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The ICEF Virtual Berlin 2020 - Our Personal Experience

Published Bernice on Thursday, November 5, 2020

ICEF Virtual Berlin 2020

I’m going to start from the very beginning and tell you all a little story that I’ve told countless partners and industry friends over the years...because it is a story I have fond memories of. 7 years ago, exactly on this day 7 years ago, I walked into the Intercontinental Berlin for the very first time. I had heard many things about the famous ICEF Berlin Workshop and from what people had said, it seemed like the place to be for the International Education Industry. 

I fondly remember a good industry friend of mine (and to who I choose to dedicate this piece of writing as we’ve sadly lost him a mere few months ago), Augusto Merlini, who with smiling eyes and a lovely Italian accent had told me, “Bernice, everyone who’s anyone in International Education must go to ICEF Berlin”. So I took my friend’s advice and made it to ICEF Berlin and to the Intercontinental’s front door. And everything Augusto had said was true. I was overwhelmed. I walked in….and walked out again because at first glance it was too much to take. But then I walked in again….and since then I couldn’t get enough of this event.

Lynne joined me two years later, and the same thing happened to her. Amidst this year’s turmoil, struggles, challenges and many, many moments of almost giving up, there was one thing we looked forward to….ICEF Berlin. So you can imagine our disappointment when (and for very good reason) it was cancelled this year. On one hand we totally understood and agreed that it was the best decision possible given the circumstances…..but on the other hand we just couldn’t imagine a virtual ICEF Berlin.

So last week we started using the ICEF platform to set up virtual meetings and all of a sudden we started getting excited again…

Everything was so well organised...the platform, the meetings schedule, the requests, the variety of education providers, agents and service providers….it suddenly looked like it was going to be OK after all.

And then Monday came, and the first meetings started…

And by the time the first virtual bell rang to indicate that it was “time to move on to the next meeting”, we felt like we had transcended space and were back in the corridors of the Interconti, or networking with people at the (virtual) Marlene Bar. 

The only difference was that we were giving our legs a break and not running around in heels!

Over the past days we published various live broadcasts on our social media channels - another aspect that we proudly launched specifically at ICEF Berlin - speaking about various aspects of the ICEF platform, or the way meetings were going, of the people we were meeting and the feedback they were giving us…

And speaking of feedback, everyone we spoke to was more than impressed - impressed with the organisation, impressed with the efficiency and also impressed with how “it still felt like ICEF Berlin after all”.

So as I ended my final meeting on Wednesday afternoon I was surprised (but not surprised at the same time) to have that usual end-of-ICEF-Berlin feeling, which only people in our industry who have had the ‘ICEF Berlin’ experience, can understand. Part of me was glad that three busy days of early mornings and late nights had come to a close (or that I could stop negotiating with my dogs to behave during meetings and webinars); but the other part of me was sad that these past three days, which had been the closest thing to normality I’d felt in seven months, had come to an end.

Thank you ICEF!

So as the curtain falls on ICEF Virtual Berlin 2020, I look towards the next year with hope, with ambition and with faith that things will be different for a while, but that we will meet face to face again. And even though I might have a moment of hesitation as I enter the Intercontinental again, knowing that some things will never be the same again, I’m sure that just like 7 years ago, I will pluck up the courage and walk through the front door knowing that the next time we meet will be more special then, because we would have made through this year together.

As the ICEF Virtual Berlin event comes to an end, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to ICEF for giving us one of the few inspiring and positive work moments we’ve had in 2020. If there is something that we have learnt throughout this past, hellish (might I add) year, it’s that people in our industry are perseverant; people in our industry are strong; and that people in our industry do not give up, simply because they do what they do with love and passion.

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