Interview with entrepreneur Jochen Schweizer

Slowly things are looking up. Since the beginning of June, the planning and execution of MICE events is possible again! Nevertheless, we should take the time to look back and take a closer look at how our partners have fared in recent months. The Convention Bureau Munich had the opportunity to talk to entrepreneur, media mogul and extreme sportsman Jochen Schweizer in this regard.

Mr Schweizer, how did you fare during the Corona crisis?

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, we have been particularly suffering from the effects of the pandemic, which have hit three sectors of the economy in particular: 1. the events industry, 2. the hospitality industry and 3. tourism. We hit the bull's eye three times: The organization of events was prohibited for a long time, and companies also need planning security for the time after the lockdown, which is currently not given. Our restaurant "Schweizer's Kitchen" was closed, apart from the new business area "Take-Away and Delivery“ and has only recently been allowed to reopen. And our classic, tourist weekend visitors, who normally redeem their experience vouchers in large numbers, have unfortunately been slow to come through the doors, which were closed until recently.

But: I am convinced that a crisis is always also an opportunity and can often be the driver for innovation and progress. We have used the supposed standstill to expand and invest in new business areas and develop new technologies to emerge stronger from the crisis in the end. For example, we set up a complete TV studio in our "virtual reality" event hall in the Jochen Schweizer Arena and have been streaming digital and hybrid corporate events ever since.

What do you think will change in terms of events post-Corona?

In addition to classic "live" events, purely digital and hybrid events - as a mixed form - will also have a fixed place in the event calendar. "Hybrid" is an event format that would certainly not have been so popular without "Corona" - and it will not disappear again after Corona. For cost reasons alone, it makes sense for a company to gather only 20 to 200 people in one place - while at the same time several thousand are digitally connected worldwide.

In the future, I see the training and coaching seminars of the Jochen Schweizer Academy in connection with avatars of the coaches in virtual rooms that can be entered via VR glasses. That sounds a bit like dreams of the future. But it is not: together with rhetoric trainer Michael Ehlers, we are organizing the iRhetorik seminar, which supplements and combines the real presence of Michael and me with week-long training sessions using our avatars in digital space. Without this crisis, we probably would not have invested in these new technologies with this consistency and amount.

What strengths do you see in Munich as an event destination?

Jochen Schweizer: The Munich region is a positive figurehead for Germany worldwide. The city is world-famous for its culture and tradition as well as the combination of innovation and down-to-earthiness. But also, for its economic success and its cosmopolitanism and hospitality. Despite being a "big city", there is always a feeling of home here. The countless leisure opportunities and the wide range of cultural activities make Munich a perfect event destination.  

What kind of MICE events have been held at the arena in the past or are coming up in the future?

With the Jochen Schweizer Arena, we have created a unique location for corporate events. By combining meeting rooms, event space and experiences such as indoor surfing, wind tunnel flying, climbing or virtual reality, as well as the gastronomic offer in the in-house restaurant "Schweizer's Kitchen", the arena offers an all-round package for extraordinary, customized corporate events, teambuilding, and incentives.

Since last year, the Arena has also offered the right infrastructure for digital and hybrid events. The numbers speak for themselves: since opening in March 2017, we have delighted over one million customers here and held over one thousand corporate events. Together with Art-Invest Real Estate, the Jochen Schweizer Arena is now being expanded into a neighbourhood with a conference centre and hotel.

What makes a congress/meeting special for you?

As a keynote speaker, I now give many speeches digitally and increasingly hybrid. Where there used to be hundreds, sometimes thousands of faces directed at me, there are now cameras. That was a big adjustment for me at first, because my energy and spontaneity are also based on interaction with the audience and the direct feedback I receive and often demand. With a fully digital speech - as I often do now - this momentum falls away; I move in a vacuum.

Only from my experience can I try to sense the people who follow me digitally. Although the Corona crisis will certainly have accelerated digitalization, I am convinced that real experiences, real encounters - from person to person - cannot be replaced by anything. We are social beings, and communication is much more than the transmission of data, facts, and concepts.

That is why, for me, a speech, an event, or a meeting is primarily about the personal component, the direct exchange with my audience, with colleagues and experts. These encounters become special when they are remembered through shared experiences. For example, a joint flight in the wind tunnel or surfing on a standing wave.


June 2021


Photos: Jochen Schweizer


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