My Event World - Martin van Keken jr

Martin van Keken jr, founder and CEO of MVKA Productions, on following in his father's footsteps and the Dutch Masters Ball.

My Event World - Martin van Keken jr
My Event World - Martin van Keken jr

I got into the events industry because... originally from the Netherlands, I'm a third-generation hospitality and special events professional. My grandfather and father were both restaurateurs and organised events, and I followed in their footsteps, holding executive positions within the family-owned hospitality companies. Upon immigrating to Canada in 1983, I launched a catering company, which I sold five years later and founded MVKA Productions.

I have worked here since... I set up MVKA Productions 20 years ago.

I was attracted to this particular role because... I wanted to be part of the overall event planning process and logistics, the architect of events. Making the leap from catering to event production was a natural evolution for me.

Not many people know that... I am a chef at heart.

My worst experience at an event was... any event where you can tell the organiser didn't put their heart into it or are satisfied with average quality. You need to put yourself in the shoes of the guests - walk through the event as a guest before it starts and assess what the experience will be like. If it is anything less than spectacular on all levels, change it.

If there's one thing I've learnt it's... the key to a happy and successful life is to have good and positive people around you.

The best event I've been involved in was... the Dutch Masters Ball at Vancouver Art Gallery. We invited more than 400 guests, including members of the Dutch Royal Family, and brought in top Michelin chef Robert Kranenborg. The evening included a champagne reception, a private viewing of the art collection, live auction, and entertainment consisting of bagpipes, Dutch choir and the Dal Richards Band.

If I could do it all over again I would... not change a thing.

The one thing I can't stand is... people not taking accountability for their actions.

Outside of work I spend my time... with my family and friends, playing tennis, running, cooking and entertaining, travelling, enjoying arts and culture.

If money were no object I would... continue doing what I do now. Life is not about how much you have, but what you do with what you have.

The one event I will never miss is... EIBTM. I attend every year and find it to be one of the best networking events in the industry.

The recession has meant that... budgets have been reduced and companies have to justify, now more than ever, the return on investment. It has also made many companies begin to question internal expenses and productivity, which in my opinion, should have always been questioned and assessed on a regular basis. It's just sound business practice. 

The next 12 months will be... full of exciting, technical change that will mark the transformation of the events industry as we know it.

If I could switch places with anyone else in the industry it would be... the youngest, brightest and most creative student currently in arts/theatre production.

If I ruled the event industry I would... standardise fire codes around the globe, require hotels to build ballrooms with minimum 10metre ceiling, and have all technical and production equipment made wireless.


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