German Event Manager Shares His San Diego Experience

Since July of this year, the San Diego Convention Center has been a host to a meetings professional from abroad. Kai-Uwe Ludwig, Project Manager from the International Congress Center, Munich (ICM), has been visiting San Diego for nearly six months and working as a "Guest" Event Manager for our convention center.

Kai had a coworker who met our Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Mark Emch while attending the AIPC (International Association of Convention Centers) Convention in February. She suggested that Kai contact Mark, saying San Diego would be perfect for an educational sabbatical.

And the rest is history. 

Kai joined the team one week before San Diego Comic-Con International. Event Manager Sylvia Rogalla helped introduce Kai to the building and was a constant guide due to her ability to speak German.

"He overcame his culture shock quickly and dove head first into his American adventure," said Sylvia. "He not only collected knowledge on how we run business but was also able to share his with all of us. I think he enjoyed everything and everyone, and especially the food."

During his time with us, Kai’s supervisor was DeeAnne Snyder, Director of Event Services.

"In the six months he has been here he truly has become part of our team," she said. "He worked on a variety of events – the week he started Comic-Con was moving in, and he was in awe. One of his favorite events he worked was with the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (a natural fit) and the client was thrilled. He spent time in each of our operational departments understanding our processes and also took the opportunity to also shadow our internal partners Smart City, PSAV and Centerplate. He even convinced the Pastry Chef to teach him how to make our homemade chocolate chip cookies!"

We asked Kai to reflect on living in San Diego and working at the San Diego Convention Center.

What did you do when you first started here? Tell me about that experience.

"At first I tried to find my way here in this big building, because this convention center is bigger than our ICM. You have a lot more meeting rooms, more hidden places. I oriented myself in the building and then I walked together with Sylvia Rogalla (she is German and speaks the language), so she showed me where all the rooms are.

I shadowed some event managers. I took part in many meetings. I tried to catch all the terminology, sometimes we have different words for the same thing."

What event stands out to you the most?

"I think the whole world knows the original San Diego Comic-Con. It’s all over the media in Germany too.

I had no mental image of it, but then when I came in on my bicycle in the morning on the first day, and the crowds were in the packed streets. Then I had to get into the building and it was impressive. The big booths were really amazing. It’s a good, important show."

What have you learned? Are there any particular lessons you’ll take back to Germany?

"Well you give a lot of opportunities to talk. Your staff shares a lot of information. The team is involved together, this is something I like. I think here there’s more transparency.

When I see the precon meetings, all of the clients and vendors get involved and have the chance to talk directly. In ICM, we don’t do that as often.

I also like how you celebrate birthdays monthly, and how you show the team appreciation after winning an award. I like how you praise hard work and focus on the good things.

I learned a lot of the language terms I need, my English is getting better, but I still have German words in my mind. Many of our clients come from different countries in Europe, but they speak English, and I feel much more comfortable now."

After six months of shared learning for both Kai and our team, he’ll be heading back to Germany to show off his improved English and share the San Diego Convention Center’s best practices.

"We say good bye with a sad and hopeful heart as now we are all wishing to be a guest manager in Munich to learn from Kai how they run it all," said Rogalla.

"The San Diego Event Services Team is better from having had Kai-Uwe with us for these past six months,” said Snyder. “He may have started as a Guest Event Manager however he is leaving with a place forever in our hearts."

Alec Church's picture
Posted by Alec Church, on December 15, 2017
Between Meetings

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