Steffie Limère, gave up her dream internship in Belgium to create her own event fairytale in Odense, Denmark. Today her passion and skills in event management are recognised internationally and audiences greet her with standing ovations. You may already know her as a head organiser of TEDxOdense. Today we talk about the different sides of life in Odense, event management and ideas worth sharing.
What led you to Odense?
I moved to Odense in August 2013 for a couple of reasons. At the beginning I kept saying that I moved here for my studies, but actually I wanted to be with a person I liked. I was about to graduate in Belgium and I always wanted to start working with events, but for that, one needs two things: a network and credibility that someone hands you over their idea and trust you to create their event. I didn't have those skills yet and so I thought maybe studying a bit more would help me along the way. My boyfriend at the time Mads, was telling me about an Innovation and Entrepreneurship programme he was doing at EAL and it turned out that him and the studies are the reasons I moved to Denmark and both did work out!
It is going to be five years anniversary of you living in Denmark in August. How do you like living in Odense?
I didn't like it in the beginning. I moved here from Antwerp, which by its vibes and size is very similar to Copenhagen. It was very hard for me to move to Odense, where, 5 years ago, felt like nothing was happening. Then things started popping up slowly, like International Community Odense. I remember going to an event about culture shock and Danish culture. It opened my eyes! Before, people kept telling me “Oh, Belgium and Denmark, the cultures are not that different”, but they definitely are!
What was the biggest cultural shock for you?
It was all the little things that I felt annoyed by or the fact that I didn't know what it was.
For example, there is no caffé culture here, so it is hard to meet new people. It was really hard for me to make friends and that's something that I have never had problems with before coming to Odense. Also not knowing the language made me feel quite isolated.
The first two to three years I really struggled, but I stayed. I postponed my studies for half a year in order to be able to do my dream internship at Tomorrowland in Belgium. I thought that there must be some kind of project that I could do during the six months before my internship would start, so I invited Adam Montandon for a coffee. He was always that type of a teacher who had a big influence on the whole class. He told all these stories about all the people that he knew around the world and the projects he has been doing and you could just feel the inspiration.
I ended up being his evil assistant, I just sat next to him working day after day and then one day he gave me access to his mailbox and his whole network on a golden platter - “here, go with it, see if you find something interesting”.
What did interest you the most?
I remember Adam asked me one day - “what is your passion, what do you want to do?” I told that I have this internship lined up and that's what I really want to work with - not necessarily music events, but bringing people together and creating a whole different experience. That kind of events where you can spark something inside of people. Why don’t we make our own event? Adam asked me and that was the turning point, where I had to choose, either to go back to Belgium and do the planned internship or stay in Odense and create my own “Tomorrowland”.
It was nerve-wracking to make that call, to say no to Tomorrowland. Soon after I was hired my EAL to organise Factory of Imaginationand TEDxEAL. For me it is still difficult to believe how the school gave a huge budget to a 23 year old to create two big events in 4 months. This would've never happened in Belgium! Later EAL and me went separate ways and I decided that TEDxOdense will be my first project as a self employed event manager and it's going to be all or nothing. And it paid of because the first TEDxOdense was sold out.
What motivates you the most in your daily work?
Definitely the many volunteers I work with, which help to make everything happen. Half of the time I work on TEDxOdense alone and the other half, I work with a group of passionate volunteers. We have a core team of 25 people, who work in different teams - marketing, partnership, event management and speakers. I have daily meetings with many of them, so being able to share ideas and work with so many talented people really keeps me going.
The theme of this year’s TEDxOdense is My Other Side. What can we expect?
This year we want the audience to look into themselves and ask what other sides do I have to explore? We want to help you explore some of your other sides by the help of the speakers showing the other sides of theirs, but also other sides of topics that one might already know. It is all about ideas worth spreading and introducing you to things that you don't encounter on a daily basis. This year we have a very diverse programme and hope to inspire a very broad audience.
What is your personal most memorable TEDx experience?
It was the talk I did at TEDxTUM in Munich. I'm very glad I did it, because now I know what my speakers have to go through. I have never prepared for something so much in my life. As a speaker you are asked to put your whole life's work into 18 minutes or less and it's way harder than people would imagine. Like this I could talk for hours, but when you only have 18 minutes, you need to choose every word very carefully and the amount of practice that goes into it is insane. It's definitely the most memorable experience,
Looking back to TEDxOdense last year, Adam and I went on the stage at the end of the event and got a standing ovation from 500 people. That’s where it felt “Wow, we did it!” It felt great being on the stage together with all the volunteers, knowing that we pulled it off despite all the ups and downs that we ran into.
What are your plans for the future and other projects you are working on?
With my event company Unfolding Events I work on a bunch of other events, Last year I worked on Thinkers50 European Business Forum in Odense and after I was invited to organise Thinkers50 in London in November last year. If you don't enjoy event management, it can get very stressful to organize a bigger event and that's where people ask for my help, because I really enjoy organising. I love that I can use my skills that I've learned from making events like Factory of Imagination or TEDxEAL and TEDxOdense to help other organizations.
What would you advice people who would like to work with event? Where to start, how to find yourself?
I learned a lot from volunteering at different events, and keeping that goal in mind about organising my own events. Before TEDxEAL I never made an event for more than a hundred people.
I would suggest to start while you're studying - pick an event that you are passionate about, organise as many events as you can, just to get those rookie mistakes out of the way. I would say, have your eyes and ears open, listen and ask questions and don’t forget to write things down. Find people that are already working in the field and test if it is something for you, because you can only know when you're actually doing it.
What I really love about events and what I never had thought about before is working with volunteers. That was never in my idea of making events. I always thought that I would be a part of an events organization like Tomorrowland or Secret Cinema, but when I started organizing my own events all this passion for working with volunteers appeared that I could've never imagined.
What side of Odense do you like the most?
About a year ago I started a women's network called Women of Tomorrow together with some other ambitious female entrepreneurs, because I wanted to meet more ambitious working women who love their job and want to meet like-minded people. We meet once a month and socialize, whether it’s having a dinner or playing laser tag. I think we are about 100 people in a Facebook group right now. So what I really love about Odense is that there are more and more things happening and there are so many interesting people here, there's this incredible international network of people with amazing skills and stories.
Get to know more about TEDxOdense on the website.