CNA 938 Singapore Today presenters Lance Alexander and Melanie Oliveiro interviewed Veemal Gungadin, CEO of GEVME.
Read the transcript below.
Melanie Oliveiro, Presenter CNA 938: We’re going to talk about the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition) industry today. It was adversely affected by COVID-19 for obvious reasons. Things are slowly taking a turn for the better and in some countries, the MICE industries are improving. Take Singapore, for example, we just concluded large-scale hybrid MICE events like TravelRevive and Geo Connect Asia.
Lance Alexander, Presenter CNA 938: These events incorporate both in-person and virtual live streaming elements. They’re expected to be the future of post COVID events. So let’s discuss this with Veemal Gungadin, CEO of GEVME, an event technology service in Singapore.
A very good evening to you Veemal. So last year, Marina Bay Sands or MBS revealed a high-tech studio. They can project holograms of people who live far away, this means that participants can take part in a mass event remotely. It sounds very expensive. So how much more must event organizers fork out for such expensive technology? Especially since they were hit hard last year? Is it just one more cost too much to bear?
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: Thanks for having me on the show! Let me start off by sharing that the events that you mentioned, TravelRevive and Global Connect Asia, all those were pilot events, specially crafted events to try out new and innovative formats, which we are calling hybrid events. When we look at the costs associated with these events, the numbers are slightly deceptive. Running a similar event pre-COVID was cheaper, now, such an event costs two to three times more. There’s a reason behind this. Presently, many safety management measures have to be followed by organizers. Venues are having to make an effort to build trust and gain people’s confidence so that people attend events.
But then again, should the cost be insulated? Technology is evolving so the cost being two to three times, it’s just not sustainable.
There are a lot of things GEVME, and the industry as a whole is realizing. We’re seeing an influx of initiatives. For example, last year, the initiatives that the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) did on their side. We’re now seeing other venues that have built their own hybrid studios. Some of them are large venues, some of them are very small venues or small studios. Already competition with regards to such high tech studios, which provide everything you need to build a wonderful hybrid experience, has increased.
Melanie Oliveiro, Presenter CNA 938: Veemal, things are definitely going to be two to three times more expensive now. It’s not just the holograms, social distancing measures also need to be factored in, you’re right!
But could you also list for us the basic equipment, digital infrastructure, software and crucial personnel needed in order for a MICE company to go hybrid?
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: Sure, I’ll just take a bigger step back here. When we talk about the whole concept of hybrid and organizing a hybrid event, I’d compare it to two trains departing at the same time, and then going to the same destination.
You’re actually organizing two separate events. You still have your physical event, and now, you have a digital event that goes on simultaneously. In the past, in physical events,
I believe we focused on creating knowledge experiences. What’s new is the digital component, and to enable this, the infrastructure needs to be developed.
For example, for streaming a football match live, the cameras and the audio visual equipment required would be different. Live streaming capability would be essential and with that, there’s also new personnel that would need to be recruited. So a new job is created to manage events, the Digital Event Manager, because you can’t just have an event manager. Event Managers take care of what everybody’s seeing physically, but who is in charge of the digital component? It’s important to keep in mind that digital is a completely new type of experience as well.
Community Managers, people who will keep individuals engaged online, reply to questions, Q & A’s and put live polls, are also becoming essential to an events’ success. You really need to curate the online experience and for that you need specialized personnel.
Lance Alexander, Presenter CNA 938: Some would say that nothing beats networking in-person. You’ve mentioned all these different things that have to be factored. How is it possible to network with all these different teams and new roles that are now in play?
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: Yeah, I think the consensus is that nothing will probably beat physical in-person networking, because that’s just special. But we need to dig deeper. For example let’s look at the music industry because that industry has evolved with the times. It can help us see how the events industry can advance in the future.
We can always go on YouTube, search and listen to any music in demand, free of cost, or we can spend $10 on a service like Spotify, which has an unlimited streaming option. But if our favourite artist came to town for a concert, we would fork out hundreds of dollars, or even thousands just to see the live performance in person. Similarly with sports. So I feel focusing on whether digital networking will ever be as good as face-to-face networking is probably the wrong approach to this topic.
The pandemic has forced us to network virtually and we’re realizing that networking online does have value. It works.
When you go to a physical conference, and you want to talk to somebody, you have to make the effort to approach that person. But virtually, that individual may be recommended to you through artificial intelligence (AI) and suddenly you’re having a virtual conversation with them. So, the interaction gets facilitated seamlessly.
You can also choose to meet more people if you WANT to meet more people or you can meet just one person and leave. After all, if you’ve spoken to the one person you actually wished to speak to, you don’t need to waste more of your energy or time. You can also control the conversation very easily.
Melanie Oliveiro, Presenter CNA 938: That’s true, because like you said, we are social creatures, we will find digital means of communication that work for us.
My last question for you, Veemal, the World Economic Forum’s special annual meeting will be held here in August. If you were an advisor for them what suggestions would you give to ensure that the event can be carried out safely and effectively when it comes to Singapore?
Veemal Gungadin, CEO, GEVME: Look, I think the current approach is fantastic. With these kinds of events, we’re seeing a lot of experimentation. In fact, there’s a whole slew of pilot events in line, leading to the World Economic Forum.
GEVME was a part of Global Connect Asia, where we deployed a slew of new technologies, like touchless, facial recognition, Bluetooth, tracking tools, together with our partners. These were then tested and analyzed. We saw what worked and what didn’t. Now we’re sharing these learnings across the whole industry.
It’s so great to see the events industry come together and be open to collaboration, even competitors are working together. So as a tech company, we’ve collaborated with companies like Trackomatic, Aux, to build new types of technologies to enable this. We’re also seeing organizers coming together and sharing experiences, with each and every pilot event that’s already happening. We’re just getting better and better at this with regards to safety as well. The next step, at least in the digital field, would be to provide TV-broadcast quality virtual streaming for our audience.
Melanie Oliveiro, Presenter CNA 938: Alright, Veemal. Thanks for giving us an insight into how the MICE industry is changing, not just in Singapore but around the world. That was Veemal Gungadin, CEO of GEVME, an event technology service in Singapore.