Rick Wade, general manager, Neumann & Müller, Middle East, talks about Facebook, the rise of LEDs and why new Media Content Management software could set a new pace for corporate events.
S&S: Give us an overview of Neumann & Müller’s current activities in the Middle East.
Wade: Neumann & Müller are suppliers of sound, light, video and conference equipment to the Middle East on a rental basis and for installations.
We supply content for events and have our own purpose built studio in Munich manned by technicians who are very well respected within the industry. Not to forget a wealth of highly experienced technicians at our disposal for the Middle East throughout our European branches.
As someone who is part of an international organisation, what do you think this region could do differently to improve the quality or efficiency of production?
On the subject of quality, we pride ourselves on the quality of our equipment and make a certified mechanical/electrical check every year to German standards.
We spend a lot of time on the education of our staff and crew; most of our employees have undergone a three year apprenticeship set by the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry and during this period are educated in N&M’s standards and practices.
As you can imagine this level of training doesn’t happen overnight, we have been in existence for 30 years so this type of high maintenance and education probably puts us at the top in our field. To improve matters in this region, grass roots education would need to be implemented.
The SAE (school of audio engineering) has courses here but of course only in audio, as the name suggests. At some point the issue of educating technicians in the UAE has to be addressed to get away from the “learning on the job” method.
How closely do you follow what your European counterparts are doing?
We are all in the same network so we know exactly what is happening in Europe and how it is being done. We implement all the European work methods and practices here in the UAE.
One interesting development in the past two years is our mechanical R&D department finding special solutions for specific requirements on events, such as our Palm Tree lights for the Middle East Film Festival.
What would you identify as growth areas in the local industry?
In 2011 we have used quite a bit of LED equipment as in screens and high-end lighting. This seems to be a growth area for us and as the Middle East becomes more power consumption-conscious, LED lighting will become even more popular. This is an area N&M is interested in pursuing.
How is 2012 shaping up for you and the company so far and what are you working on?
I think it’s a bit too early to tell how the year will pan out, as for now we are very happy with the way things are looking, it has been a good start to the year January has us fully booked out with the Qatar Motor Show and Arab Health amongst various other corporate events we have already had to bring in a couple of containers of materials from Germany to cover this period.
What do you think is the biggest challenge faced by event professionals in the region? How could it be overcome?
Payment issues are a big problem. I don’t think I have to elaborate on this, everyone in the business reading this knows exactly what I mean. Last minute orders for equipment and last minute changes, even though the venues are booked months in advance, can cause headaches.
What have been some of the technical innovations that have most changed the way you work or what you deliver?
I don’t really think there has been anything new recently that has come along to make our work any better; technology moves along fast in some directions and slow in others, there will always be some little gimmick or gadget that gets designed to help out somewhere but on the whole I think the industry is just ticking along as it does.
Although we have been using 3D projection for some years now last year was the first time we used it for a large scale event with a large audience at the Munich Exhibition Centre. I can for see that this kind of presentation will find favor in large scale events as this technology becomes more popular in the domestic domain.
What is the biggest trend or hottest product that you are working with at the moment?
We have just starting trial runs on a web based Media Content Management Software system (including hardware and servers) for symposiums, conventions, congresses and conferences, anywhere where you have lots of delegates with lots of presentations.
Let’s imagine, a weeklong convention with 20,000 visitors, 50 breakout rooms, 200 speakers with a total of 500 presentations plus all the associated files. This system can handle this in real time and do a lot more like web streaming, registration management, automated distribution and redistribution of files to take care of those last minute changes and control over digital room signage.
Do you think working alongside specialist suppliers or ‘one-stop-shop’ type firms who cover the full spectrum of production is more advantageous to the end client? Why?
Yes I do, we can offer the client the same professional service in all fields, in breaking up the production they are left open to the different standards and levels of personnel and equipment.
Who is the most demanding, or most pleasant, artist/client you’ve ever worked with?
I wish I could answer that; I have worked with both demanding and pleasant clients and artists!
What have been the most memorable projects you’ve worked on and why?
Since I have been in this industry I have worked on hundreds of projects, it would be so hard to pick one and say it was the most memorable, however if I did have to choose one it would have to be working for Michael Jackson on the History tour.
I was working for Vari-lite Europe in those days working as a lighting technician, it was an 18 month world tour which took me too many great locations, and we stayed in the best hotels and were treated really well.
As the show so very much a theatrical stage show we were all given the opportunity to get more involved the show, I had a number of jobs to do apart from looking after my lights, one was to push out and sit behind a piece of set on stage another was to hold his feet from under the stage during one of the many tricks he performed, all an experience to remember.
What’s the one piece of equipment or software that you couldn’t live without?
I think it would have to be Facebook, it has allowed me to reconnect to some old friends from before I came to Dubai. I think social network platforms will develop and change to take on more widespread roles in the business world.