Abbit and Silent Seminars Join Forces

The headphones from Silent Seminars have become a rising star at many events, and with their new partnership with Abbit, they are now easily available for rent throughout Europe. Kevin spoke with Duncan Strain and Evelien Aernaudts to discuss the significance of this collaboration and how it will benefit you.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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Hi Evelien, hi Duncan, welcome to the studio.

Hi Kevin, good morning.

Hi Duncan.

Good morning.

You both have very big news. Silent Seminars and ABBIT are going to join forces. And bring the Silent Seminars headphones to the European mainland. Let's put it like that.

Maybe before we dive into the partnership and why, I think it might be interesting for our audience to know who you are.

Maybe Evelyn, ladies first, who is ABBIT?

Okay, thank you.

ABBIT is an audio-visual supplier. We have our headquarter in Beerse, in the North of Antwerp.

ABBIT belongs to the PFL-Group. Of Dominic De Gruyter. And we service global clients since forty years, in Europe and beyond.

Okay, that's impressive. And Duncan, what is Silent Seminars about?

Hi, good morning. So, we're a headphones specialist company. We're a rental firm. So, similar to ABBIT in terms of how we rent audio equipment out. But we specialize in headsets. For, particularly, conference and exhibition industry. Mostly to help event organizers deliver clear audio in a busy environment. Where noise is often an issue.

By using headsets you can block out background noise. And allow people to listen in clarity. In a number of different ways.

I don't want to offend you but there are multiple players in the market, offering this kind of product.

What makes silent Seminars stand out?

Good question.

So, we have a product that sets us apart from most competitors on the market. Which is this virtual event set here. So, this is actually a ten channel headset. So, users can rotate through the channels. With a little flick of a switch...

You can't necessarily see it too clear on the screen there.

What this does is allow event organizers to set up up to ten different theatres or seminars in the same room at the same time. So that people can listen in to those sessions without there being any noise bleed between the rooms. So, it's the highest quality of product out there on the market and that's what sets us apart. We've got the industry experience. We've been doing this for ten years. So, we know the products. We know the market. We tested them all. We know which works the best. And we know how to advise event planners as well on the best way to utilize the technology.


And, you say you need to advise the event organizers. What is typically the advice that you give? When are the headphones a good thing to use?

Let's just say it's a summit, or something like that, where they might have a keynote speaker. And everybody in the room needs to listen to the same thing. We would suggest to the planner: how about going through the PA system? So that everybody in the room can hear it.

But then, when you need to break out into your individual break-out rooms, when you've got three or four presenters all providing a different message at the same time, that's when to use the headsets. And then we advise on how to manage that process. You know, how to hand the headsets out to people. How to move them from area to area. How to make sure the headsets have been cleaned and sanitized. Which, obviously, since the pandemic, has become a much bigger issue than before. When, to be honest, nobody ever used to ask. Now it's top of everybody's agenda.

So, that kind of things really. Just advice on how to manage the actual technology itself. How it can be best used and how to control it on-site.

Is it a durable solution?

Oh yes, good question.

So, yes, the headsets, I mean, they very rarely stop working. They're extremely durable in that regard.

So, I was explaining before actually, off-air: the only reason we kind of stop using headsets, is mechanical failure. Which is very rare. Or if a new product is introduced to the market, that we've tweaked slightly. Then what we'll try and do is move the headsets on, elsewhere. Use them for other projects. Rather than just getting rid of them or throwing them away. We try and be as economical as possible and as sustainable as possible.

Evelien, back to you maybe.

At a certain point, you started talking with Duncan. Let's work on this together. Why was that?

We know Silent Seminars since ten years. Since the very first start of the company, I believe. Because we partner already ten years at IMEX, the meetings and event trade show. And we have a match, the two companies.

ABBIT, as it belongs to the PFL-Group, we have already a wide range of audio-visual products. And this fits in nicely, I would say. And it unlocks, for us, new opportunities, new markets. And we are very happy with that.

And Duncan, if I understood correctly in our pre-talk, you were already serving the European market. But then something happened, which made it very difficult for you.

Yes, the unmentionable.


And we're not talking about the pandemic now. We're talking about Brexit.

Yes, the other one.

That's new, actually. But I mean: Brexit is a big issue here, for many reasons, for many of us. And, you know, we don't necessarily need to talk politics, but it's not something that I voted for. Or I didn't see it as a benefit to the country in any way. And to be honest, everybody that I know, over here in the events industry and my contacts for the last ten years, are in the same position as us. It's put unnecessary barriers in place, for us, actually trading and dealing with Europe.

Yes, we used to service stuff into Europe from here without any red tape, without any issues. Since Brexit that's no longer as simple as it used to be.

I mean, that's not the only reason to want to team up with ABBIT. They're really experienced in what they do. As Evelien said, we've already been working with them for a number of years. So, for me it was a really natural fit. And I feel like both companies can really benefit each other. We've got the kind of knowledge of this part of the industry. But they've also got the contacts over there. And a huge client base to work with and who we can sell this to. And offer it as a real solution.

So, yes, Brexit is one of the biggest drivers, I'd say, for wanting to partner with somebody in Europe. But it's not necessarily the only reason.

All right, I also heard that today you actually got your first shipment of the headphones here in Belgium. So, that will mean that you have local stock and availability to rent these headphones out to organizers across all Europe.

Yes and we also have a headset team in place. They will service the clients. They can reach out to  Silent Seminars or ABBIT. We will have one price. And then the fast and smooth deliveries. Set-up and testing, operations and a final handling process. So, that's all been taken care off.

So, I invite all meeting, event and trade show organizers to reach out to us.

And that can then also be in the complete package with the other services you already provide.

Yes, correct. So, it fits nicely into what we already have in our warehouse. In Beerse, in the north of Antwerp. So, any other AV-services, they can be added into the same service package.

And how is the response from the market to the fact that ABBIT is now offering this kind of products? Do you see that the interest is already growing?

Yes, we started promoting to the fullest. The fact that we have this partnership with Silent Seminars. And we see, already, the first results. With ABBIT we received a first quote for 1.150 headsets for a project in Brussels in June. And I also think Duncan has seen the first results.

Yes, for sure.

I think the news has already, kind of, filtered through. Because the number of inquiries, just in the last couple of weeks, has really gone through the roof.

So, we quoted for jobs in Geneva, Barcelona, Brussels. Naples, I think, as well. Which is a bit of a random one. But all over the place.

So, yes, I think the ball's already rolling. We're really excited about it. We can't wait to get going.


And Duncan, what's the event you're the most proud of, delivering your headphones?

That's a good question. We do lots. There's one that I'm probably most proud of, in terms of the scale. I can't actually mention the client, 'cause we're not allowed to. But it's one of the biggest tech companies in the world, Put it that way. And we deliver, every year, their large summit in London. And they have eight simultaneous seminar rooms. But they're all a thousand seats. And they're literally next to each other, in the event hall. So, the only way they can deliver that is through headsets. If they try to do it with VA speakers, acoustically it wouldn't work. So that one, it's large, in terms of numbers, in terms of the amount of stuff we have to put in place to manage it. And the logistics. But it's the one that always, for me, is the proudest one of the year. When it's all done and dusted.

All right. I want to thank you both for sharing this big news for the European market. If people want to know more or want to rent the headphones, they...

You already mentioned people can reach out to ABBIT. Or to Silent Seminars directly. That doesn't matter.

No and we are together end of May in Frankfurt, at IMEX. So, we share the same stand. I think it's E760. And if they want to see us in action...

Because we will be servicing the headsets of Duncan and of us, at the seminars in the ABBIT trade show. They can see us in action, but they can also see our pretty faces again on the stand.

All right. Thank you both so much for bringing this story.

Okay, you're welcome. Thank you, Kevin.

Thanks guys.

Thank you, Duncan.

And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.