Exhibition News feature - The Last Word with David O'Connor

September 20, 2017

Celebrating five years since launching GES’ Amsterdam office, the MD of GES Europe talks event tech, the best lobster in Holland and why the industry is so unique.

What is the biggest topic that needs addressing in the industry?

Technology and its ability to provide detailed post-event data for organisers, exhibitors and visitors. Analysing and interpreting data will better inform our decisions on how we invest both time and money. This kind of technology will drive the industry and bring it up to a more modern standard.
 
What three things would you change in the industry?

1. Improve sustainability; waste levels are simply too high.

2. Bring back more fun; it can get a bit too serious at times.

3. More loyalty.
 
Which speaker has most impressed you?

Paddy Young, director, EUW, Synergy
 
Which member of the industry is least likely to get a round in first?

Our international sales manager here at GES Europe, Tim Abelskamp. He has short arms and very deep pockets. 

What's the worst idea you have seen at an exhibition?

White gangway carpet at a show in October.
 
Favourite restaurant and best dish?

Kok Verhoeven, Tilburg, Holland – the lobster.
 
Most prized possession?

Family, by a long shot.
 
Karaoke song of choice?

‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles. 

Biggest weakness?

Never switching off from work.
 
Who would play you in the film of your life?

Steve McQueen (from The Great Escape era).
 
Proudest moment (in and outside the industry)?

Being part of the team that acquired OPEX Exhibition Services from the Morris Family (then owners of Earls Court and Olympia) in 2000. I began my career at Barrett Brothers in 1984, the in-house stand builders for EC&O, so to become joint owner 16 years later was a nice achievement. My proudest moment above all, is bringing four amazing children into the world and being at the birth for all of them.
 
What do you do to let off steam?

I love listening to music, it enables me to switch off. Also fooling around with my two young sons which gives me huge energy, which I need, as they are getting stronger. I also play the electric guitar really loud, but badly.

 
What's the best putdown you've heard in the industry?

I don’t have a specific putdown but I do get tired of the term ‘contractor’. Our clients employ GES as a strategic partner – working side by side to deliver inspirational spaces and experiences that create lasting, meaningful memories. We are privileged to partner with some of the most talented and exciting organisers and brands in the industry and relish working as an extension of their team.
 
Tell us something we don't know about you?

I use to be a policeman, based in Bermondsey, so had to be as tough as nails in those days to patrol those streets.
 
Where is the best place for a nightcap and what are you drinking?

360 bar in Istanbul – gin and tonic.


Worst item of clothing you own?

Ajax football shirt. It was a gift from an ex-friend!
 
Describe the events industry.

An amazing place to meet inspirational people and to work as a true partner with colleagues and clients to create stunning events.
 
Favourite place to go at the weekend?

Island of Terschelling, off the north coast of Holland.
 
Worst job you've had?

Part-time office cleaner. I had to work three hours each morning, starting at 05.30am and from Monday to Friday which I did during my student years. Good thing was it kept me out of the bars late at night!
 
Who is your hero/inspiration?

My old chairman of Earls Court and Olympia and P&O, Lord Sterling. He was a self-made man and hugely successful and was an inspiration to talk to.
 
What's your favourite country to visit?

My native Ireland. You will not meet friendlier or more hospitable people than the Irish. I am proud to be green.

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