Head of Operations & Events, Euroheat & Power
Silke was appointed to the role of Head of Operations in January 2014, having previously occupied the position of Communications and Events Manager at Euroheat & Power. She is in charge of the oversight and management of the Euroheat & Power office, events organisation and relations with Euroheat & Power members and partners. Silke joined Euroheat & Power in March 2011 from Colloquium Brussels, an international Events agency. Silke possesses more than 10 years of experience in strategic marketing and event organisation.
In the May 2018 edition of Boardroom, Silke was kind enough to answer a few questions, A seasoned professional much loved in our industry, she shares below her views about what it’s like to work for and in associations, and in true Silke style, has loads of interesting insights – her enthusiasm and dynamism are actually infectious. In fact, she just made Successful Meetings’ annual list of impact players: in the Educators section, she is one of the 25 most infuential people in the meetings industry in 2018.
Tell us about your experience as an association professional. What is your background?
Curious, creative and handy by nature, I actually studied restoration of arts, more precisely ceramics. This was great, but at some point, I had to find a job which would pay the bills. Coming from the German speaking minority of Belgium, I’m multilingual, this was my entry door to the job market. In 2000 I was offered a position at UITP as exhibition assistant and I have worked with and for associations ever since.
Serving a multitude of industries, professions and causes, associations can be found everywhere and touch my live and the lives of most people on a daily basis – whether it be through the Council of European Dentists and their advise on the usage of whitening toothpaste, a monthly donation to the Cancer Foundation or an evening’s attendance at a local Greenpeace meeting – impacting our daily life and business even if we do not necessarily realise it!
Working for and with associations is quite unique, as it is an entire community that strives for the success and awareness of a specific topic. When starting at UITP, I immediately felt this special atmosphere and more importantly I could relate to its value and mission: promoting sustainable transport worldwide.
Throughout my career I have learned so much and actually continuing to do so. I’m driven to share what I know, help and provide solution to the ‘members’ who are part of ‘my association’ and ‘my community’. It is not only focused purpose but also focused collaboration, which makes it truly special and very-open minded compared to some other commercial industries. Sharing is caring, we’ll all be better together, and this to me can be facilitated through the work of associations.
As we move along our own daily paths, there is always a risk of losing focus on the bigger picture. There is more to our work than maximizing revenue! All of our activities, including our events, should be meaningful and have lasting impacts. This can be done to a great extend through association work. I take pride to be a small part of improving the way we live, consume and interact.
What do you think has the most challenging been in the past five years?
With my passion of being curious comes another trait: I often seek to improve just about everything I touch and hence I have found it challenging to get used to what I would call slow-paced action. I love fast facts and figures so it has taken me a while to understand that a common understanding and getting everyone on board is simply not fast and healthy for associations…
And from a members’ point of view, you have to understand that the work and time they’re willing to put into the association don’t generally form part of their job description and may not be a priority for them. So it is all about creating a work environment that will allow to retain that deep-rooted motivational focus, while supporting the exploration of new ideas and move forward.
I personally believe this is still a challenge for many associations – how to stretch between the different duties, how to balance the immediate needs, how to get a quicker member consensus etc.
You are a well known moderator and speaker. You’ve done great sessions at the EAS or for ICCA. Have you noticed some changes on a management level? Is there a thirst for education, best practice sharing and networking?
Since joining the association world eighteen years ago, I’ve learned so many new things: colleagues, members, delegates and many others have taught me about associations, the events industry and shared their knowledge and experience with me. I will always be thankful to the people who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to grow, not only within the association world but also as a person.
I have the feeling that more and more associations like ICCA and initiatives such as the European Association Summit and others are aiming to create that special vibe, trigger interest and provide a platform to exchange knowledge, technical skills and experiences. On another hand, I do feel that, from a participant’s point of view, there is now more desire to network, create and contribute. A one-on-one meeting where one can share association management skills or feedback on a supplier etc. will never be replaced by the overflow of information from websites, emails, LinkedIn, Twitter. You will learn more from exchanging with people than from the Internet!
You’ve signed up to Solvay Executive Master the International Association Management this year: would you recommend it to other associations? What do you hope to achieve with it?
By now you have figured out that I have an innate desire to learn, so I embarked on this journey and went back to school because I find it interesting, exciting and personally challenging. So far the programme has been great for exchanging and networking with a wide range of leaders and experts, in and out of the classroom. There is a very open-minded atmosphere where all share their ‘secrets’ of success as well as their failures, allowing everyone to see the things from a different angle and learning together.
After the programme I do hope to be a better ‘generalist’ and have developed my association skills and professionalism further, enabling me to develop into an exceptional communicator and advisor to members and others. So, yes, association professionals who are ready to expand their skill set, to keep learning, to deepen knowledge and to change perspective should definitely look for a similar programme.
Do you foresee any interesting trends for associations in the future?
Nowadays, one can research anything anytime, which, for a curious nature like me, is great. Technology moves so fast, so I’m wondering what it will mean for us in general and for associations specifically. Take artificial intelligence (AI) for example. Less then ten years ago we couldn’t fathom how life would be impacted by smartphones and now we can hardly imagine a life without. I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can not say what the future will be like but I assume AI will become a part of our life and hence of our associations – how much it will influence us, who knows?