Virtual events have found dominance in the time of COVID-19, but how does a digital event run smoothly – and how do you measure the success of a digital event? Veemal Gungadin, CEO of GlobalSignin, discusses that and how the GEVME Live digital events platform works during his conversation with Christine Wong from BFM, the presenter.
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Christine Wong, Radio Jockey, BFM: You’re listening to Open for Business here on BFM 89.9. Virtual events have gone dominant in the time of COVID-19, but how does a digital event run smoothly? How do you even measure the success of a digital event? I have Veemal Gungdadin, CEO of GlobalSignin to talk about that and how their live digital event platform works.
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: Hi Christine, thanks for having me on the show. I’m from GlobalSignin. As tech companies, traditionally, we’ve been doing very much of Event Registration technologies and then providing technologies for events on sites, very much at physical events. But these days, virtual events or digital events like some of them like to call it, is pretty much what’s possible out there. And next, what we’re looking at is really about hybrid events. So as a company, we’ve seen ourselves within this period, basically coming up with new offerings. One of our flagship products called GEVME, and with our latest versions, what we call GEVME Live which is really a platform that enables virtual and digital events.
Christine Wong, Radio Jockey, BFM: I find it so interesting that you guys shifted from doing the sort of only tech side of the event and now events have become a part of tech. So, obviously, the pandemic has forced us to rethink how we facilitate events, and we’ve moved a lot into the virtual event space nowadays. I mean, what were some of the challenges in making that transition from what you guys were previously doing, to what you’re doing now.
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: Okay, so now the thing is when we talk about virtual events or digital events, so lots of people will tend to say that ‘hey there’s nothing new in there’. Right. And the truth is there’s nothing new, per se, with regards to virtual events with people joining events virtually. But that was never mainstream right; it was never mainstream for you to attend a conference while sitting in Malaysia, or a conference happening, let’s say, in Singapore, or in London, or in Las Vegas.
So typically, people, business people would like to travel to meet with people, but due to this pandemic what we’ve seen is, there was simply no choice. So, the big change that has happened is, basically, in terms of expectations from people itself so it was not a matter of whether people liked virtual events or not, but people were just forced to attend virtual events. And because we’re so used to things like for example Facebook, right, which comes with a great UI, we want a great user experience.
Now, the truth is with regards to events, and the virtual side of events, the tech was not really there so the experience that people used to have in the past was possible but it was a little bit clunky. Even when you look at the largest tech companies running their own events, the experiences were suboptimal. But what we’ve seen during this pandemic has become a need. Then people started looking at the experiences, looking at the experience tech companies like ourselves started really looking at our own offerings to come up with something where we put the attendees, the people really joining the virtual events at the forefront of it. So that’s really what we’ve seen change within the industry itself and for example, for companies like us, even tech companies, we’ve had to pretty much pivot and then build something that today is being perceived as very necessary.
Christine Wong, Radio Jockey, BFM: What are the KPIs of a successful virtual event?
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: Okay. So, well, if we look at business events, why do people really go for business events? Well, the thing is, the reasons for business events have not changed. So, business people go for business events – number one, probably to educate themselves for companies to train the partners and the collaborators. Number two is for branding purposes. So, a company would organize a conference, to really put their brand out there. And also, companies participate in business events like trade shows to generate leads, right, and more importantly qualified leads. So now the thing is, in what we’re calling today the new normal. The reasons for attending events for business events haven’t changed.
So, in a way, these KPIs still remain. But because now the medium has changed from attending an event physically like for example in the past when we talk about generating business leads, you’ll be able to see somebody’s face to face right and then talk to that person and then probably from there strike a conversation, and then build a business relationship.
But now, in the virtual world, how do you do that? So, the KPIs are the same, basically to really generate qualified leads for example if that’s the main purpose of an event. But now, the challenge is, can you get as good results in what we call the virtual space are not. And then what makes things a little bit more interesting, and at the same time more complicated, is that inevitably in a digital space in a digital event. There are data points that we can measure. So, for example, if we look at trade shows, in the past, people visiting a booth, picking up a paper brochure, and then going off, you pretty much don’t know what the journey of that person is, that person, a good lead or not.
So, you could have scanned a QR code of that person but you don’t really know whether that person is a qualified lead for your product that you’re exhibiting for any digital real. You can quantify how much time is somebody’s spending on, let’s say your digital booth, if let’s say on your digital booth you’re showcasing multiple products, you know exactly what products are they clicking on how much time they’re spending viewing that if the sharing that with somebody else, you can probably even keep track of those, so you have more data points now to really determine, like for example the quality of leads and enhance networking. So, back to your question then the KPIs itself hasn’t changed, but now with more data points, I think as an industry we’re all trying to define how really to measure the success to determine these KPIs.
Christine Wong, Radio Jockey, BFM: And then on the flip side, you know, what are the biggest challenges that you face in facilities and virtual events?
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: I think if there’s one consensus among like everybody else, including tech companies like ours is, I think the consensus that we all probably share is that face to face meetings will never ever go away.
Right, face to face events will never go away, like for example, meeting somebody face to face is very different from meeting somebody new virtually. And we know that ahead and yet here we are, for example as a whole industry as a whole world I would say, right. Meeting pretty much virtually. And what we see will happen out though, as a consequence of being forced to undergo this paradigm shift here is people having to get used to virtual events, right. So, coming back to virtual events here. So then the thing is we know face to face is key.
But then the next thing is how do you really make the connection online. How do you really engage people online? So that’s the biggest challenge with everybody else he’s facing. So today we see conferences happening like conferences that used to happen let’s say over three days period and hugely popular conferences that would attract thousands if not in some cases, hundreds, 10’s of thousands of people.
We’ve seen many people travelling from abroad to attend that in a particular city. But now the thing is, how do you take that same set of speakers, that same set of content. You still have that, over the course of three days, granted that the content is going to be great granted that the speakers are going to be great. But the question is how you keep the attendees engaged because bear in mind we are virtual events people, or on their computers, and they probably are even at home. Right, or maybe they even at the office these days. right, so they will get distracted, they will not be engaged, for sure. During the same time during let’s say if it’s a 31-hour session, for that matter, a full day of sessions. So that’s the biggest challenge that we face today as an industry, like how do we keep the online engagement, right.
Christine Wong, Radio Jockey, BFM: Because it’s essentially easier to look away from the screen than it is to look away from a panel or, you know, someone who’s speaking on stage right so that’s like how do you replicate that sort of experience in a virtual setting.
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: That’s where I think, and then there’s also the aspect of the peer pressure. So when you’re in a physical setting in a large conference room, chances are you will be listening to the speaker, you will probably be mindful of stepping out of the room. But hey, when you are behind a screen, nobody sees you, you’re free to do whatever you want right so that’s why it becomes much more challenging to keep people engaged in mind. Right.
Christine Wong, Radio Jockey, BFM: And also, I mean this goes hand in hand with the face to face element of, I guess, real life events, a big advantage of real life events, obviously the networking opportunities, the fact that you can occasionally, as you mentioned, dip out of a panel to network with people and have like one on one conversations with people and stuff like that, especially for those large scale conferences and trade shows, you know, is there a space for opportunities like that, in a virtual event, do you think?
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: Sure. See, that’s one of the questions that a lot of people have been asking themselves. I think the question really has been around like for example Hey will virtual events replace physical events. I think that question is still there, but as an industry what we’re starting to realize now is, maybe we shouldn’t be asking like whether a virtual event will replace physical events. What we’re starting to uncover what we’re starting to discover is the value of a virtual event and the value of a physical event. And we know that hosting, organizing, and even speaking at a virtual event is much cheaper. Right, organizing a physical event. I mean, you go to the venue you get to arrange the food. There’s a lot of logistics involved so obviously the cost or much higher. Right.
But, as an industry what we’re starting to realize now is maybe virtual and physical are truly complimentary. Right. So, in the space of trade shows, for example, people fly in to attend the trade shows, most of the time, really to strike some deals right to strike some deals to get to source for some products. But now what people are realizing is that hey, I’m joining his virtual event by choice, to do that kind of window shopping, to really see who I am interested in.
So that when I’m, I’m really serious about the event. And now the physical event happens and I need to travel, I need to take some time for my business for my work right when I go there. I know now. Exactly. Who am I going to speak to, which are the meetings that I’m going to have, so that I make the most of the actual physical events, so what we’re starting to see is that working hand in hand? And that’s why, in a way. What we’re seeing is probably the future of events is really hybrid itself.
Christine Wong, Radio Jockey, BFM: All right, it’s time to take a short break for some messages right now but after that I will continue speaking to Veemal Gungadin, CEO of GlobalSignin about the nature of virtual event and how global assignment has fared throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. So do stay tuned to ‘Open for Business’ on BFM, 89.9
Christine Wong, Radio Jockey, BFM: While the challenges involved, and everything along those lines. Now before we get to talking about GEVME specifically, how long did it take for GlobalSignin to actually transition from just being a purely tech company to really facilitating and moving into the event industry in a big way.
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: That’s very interesting. Okay, so this is all companies to be, I think around 12 years old so we’ve been in the business for a long time. So I founded the company, and you know when you found the company so typically the hardest way where you work is really when starting up the company, so I did work super hard when, when starting up the business and putting everything into place and all.
And then building the traction, so that was really hard times, but I can tell you like at the beginning of this year, myself and the team as well I think that’s the hardest we’ve ever worked. So, what was clear to us, is because the big part of the business of our technology catered for really what we call physical events, and we knew that we were in for the long run. Initially, everybody thought that this pandemic would probably have the same playbook as SARS, and then it started spraying everywhere and we knew that the world itself is changing.
So it was difficult. It was difficult in the sense that we had to pivot from a tech perspective. That’s number one. The next thing is, we realized that we had to be more important and that was the most important part, we have to educate actually quite a bit of our customers. So much so that we were spending time I was spending a lot of time over the phone. Teaching people who had been in the business in the events industry for many many years about what potentially the future could be what virtual would be.
So then what we started doing as a company was doing a series of webinars as well. And then that culminated in us, launching a Digital Event Academy, which today is a rich set of resources where we’ve started bringing in speakers organizers from all over the world and then for them to share their experience and we make all of that for free basically for anybody to just go in and watch those, those sessions that we’ve had those interviews that we’ve had, and also those practical documents guides checklists, as to what can you do and should you do to organize virtual events. So yeah, so the big challenge for us is apart from the tech side of things. It was really, I would say, us, ourselves as a company transforming our mindset. And then along this journey, getting our clients or customers or prospects to also embark on this big learning journey I would say.
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: So, earlier I mentioned that we see the future of events is really hybrid. Now, by hybrid, obviously, physical, and then digital. So, events, you can imagine in the physical world when you’re organizing an event, then you need to book a venue. So that’s where everybody then we’ll go at the venue. And then, you know, you can build up the venue in the way that you want before a trade show before dinner and dance or whatever types of events that you’re doing right. It’s really what we call a digital venue.
And our goal here is really to build and to have it as a five star venue. So what is that? So for example, lots of events, even webinars today are being conducted on the super-popular platform which is zoom. So zoom is really a venue right if you look at it, that’s where you’re having your attendees joining in. You can chat, you can probably create some polls. And then, after half an hour, after one hour. The session is done, you just press end show. That’s it. off you go. And the event has ended. So that’s the venue.
So what we are building, what we have built with GEVME Live is really a digital venue. That doesn’t try to necessarily mimic what’s happening in the physical world. But, where we’ve really reimagined, the digital experience of attendees, so that when you go for an event, let’s say the event is starting at 3pm. So you could check in so you could register first you buy your tickets if it’s a paid event, you check in, you could check in, probably, before the session itself starts.
And then you can roam around meaning to say, they can be different sections as part of the digital venue where for example you could go to lounges, to meet with exhibitors just like what you would do in a, in a physical setting. But in this case, you would have exhibitors already at their digital booth where you could meet with them face to face over video call chat with them. Check out their products, and then probably even go to certain experiences sections where you’re seeing different offers that are made available so imagine you were doing a travel event so then there could be different sections where you have different offers being made available.
And then when the session actually happens. So everybody joins just like joining the main room, and then everybody can chat together and the speakers can do live Q&A as you can watch together with the live stream. And then, when there are breakout sessions, you know, what’s the agenda. More importantly, and what we’re seeing as a new type of expectation is that these days, like by nature, an event is known to be ephemeral meaning to say it will start, and it ends, and that’s it.
But we did digital events. What we realize is that the event stays on so you could be doing a one day conference, and it ends at 5pm. By end, we mean that the last session finished at 5pm. But what we realize is people still stick around right for networking purposes and that’s one, but then the next thing is all sessions now because nature is digital or made available on demand. Because now you have different people joining in at different time zones. So for those people who manage to join in Live, the great thing here is they are able to interact with each other and chat with each other. But for those who put more value on the educational aspect of the sessions, like for example watching the videos itself, they can come one day today or even for that matter a few weeks after the events, and then watch the recorded versions. And that’s what the digital video is all about.
Christine Wong, Radio Jockey, BFM: And a big part of this that makes this so interesting and unique is a global finance partnership with Interprefy, which is the world’s leading remote simultaneous interpreting platform. This enables interpreters to deliver their services remotely, and online conferencing participants can listen to presentations in the language of their choice. Tell me a little bit about that partnership in brief.
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: So one of the things that digital events, virtual events do, is bridge geographical barriers. So now when you’re doing, let’s say a conference. The thing is, you could be having people joining in from almost anywhere in the world. We did our webinar as a company, our footprint is really within Asia. That’s where our clientele had been sitting for most of the years of our history.
But when we started doing the Digital Event Academy sessions and webinars. During one of the webinars we have people joining in from 52 countries. Right. And then, joining in Live at awkward times on the side. And it’s not just us right so we are seeing that across the board lots of companies are already experiencing that. And, obviously, then what happens is different people come in from different places and different people speak different languages.
So corporate companies now are finding it easier to do, let’s say, meetings that bring on board, their staff let’s say from China, and then they start from Singapore, as well. So being able to speak at the same time to different people from different geographical locations and different languages is very important and that’s why like this partnership that we’ve done, we’ve provided is pretty important for us, and that has been really useful, where the idea here is, you join a digital event. And then it’s just like in the good old days way, you will be wearing a headset to listen to in-between live interpretation. So, in this case, it is just that you join the event, you just select your language, and that’s it. People are talking in live, and then you can listen to the whole thing within your own native language, basically.
Christine Wong, Radio Jockey, BFM: It sounds fantastic! Unfortunately, we have run out of time for this chapter, thank you so much for speaking to me today about GlobalSignin and GEVME Live.
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: Thanks Christine, it’s been great.