital event formats

To seek out new ideas and innovations

To boldly go where no agency has gone before!!

(With apologies to Captain James T Kirk)

Mark pilots the BAB mothership into the heart of the Berlin start up scene with two of the smartest guys in the city sharing their work, ethos and future plans.

Science and events are at the core of the talk with Matyas Kovacs and Felix Rundel, who relate how their creative agency feeds off the energy of Berlin. Their company Futurehain has sets itself a mission of weaving networks and stories for the global science community and making innovations and scientific discovery more widely known in the wider community, partly through digital events.

From their base in Friedrichshain, Berlin, they collaborate with innovators and catalysts and have produced much pioneering work with emerging technologies, all with the goal, they say, of contributing to a sustainable future.

Mark talks about the intellectual bar of his show being raised considerably by the Futurehain input and nearly resists his own urges to make a ‘quantum leap’ into the scientific discussion, which ranges from the falling of the Berlin Wall to the Mars Explorer and back again in time for tea.

Futurehain is a new-model agency dedicated to creating and structuring events, whether digital or physical, that bring together top scientific minds and themes to the creative maelstrom that is Berlin.

Matyas and Felix also talk about the exhilaration of Berlin’s ‘Wild West start-up scene and describe a fast-evolving environment for new style events. They use an analogy of ‘Explorers, Pioneers, Settlers’ that are taking advantage and making their mark on Berlin as a hub of innovation.

Creating meaningful experiences digitally is one of the challenges discussed and the search for a master narrative. They warn that excitement can wane when it comes to digital events, but say Futurehain is working to define a new path to convene purposefully and sustainably.

The guys point out the events sector is in this new situation together, coping with psychological fall out but getting smarter in the process. It is an environment that is stretching and challenging, they say, and subscribe to the philosophy that says, ‘If you’re the smartest person in the room, then change the room!’ ‘Keep learning and convening together’ is another of their messages.

Felix believes, that, despite the pressures of the pandemic, the events community has done incredibly well. “All of us have adapted to the new situation within a few months. The result is not the final polished product, but the industry has established the baseline for running incredibly cool events. There is now a massive range of platforms. We can create new shapes for events in digital and hybrid,” he says, and the guys walk the walk with their own cool and unusual office design space which their say provides an environment for creative freedom. “After all,” they say, “you don’t remember conferences when they are all cut from the same cloth.”

Mark advises us to check out the team’s previous work with the international science community at Falling Walls also.

Now Futurehain is working with Elon Musk’s XPRIZE foundation and looking to provide new ways of convening to help scientists communicate the benefits of their discoveries to a broader audience, using events as an ideal vessel to spread their word and knowledge.

With Tesla also active in Berlin, the Futurehain team points out that Elon Musk has said there will be a rave cave in the factory when the project is complete – maybe the only place cooler than the Futurehain office!

Episode 10: We can be Heroes…

Our BAB host Mark Felstead’s guest this time is Tanja Schramm, who has worked for over 30 years in the events business, including in hotels and agencies in many countries and now runs Meet Germany, which boasts the largest network of event professionals in the German speaking world – over 3,000 community members from a thousand-plus companies.

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This year Tanja is planning the expansion of Meet Germany, adding on ‘Meet Europe’ as a new sub-brand. Staying with the German-speaking world, Switzerland is her first target, with an event planned soon in Zurich for German planners and exhibitors to meet their Swiss counterparts.

Events in Switzerland will supplement the existing summits planned in Munich, Berlin, Dusseldorf and Cologne, as well as in Frankfurt. Austria and the Czech Republic are also in line to experience the event summit format from Meet Germany. The company ethos is to bring medium-sized groups of planners together with suppliers and corporates. As well as networking, the events include tours for the participants so they can fully appreciate the host destination.

Tanja also announced a new co-operation with IMEX for Meet Germany in November for the Las Vegas show. This event, she says, looms even more important than ever in view of the Frankfurt show missing this year.

Tanja impresses that it is important to stay optimistic and show what can be done and she certainly pivoted her business fast when the pandemic struck last year. Her first online Meet Germany event came in May, for 3,400 people and over 90 exhibitors and 55 speakers. “Although it was more work than we thought,” she admits, and goes on to explain how she put together the first in-person event last August as a showcase for new ideas: ‘Meet the Change’, a hybrid event with 100 people in person at the Humboldt Carré conference centre.

She shares with Mark Felstead her Top 5 tips for New Venues in Berlin and for David Bowie fans Tanja has an extra treat in store, revealing the opportunities for working in the recording studios he made famous in the city.

Oh yes, we can all be heroes – just for one day!

For full details and contacts at Tanja’s Top 5 venues drop Mark a note at:

Episode 9: Tales of two cities

This week our host Mark Felstead leads a double-header chat in a true tale of two cities. He talks to Sebastian Loefl from the Novotel Tiergarten Berlin and with Jason Allan Scott (pictured) from London about ways to generate new revenue sources in hotels, cafes, restaurants and venue spaces.

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First up is Jason who explains the difference between WFH and WFA and what the GIG economy means. Fancy yourself as an Urban Creator? Well, listen up!

Jason talks about the future world having ‘a smudged line’ between living and working, and about the pros and cons of remote working and the social, legal and productivity aspects involved – as well as the question of the impact on work-life balance.

Jason and Mark also discuss whether the new format is one that is here to stay and flag both some potential pitfalls as well as the advantages. Other questions covered in this week’s podcast include the recruitment of talent and whether we are seeing the neglecting of internal communication and teambuilding. And is that leading to a feeling of being disconnected?

The discussion also raises the point that maybe working from anywhere is not mutually exclusive with working in the office and could perhaps even enhance it.

Jason also introduces his own latest GIG, the Kopus ( software platform which allows you to convert any space into a co-working space – that means anything from a convention centre to a local café or coffee shop. It is something, he says, that can also help produce an extra source of revenue by making use of an existing asset. “As well as paying for space users can also connect to others in that space,” Jason adds.

Back in Berlin, meanwhile, we hear how Sebastian Loefl and his hotel have introduced a new revenue stream called Office@theHotel, where people, for a very modest fee, can book a room to work in for the day (up to 10 hours) as an office to get away from the home environment and have complete peace and quiet. A product that could be really appreciated by all those living in flat-shares, with family or partners. Rates start from €39 per day and has already attracted a TV film crew who were keen to show the initiative.

Sebastian shares more of the challenges his team is facing and how they are finding new solutions and have fine-tuned their approach to staging hybrid events. He also talks about the initiative of setting up a single central contact for a cluster of hotels in the area, albeit from different companies, as well as for other citywide MICE initiatives. He predicts that bigger meetings will start to come back in Berlin in Q4, so all smaller initiatives are surely welcome.

Hear also how Mark tried out the Office@theHotel system to find some ‘us time’ with his wife on Valentine’s Day. Cheeky one, Mark!

Episode 8: Kay Soelve Richter

In this episode of Berlin’s Awakening Beauties, our host Mark Felstead talks to one of Germany’s Breakfast TV celebrities.

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Kay-Sölve Richter (pictured) is a woman Mark confesses he often shares his morning coffee with – via TV of course, as she is the News Anchor for ZDF Breakfast TV.

Kay is an absolute bundle of energy and floods the podcast waves with her passion and energy as she explains making the transition from TV to being a top presenter at live events. She also describes her work as a super coach for people presenting on stage or in front of the camera. And she shares with us her top three tips for presenting to a large audience.

Of course, Kay has been in demand for Gala Dinners pre-Covid (remember those?) and now, too, for hybrid and virtual events.

Kay advises treating the pandemic as an opportunity, although agrees “nothing can replace face to face”.

Get ready, then, for a high-octane ride on the Richter scale, together with Kay and Mark, who, for once, is briefly lost for words himself. She predicts a future packed with hybrid events.

If you like what you hear from Kay, there is a lot more to be learnt from her new book Executive Presence – How to present to audiences when it really has to count!

Mark adds that Kay is not only in his kitchen in the mornings, but also by the bedside at night as he flips the pages.

In your dreams, Mark!

Episode 7: Virtual meetings ‘Old Master’ from Holland

Our regular BAB host Axica Berlin’s Mark Felstead talks to flying Dutchman Matthijs Otto (pictured) from Amsterdam-based Networktables, who relates an event industry ‘success story’ of 2020.

How many times have you been seated at a gala dinner or event networking where the people next to you have no business synergies with you or common interests, albeit they may be fine industry professionals too? Networktables found its niche and seat at the events top table, by specialising in getting people sitting and talking together at events who actually wanted to meet and have things in common.

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Their software means an individual attendee at a sales conference, for example, would host a table and people would register to sit at that table, meaning the host had some control over his or her table and the guest would feel a certain obligation to attend knowing they had reserved a place of their choice.

Networktables has won many awards for increasing attendee participation and engagement at exhibitions and events of all kinds. The original impetus for the idea was to serve the exhibition community by allowing meetings to be established between parties who had real interests, Otto explains in this episode 7 of the BAB podcast. The idea is also for exhibitors to not just spend their time randomly talking to passers by in the exhibition hall.  “Basically, people don’t like walking around like headless chickens,” he says, and explains to Mark how his company’s technology improves the networking process all round.

Virtual events can be a good and cheap platform to experiment with new ideas that, if successful, can transfer to physical events, Otto explains. “People; will organise a physical event and use year-round online platforms. This can be done by membership to keep attendees engaged. You can sell tickets earlier, a year out…There are many tools and so much virtual event tool choice. Quality will remain.

“An event should not be a TV show. Look at your event programme to make engaging content,” says Otto.

As far back as 2017 Networktables were hosting virtual events for upwards of 20,000 participants, Otto adds. This meant his company was well placed when the pandemic caused a shift last year to virtual and hybrid events. Indeed, it reported revenue growth during 2020 of 160%. In 2021 the aim, says Otto, is to continue the growth.

“We have launched Networktables in-built webinars, which can power up to 2,000 attendees,” he adds. “Just open a web-based link. There’s no need to download. We can facilitate any type of event, including award shows.”

Otto says the company is now hiring more people and continuing to innovate the product. Big events, he says, are all in need of innovative concepts and looking for advice.

Episode 6: Germany’s Spiderman spins his digital event production web

This week our host Mark Felstead talks to Tim Nievelstein about his work as an event director and bringing his movie and TV editing and production skills and values to the world of digital and hybrid events.

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Tim worked for many years as an editor on the production team for Stefan Raab – Germany’s premiere late night TV talk show host and one of the most popular figures in the country. Stefan Raab broadcast for 16 years without missing a show.

With events having to change and master new omnichannel delivery methods and borrow from the world of TV production and entertainment high values to create digital ‘fireworks and noise’, as Tim puts it, it is to directors that are brought up as digital production natives that clients are turning if they want to produce quality events online.

So, listen to the ‘Tim takeaways’ teased out by Mark Felstead as Tim also talks about his appreciation of Berlin as a ‘vivid city’ for events and of the new-found professional pleasure of receiving authentic, direct reactions from live audiences to his event direction.

This crossover from a TV director to the ‘new normal’ duties of an event director post-Covid will have many in live events and experiential creation rethinking how they spend their budgets and about how they, too, can raise the bar on production standards.

Tim describes himself as the ‘Spider in the Web’, conducting the events orchestra. And he is certainly raising the game for digital events and helping drag us kicking and screaming into 2021!

He also cautions on the need to involve digital storytelling techniques early in the process for best effect, and notes that quality has improved fast over the past few months as event organisers are forced to think more about staging, lighting and other production values more than ever before. “We all have ingrained viewing habits of watching television for many years,” says Tim. “And an average digital event can still look like TV from the 1960s. The key, he says, is to “stay hungry to make it better every day.”

Tim has been in Berlin this January working on the main congress of this year’s digital-only version of The Grüne Woche (Green Week agricultural tradefair) – one of the big three tradefairs in Berlin. Sadly the virtual version this year does not have a public element, but Tim has been working on the digital conference part of the event.

While he seems to be the right man in the right place, at the right time with his box of expert digital skills, Tim may miss the slightly brighter TV lights, but says he has learned to live without the necessary TV hairstyle! His final words are that he sees 2021 as a year of hope. “People are already making plans to meet up in person for events in the fourth quarter and ‘smell’ each other again at live events! Nothing can replace face-to-face with all the emotions involved.” In the meantime, if you need a digital Spiderman to direct your action, you know who to call.

Episode 5: Health and safety paramount – in any event

Our host Mark Felstead kicks off the first episode of the New Year in the company of Olaf Jastrob, one of Germany’s leading experts in Health and Safety (including hygienic measures) for event venues and cultural establishments.

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We will learn, in an episode packed full of sage advice:

  • In the case of a worst case scenario e.g. a fire hazard, act of terrorism, Super Spreader attending an event, who is actually liable for the considerable damages that may be caused?
  • The importance of having a documented ‘Risk Assessment’ and ’hygiene Concept’ for every event – and the consequences you risk when you don’t!
  • The importance of having a qualified Hygiene Marshal on site
  • That not all hand disinfectants are the same
  • About new career opportunities appearing in the events sector.

Olaf Jastrob has spent over 30 years in the industry and is today one of the most sought after consultant and trainers on the subject of health and safety for events.

He talks about the importance of having a water-tight hygiene concept and risk-analysis for every event and the possible consequences of having a so-called Super Spreader event, something that will become increasingly top of mind when we recommence events after Covid.

The episode also examines the important question of who is actually liable between the various parties involved in the organising and carrying out of events. Olaf makes it very clear that should a worst case or disaster scenario take place during an event, the consequent financial and legal penalties can be huge.

Also, we learn about some of the proper measures venues, hotels and restaurants can take to help neutralise Covid and how important having someone in the role of Hygienic Marshal will be in the future to check and police events for ‘Covid Conformality’ and the training courses available for this – which could become a real career chance with the events job market being squeezed, to say the least.

Episode 4: Christmas Special

A festive end of year welcome from Mark Felstead and his Merry Crowd that first brought Berlin`s Sleeping Beauties to life, as they deliver Christmas messages of hope from Berlin!

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Our host has done his best throughout the past year to take a positive spin on what has been, clearly as for many, a disastrous year for Berlin and its event industry.

Let his Berlin Beauties – from event venues, event agencies and the city’s convention bureau – spread some hope and cheer into your festivities as we draw to the end of this 2020 chapter and look forward with full hearts and optimism to 2021.

As always, we leave the last word to Mark: “Merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year from all in Berlin!

We shall be back with new gusto in 2021 and a big thank you to AXICA, Mash Media and all our listeners for allowing me to bring these episodes to you.”

Episode 3: Jane Porter

Berlin’s Awakening Beauties meets Studio 104, leading bespoke uniform designer for luxury and premium hospitality brands, to hear some good news stories and to give inspiration for those who are struggling with our beloved events industry currently!!

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Firstly, Ian shares with us some of his “Magic Moments” from Berlin and talks about Gehry’s “Best Thing I’ve Ever Done” architecture, drawing his own comparisons to the times he has spent in the city.

Meanwhile his partner Jane, who launched her company Studio 104 ten years ago, talks about her story and the challenges she faced as a young woman launching her own business and what it takes to succeed – empowering stuff!

Studio 104 is not only designing bespoke uniforms for some of the top luxury hotels around the world, but it is expanding rapidly!

Both go to portray how a career in the events business can act as a launch pad onto other pastures green!

Finally, she and her partner share with us some great advice for those wanting to set up their own business and how to make it a success! So stick around til the end of the podcast!

For film buffs there are even some tenuous links between Mod fashion, Quadrophenia and Bell Boys!!

Episode 2: Peter Antoni

This week’s special guest is none other than one of the true Godfathers of Berlin’s Event industry – Peter Antoni!!

Peter has been one of the major players in the business in Berlin since its fledgling beginnings as an international destination of note way back in 1989 with the coming down of the wall.  You can say he is living proof of being in the right place at the right time!!

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Peter has had the fortune to follow his own destiny, which has seen him involved in many great projects in the city and beyond over the years, from being one of the first to bring cruise ship tours to the city to the dizzying heights of the MTV Awards.

As a confirmed Anglophile he has a special relationship with the UK, and through his years at the head of Conference and Touring he has also been mentor to many of today’s personalities in our city’s events landscape.

Let’s hear together:

The prognosis for the future of events in the city

How those working in the backroom have been further thrown into the shadows of our industry through lockdown.

How Berlin and Germany are taking to the streets to protest to the government to help tackle this lack of funding -Code Red Alert!

Hear how I am still getting my words muddled up!!


How the MICE industry needs to speak with one voice … (hopefully stronger than mine right now!)

How Berlin now finally has its new airport BER and the first impressions thereof 

(and we wave a fond farewell to TEGEL)

How Peter has – after 18 months of sabbatical – now helps to steer the metamorphosis for the agency Time Change to a successful full-service communications agency, complete with tech tools for registration, virtual events and hybrid meetings.

Finally, how fate and the universe has drawn us together in the most unlikely settings!!

Episode 1: Ivor Cummins

Once again, an exclusive interview with Ivor Cummins, @fatemperor and a left field take on the Corona pandemic, and an look at the Science, Data and Statistics we are seeing today.

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Stick around listeners and hear:

  • The lockdowns and their cost benefit 
  • What traffic lights today mean!!
  • How more testing might automatically include more false positives

The Tiger Horn fable and we ask the question “Who is still blowing the horn today?”

But equally important

What simple environmental systems and interventions can we implement to reduce our risks of infections.

And finally we look at the white elephant in the room, type 2 diabetes, and how we can strengthen our immune system massively through a real food diet and our good friend vitamin D!!!


Ivor Cummins @fatemperor (youtube & twitter)

The Great Barrington Declaration:

Mark Felstead Linkedin:

Disclaimer:  This interview was recorded in mid-October and some of the figures mentioned have changed.  Unfortunately there was a slight delay in editing and releasing, my apologies.