The digital quick shift: a positive and educational pivot

  • Traditional event houses flourishing with digital transition
  • An educational journey internally and externally
  • Attention to data protection and privacy needed

With ‘pivot or perish’ being the battle cry for event companies amid this pandemic, many traditional setups have found themselves sharpening their online and hybrid event capabilities to remain relevant.

Corporate live-streams are becoming increasingly common (Photo credit: Aavii Worldwide)

Embracing the online shift, Chab Events invested in staff training to grow them into digital product experts to drive the growth of its digital platforms under Chab LAB.

Alexis Lhoyer, Chab Events’ chief business officer, said: “Before, the teams needed to be comfortable with construction and carpentry, audio and lighting, or registration and set-up logistics. (We shifted our focus to) training our existing live events teams, as digital events are about stronger video content, streaming and conferencing technologies, HTML, online event platforms and interactivity solutions.”

The investment is worth it, opined Lhoyer, as it has provided the company with “the opportunity to create additional capabilities in the company”.

Reading the potential market development right, Singapore-based events company, Jublia, developed a one-to-one virtual meetings software called Match Virtual, which “has since been used widely in various virtual and hybrid events since March 2020”, shared Errol Lim, COO and co-founder.

Malaysia’s Aavii Worldwide has also found success in supporting its clients in the online space as soon as the country enforced its nation-wide Movement Control Order in March. Between April and July, it managed nine webinars and five live-streaming launches and award shows.

The company’s group CEO Francis Cheong recalled that the transition was not an easy one, with some “casualties” along the way.

“Some of our team members simply weren’t savvy enough for platforms like such Zoom, GoToWebinar, Webex and Microsoft Teams, and they stumbled. I had to transfer certain employees to manage social media or write articles. Many of them had numerous late-night (meetings) via Zoom and private training sessions during the lockdown, and they encountered numerous trial-and-error to ensure that our webinars work,” said Cheong.

“I was extremely lucky to have a dedicated team,” he concluded.

Jeremy Ducklin, managing director of Congress Rental Australia & Singapore, too, shared that event specialists had to endure a rapid transition, as clients that relied on remote interpretation as a plug-and-play solution in the beginning soon learnt that a “successful, smooth and professional” online event requires the support of a “team of experts”.

Fortunately for Congress Rental, the shift towards a remote event solution was already taken over the past three years.

Ducklin said: “The overall shift towards hybrid and virtual events meant that the types of jobs we were getting had changed. We are now seeing more remote interpretation jobs, and a change in attitude towards the technology.”

Jublia also found time to develop a one-to-one virtual meeting software

When asked if new talents had to be brought into the team, Lim said: “We are definitely growing our team to meet the increasing demand. At the same time, we are cautious not to bite off more than we can chew in our growth plans. I say this because the virtual and hybrid events are still extremely novel. There are a myriad ways for implementation, hence grooming capable thought-leaders and digital event experts within the team needs to be done organically, in-line with our vision and purpose.”

Learning curve for all
The advancement in hybrid and virtual event format is no doubt an educational journey for event association and corporate meeting organisers and their suppliers.

Kenny Goh, founder, miceNeurol, said: “We know the concept, but until you do the hybrid or virtual event, one thing can lead to another. It is definitely a learning curve for everybody.”

Goh: sufficient preparation for speakers and delegates is critical for online event success

Working recently with a dental association with speakers and delegates across five continents, Goh said the virtual event had to be “market” and “target” focused and convenient session times limited to two time zones.

While a delegate can listen to a recorded session, he noted speaker management was more challenging because a speaker or panellist who gets the date and time mixed up “will have consequences down the line”.

Organisers also “cannot stinge” on live support, and Goh shared 80 per cent of the dental delegates had “computer problems” like university firewalls or users not clearing their cache, adding that delegates often don’t read the sign-in instructions and smartphones users may not be able to access the event if YouTube or Vimeo is banned in their country.

“The event technology company must be able to “share screen” to resolve the issues quickly,” Goh stressed.

Meanwhile, created a Digital Event Academy offering checklists, templates, guides and user cases to educate users when it launched its GEVME Live platform, which allows event organisers to create events by populating the content, at the end of June.

“We know at this time we have to do a lot of education as many clients are not familiar with live streaming production,” according to Daniel Tjan, director of customer success.

GEVME Live was tested for a Hong Kong public exhibition with some 300 exhibitors where China was the target market. It garnered more than one million views. Tjan observed that the challenge was to keep attendees engaged eight hours daily for the one-week event.

Ace:Daytons Direct, founder, Nancy Tan, observed converting face-to-face events to hybrid or virtual does not come cheap if very high quality engagement and professional studio facilities and personnel are needed.

“It is an education process and clients are now probably just familiar with Zoom and do not know much about the reliability and safety of streaming platforms, the different components of creative production, etc,” she added.

Still, Tan believes such events will stay relevant even after face-to-face gatherings are allowed because some delegates may not be able to travel to an event for whatever reason, or if attending a live event was too costly.

Eye on data protection and data analytics
Part of the scope event technology company platforms provide is data processing audit trails and the necessary safeguards for data protection and personal privacy compliance under GDPR (general data protection regulation) and PDPA (personal data protection act), required by various countries.

Online registration and accreditation is akin to giving an event organiser a name card to register for a live event, but miceNeurol’s Goh observed many still do not know about GDPR which protects data privacy of EU delegates or PDPA in the case of Singapore.

Goh warns of the need to be aware of European privacy ‘pirates’, mostly law firms, he claims, who ‘register and sue’, and a number of affected companies have been fined.

“Companies need a system to track this,” Goh noted, adding that Facebook and Google were the first to face GDPR lawsuits.”

The advantage of event technology is the data collected and data analytics is a powerful tool to negotiate with sponsors, to determine what were well-received topics, speakers and sessions and how to better plan and market subsequent events. – Additional reporting by Rachel AJ Lee and Karen Yue

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