Initially established in Germany in 1981 by engineering students Jürgen Neumann and Eberhard Müller, N&M began in a humble office and warehouse in Düsseldorf, providing PA systems for outdoor radio productions, and equipment rental.
“Soon, the company was working on sound and event technology planning for international corporations, medium-sized enterprises and agencies, covering all aspects of first-class event technology for clients in Germany, Europe and the rest of the world,” Jens Gießler, senior business partner and general manager says. “It was in 2005 that the company recognised the incredible potential that the Middle East offered, deciding to open an office in the region, specifically in Dubai, because of the fast-growing market.”
Just like today, Jens says, “clients in 2005 expected creative event solutions on a big scale, and there were very few companies in the Middle East producing that service at the quality we could – and still do – offer. Over the years, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to work on various amazing projects in the region, partnering with international agencies and hiring the world’s best crews.”
In the beginning
Bringing a European business to the Middle East in 2005 was not without its challenges. “We started in a tiny office, and then a small warehouse, and moved to our larger, existing warehouse – near Dubai’s Expo 2020 site – in 2018,” Jens says. “Being one of the few international event technology companies in Dubai when we arrived, finding the right partners for logistics, stagehands, and other specialists was challenging, and we had to pour a lot of time and efforts into system integration and technology for events. Working in a market with a strong seasonal focus on the complete opposite end of the spectrum to Europe in terms of temperature was also something we had to get used to. Our teams adapted events to the landscape incredibly well, especially considering many of them – at the time – had never worked in the region before.”
Of course, working in the event technology industry in a new country with new customs, culture and weather, the N&M team had some memorable moments – especially at the start.
“When two of our then production managers, Bill Pugh, and Klaus Ostermayer did their first Dubai site visit for special rigging on the roof of a building in DIFC in the middle of July, which is peak summer in the UAE, they were absolutely soaked in sweat within ten minutes, “Jens recalls. “They had never experienced heat and sun like that in their lives, and it was quite a thing for them.”
Coming from an established European market offered some great benefits and advantages, however, which the N&M team was quick to adapt to its business in the UAE.
“Being a German company, we had a strong engineering background and standardised service protocols for our equipment, which really helped us stand out as experts in the market,” Jens remembers. “We were fortunate that we already had a great network in Germany and internationally, as well as vast experience working as creative partners for agencies. We really wanted to be involved in the creative processes with our Middle Eastern clients, and our experience helped us motivate them to offer us freedom when it came to taking on their events.”
World-class events on an international stage
“Dubai was the perfect spot for N&M to set up shop thanks to the emirate’s excellent infrastructure, great global positioning, the fact that it’s an English-speaking country, and – perhaps most importantly – because of its ambition and the grand scale at which its leadership and companies want to showcase their events,” Jens says. “The latter, especially, offered inspiring and appealing challenges we couldn’t refuse. We loved the idea of being able to really push the envelope and create events that had never been seen before.”
Speaking about some of the highlights N&M Dubai has enjoyed over the past few years, Jens says, “In 2005, we were honoured to deliver the inauguration of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), through our partner event management agency, HQ Worldwide Shows (HQWS), formerly HQ Creative. Because the client liked the result of our combined efforts, N&M ended up providing the technical support to HQWS for DIFC’s anniversary celebrations for the three consecutive years. In 2013, we also helped realise the New Year’s Eve celebrations at the Burj Khalifa by providing the video elements. This was one of the most impressive events we’ve ever taken care of.”
Jens adds that the Nu Skin Greater China Gala Dinner Show, showcased in Dubai in 2014, was one of the company’s most challenging and rewarding events, hosting the “largest party of travellers ever to visit the emirate, specifically 16,000 of Nu Skin’s Asian sales staff. The event was situated in the middle of the desert, with no firm surface, and – being in April – temperature fluctuations of up to 40° Celsius, as well as freak weather conditions, including thick fog and a storm.”
N&M was hired to realise the lighting and video concepts as well as the entire communication system, and Jens says a highlight of the multimedia show was “two concentrically arranged ellipses supported by an 85-metre-wide truss arch spanning the entire stage. We designed the two 27- and 19-metre-wide screens so that they could be moved with a chain hoist during the show, and seven projectors per screen could display their images symmetrically from the east and west side, from where the audience was watching the production. They witnessed the impressive images, which we projected onto three curtains of water.
“The 44th UAE National Day event, held for Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, was also particularly memorable,” Jens adds. “For the event, we helped transform a part of the Dubai Creek in the Design District into an illuminated wonderland. Thanks to the finely attuned light design, we were able to seamlessly integrate the 120x50 metre show area into the breath-taking surroundings. It was designed so that the 4,000-plus audience could follow the 45-minute show in and on the water from a 100-metre-wide grandstand with a view of the Burj Khalifa, with our team protecting our equipment against the moisture – above the lights – with specifically designed ‘air domes’. ”
Jens says the show not only featured “Dubai’s dhows (traditional wooden boats) in light form, but also LED-adorned flyboards powdered by jet ski, a total of 400 international artists, as well as a herd of thoroughbred horses galloping over a stage installed under the surface of the water, giving the appearance that they were running on the water.”
N&M Dubai must be doing something right, because the company has received several awards since arriving in this bustling city, including Supplier of the Year in 2015 and Best Employer of the Year in 2018 from the Middle East Events Awards, and Best Event Technology Provider in 2017 as well as Interactive Communication Product of the Year, come2interact, at the UAE Business Awards.
Moving into the future
Today, the N&M team continues to work on pioneering international events that push the boundaries in event technology. “We’re incredibly fortunate to have loyal clients and fantastic events that we can continue to exercise our creativity and technical skills with,” Jens says.
Speaking about how the events industry has changed over the past 15 years, and where it’s going, Jens remarks that “hybrid event formats, on-site and remote events are trending right now, with clients looking for more complex productions that require teams to really have a good grasp of information and communications technology (ICT) knowledge and be exceptionally organised so they can manage events on time and budget.”
While the UAE continues to be a key market for N&M, Jens says there is scope for movement into the rest of the region. “Saudi Arabia is a promising space, and we’re fortunate that – because we’re internationally positioned – we already have a team that can dedicate itself to projects there. Having said that, our current focus is definitely in Dubai, especially with Expo 2020 around the corner, which will also feature events that we are really looking forward to working on.”
Looking to the future, Jens says that N&M clients can continue to expect the world’s best events, with improved service delivery. “We’re continually training our people and hiring the best in the business to ensure we deliver the quality that our clients expect. Moving forward, we’re actively working on elevating our service in all areas, from IT to planning and new developments, like tracking, RSI and ICT. In 2020, thanks to an increase in the number of events we’ll be working on, we’ll also be hiring more project managers, and continue to nurture our relationships with our client agencies to ensure success for all stakeholders.”