Niek Krebbers (Jaarbeurs): ‘Our innovations help organisers be more successful’

In January 2023, we will find out whether Jaarbeurs Utrecht has won the title of the Netherlands’ Best Convention Location of 2022. It could happen. After winning silver last year, Jaarbeurs has again been nominated this year. “It would be the crowning glory of the way in which we host conventions and events in a sustainable and innovative way”, says Niek Krebbers, Sales Manager of Jaarbeurs.

Royal Jaarbeurs Utrecht is one of the best known event locations in the country. It is beautifully located in the heart of the vibrant ‘Dom City’, within walking distance of Utrecht Central Station. Krebbers is proud of ‘his’ Jaarbeurs, which has shown itself to be flexible and dynamic. “A lot has happened, especially during the recent health crisis. Suddenly, we had to switch gears because we could no longer meet in person. Then we discovered online meetings. We built our own studio, which has really become a part of Jaarbeurs.”

According to Krebbers, there was a moment when they feared that the existing concept of live exhibitions, meetings and events would completely disappear. “We know now that that’s not going to happen. Since March 2022, everything is allowed again, and since then we have received an incredible number of requests for live events. People want to meet each other face-to-face. Live events often revolve around informal meetings, and you can’t do that with an online event. Since you can inspire each other and make connections in person, Jaarbeurs continues to focus on live meetings, but will now add something online as well. So far, this has resulted in new trends and developments. We combine the best of both worlds in hybrid concepts.”

Hybrid combination

As an example, Krebbers mentions the multifunctional use of speakers who are already at the convention. “If you also bring them to our studio to create extra content, then you can enjoy them all year round, for example, by using them on one of our online platforms, which we have also developed. You can then use this online content in the months before, building up anticipation to a single live event as highlight where everything comes together. That means that you communicate with your contacts in a completely different and innovative way. You have an ongoing dialogue with your target group and can build a community using live and online moments. Corona has taught us that you should not peak at one specific moment but keep in touch with your contacts 365 days a year. We’ve accelerated this new concept, and the organisers are gratefully embracing it.”

Innovative pioneering

Innovative pioneering suits Jaarbeurs, says Krebbers. “We want to be more than rentable square metres. We often get asked about capacity, sound systems and parking. Those are the basic conditions of any venue. As organisers ourselves, we want to offer added value to our clients, based on a genuine interest and passion for our profession. Jaarbeurs has been around for 105 years. We have gained experience and knowledge, which we are happy to use to help organisers with all their wishes and needs. We want to know who the guests are and also which objectives the organisation has. What do you want to achieve as an organiser? From that starting point, we will work together, see what is needed, and provide support to achieve those objectives. Using tips and tricks, we want to surprise, trigger and inspire organisers (and even participants). In doing so, we help our clients be more successful.”

Smart technology

“In recent years, we’ve invested substantially in smart technology. We’ve launched our own Jaarbeurs Live app, which we mainly use for exhibitions. This app combines several functions, such as ticketing, parking and indoor navigation. The exhibition halls are fitted with some 100 beacons. They don’t know who you are, but they know where you are. The Earth’s magnetic field uses the compass in smartphones in combination with Bluetooth. The app sees where you are and shows you the way to your favourite exhibitor. As for exhibitors, the app offers interesting commercial possibilities. With this application, Jaarbeurs won the UFI Digital Innovation Award 2022. We also have large digital screens in the buildings that display messages for visitors, which companies can also use for digital adverts to a selected target group”, explains Krebbers.

Integrated sustainability

The subject of sustainability is also a point of focus that Jaarbeurs places increasingly higher on the list, says Krebbers. “It’s important to us and the organisers. We’ve been actively integrating sustainability into all facets of the company and have gained much knowledge about it. We’re happy to share this with the organisers. We won’t tell them what to do, but from experience, we can tell them how to integrate sustainability in their event. You will also see sustainability throughout our business operations, such as sustainable stand construction, use of water taps, planting trees for each booking and separating waste. We won the UFI Sustainability Award 2022 for making our catering offering more sustainable and how we reduce food waste at Jaarbeurs. We’re proud of it.”

Experience and results

Jaarbeurs works in an innovative and sustainable way. But basically, it’s also about the location. Jaarbeurs is in the centre of vibrant Utrecht, which is practical when you want to connect your event to the city. It also has a wealth of suitable halls for an (online) event, meeting, convention, exhibition or corporate event. “There’s a solution for every experience. What you choose really matters. Do you want to sit with 10 people in a U-shape setup in an ordinary meeting room or with 10 people on the stage of Beatrix Theater? The experience and results will be different”, says Krebbers.

As locations, Beatrix Theater, Media Plaza, Julianagebied and Supernova are very popular for networking and knowledge transfer. An exhibition or event is usually held in the 11 halls, with a total of 100,000 square metres. “In fact, everything fits in Jaarbeurs. Depending on your goal, you can combine rooms for different parts of your programme. The combination of all the spaces to achieve your objective is what makes Jaarbeurs unique.”

Interview: Sjoerd Geurts

Niek Krebbers: “Jaarbeurs works in an innovative and sustainable way.”