Silke Schlinnertz

‘Nothing beats knowing you made a difference’

“At Euroheat & Power we believe that ‘together we are better’ and this can and should not be limited to our industry,” says Head of Operations and Events Silke Schlinnertz. She is known for her love for events, sustainability and innovation.

“One of the best parts of being an event organizer is when your hard work becomes a reality: when all your ideas come to life. Every event is special in its own way: in the end, it’s the people that make an event special.”

Silke Schlinnertz

Silke Schlinnertz is Head of Operations and Events at Euroheat & Power, the international network for district energy, promoting sustainable heating and cooling in Europe and beyond. When asked what she considers to be the most special event she has ever organized, Silke’s answer is clear.

She is a people person pur sang. “All good memories derive from experiences with people,” she continues. “Be it colleagues, sponsors or suppliers: we bounce ideas off each other and collaborate on problem-solving to find the best solution. The celebration, going out for drinks, socializing after a big win and supporting each other through the challenges we face… Handling it as a team, win or lose, make each event special to me.”

“I personally enjoy this close-knit feeling created during the event. And with each activity, I hope to have left a positive impact and make people happy. No matter how you measure the success of your event, nothing beats knowing you made a difference.”

Quite handy

Silke Schlinnertz was born in Belgium and studied restoration of arts, ceramics to be more precise: not really a logical study for a career in the association world. “Indeed”, she laughs. “And yet in this world I feel like a fish in the water. I loved my study, but I also needed a job that would pay the bills.”

“I come from the German speaking part of Belgium, which means I’m multilingual. Quite handy in the association world. In 2000, I got the opportunity to work at UITP (Advancing Public Transport) as an exhibition assistant. Since then, I have always worked in the association industry.”

“I worked for different associations such as the European Wind Energy Association, where I was in charge of the SEMICON Europe & Russia Trade Shows. And before I joined Euroheat & Power in 2011, I worked for Colloquium Brussels, as Professional Congress Organiser.”

Euroheat & Power

Euroheat & Power, founded in 1954, is a non-profit association headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.

Silke: “Our members come from over thirty countries around the globe and include national district heating and cooling associations, utilities operating district energy systems, industrial associations and companies, manufacturers, universities, research institutes and consultancies active in this sector. Our core field is advocating sustainable heating and cooling, this is tightly linked to all our other activities: knowledge sharing, awareness creation, research and of course events.”

“We organize many events in different formats. We have events linked to EU funded projects, such as workshops, sessions and final conferences. And we organize networking and educational meetings and special events, like subject-focused lunch/dinner debates, the general assembly, meetings of working groups, board and steering committees – up to 50 pax –, Summer School and Award Ceremonies.”

“And then there is the Euroheat & Power Congress: our flagship event which takes place every other year. The congress discusses major issues of importance for European and Global District Energy sectors, in technical and business areas, from resource assessment and innovative technological design to market and policy developments.”

Nantes

This year, the Euroheat & Power Congress (EHP) took place in Nantes. Why Nantes?

“The Board members opted for Nantes because the city is strongly committed to a fair and sustainable energy transition and was named European Green Capital in 2013. Nantes conducted a major debate on the energy transition based on the principle that, in order to change the scale, projects must emerge and be sustainable at all levels of the territory and this cannot be done without District Energy.”

“The role of local and regional authorities in the fight against global warming must be strengthened and events such as the EHP congress serves as such amplifiers. Nantes is working on additional, new heating plants and sustainable heating networks. The 2019 EHP Congress was a chance for Nantes to showcase their energy policy management on a local scale.”

“Nantes is also the number 2 city in France in terms of job growth and has a booming economy. Furthermore, Nantes is a human-sized city and one of the new and upcoming European destinations.”

Silke Schlinnertz
Silke Schlinnertz: “‘I believe that all of our activities should be meaningful and have a lasting impact’ | Photographer: Caroline Martinot

There is more

“I can’t say it often enough: there is more to our work than maximizing revenue. All of our activities, including our events, should be meaningful and make a lasting impact!”

“When Euroheat & Power leaves a congress destination, we hope that we have contributed to better understanding, growth, inspiration, innovation and opportunities for everyone; the city, the venue, partners, attendees… Our congress is not just another event, but something that mattered to the people involved. At the end of the day, legacy matters, and not just in the workplace.”

“It is therefore not surprising that the most important must-haves for our events are the following: the destination has a concrete sustainable DHC [District Heating and Cooling] plan, energy efficiency interests, is able to offer relevant content through their network and provides a real event experience for the right audience.”

Innovation

Silke Schlinnertz is known in the event industry as someone who loves innovation.

“As one says: ‘either undergo changes or go under!’ Improvements and remaining up to date and, more importantly, being relevant to our community, can only happen if we keep trying out new things. If successful, we keep the ideas for future editions.”

“For example, in 2017 we introduced ‘First Timers meet Euroheat & Power Board of Directors’ and this is still happening. And if not interesting or not adapted, we skip it.”

“We introduced a variety of novelties at the congress in Nantes, such as Jules Verne as master of ceremony, a call for ideas instead of abstracts, a dedicated LinkedIn showcase page and new sponsorship opportunities such as a graffiti wall. We also introduced a new session format: a pitching session with real investors and a city planner in the panel.”

Sustainability

It is clear that Silke’s heart is with both events and sustainability. That has not gone unnoticed. In addition to her work, Silke serves on the Boardroom Magazine advisory board. In 2018, she made it to the Successful Meetings’ annual list of the 25 most influential people in the meetings industry. And this year she joined ‘The 100 Most Influential People in the Event Industry by Eventex’. She recently completed the Executive Master In International Association Management at Solvay Brussels School of Economics & Management. Finally, Silke is also very active in the ICCA community, where she regularly performs as moderator and speaker.

“An absolute must to me personally is creating sustainable events. As for many, this isn’t easy, and the travel creates quite an impact. One of the topics I focus on is to avoid food waste at a maximum. In 2017, I approached ICCA to see if they were interested in doing something about this food waste situation around the world and particularly in the event industry. Now, a few years later, there is an ICCA working group to work on this project and many in the events industry are aware that throwing away food is simply no longer an option. With a little creativity, efficiency and cooperation you can achieve a lot.”

Silke Schlinnertz
Silke Schlinnertz: ‘Everyone, each supplier, venue, etcetera bears his share of responsibility. So, don’t just chase the business’ | Photographer: Caroline Martinot

Share responsibility

And, there are more areas in the conference industry that could be improved, Silke finds. Like caring about the case/content and not just the money.

“Everyone, each supplier, venue, etcetera bears his share of responsibility. So, don’t just chase the business; make sure the client is also the right fit for what you want to achieve in your destination or venue or company.”

“And a word of advice for all suppliers: please do your homework! Try to know (almost) everything about the association, such as size, the association’s approach to events, are they conservative, creative, experimental… does this fit your venue/service? If yes: dig deeper and share ideas of possible activities/services and why they matter. Best blow us away by the level of thought that went into preparing and why it’s the perfect match.”

Together is better

Silke Schlinnertz: “Here at Euroheat & Power we all believe that ‘together we are better’ and this can and should not be limited to our industry. As a sustainable energy association, we try to limit the climate impact for all our event activities and at the same time we strive to deliver a programme that works and satisfies participants and members alike. All attendees must truly benefit from an exceptional learning and networking experience. In order to create such events, we need a motivated event team that works hand in hand with all suppliers involved. That’s why ICCA and other initiatives are important, they allow to exchange, learn and share best practices. I believe that all of our activities, yours and mine, should be meaningful and have a lasting impact. This can be done to a great extent through association work. I take pride to be a small part of improving the way we live, consume and interact.”