Audience engagement technology: South Africa’s launch into the next wave of meetings and events

Gert Vermaak
by Gert Vermaak

Geographically speaking, in a large country like South Africa it makes sense to drive around with handheld devices to facilitate meetings across the country during a roadshow, right?

Well, not too long ago we did exactly that. My most clear memory of that was our very first CEO roadshow for ABSA. It was the leadership handover event between Nallie Bosman and Steve Booysen in 2004.

The issue we faced during this roadshow was that the keypads used to facilitate it were overly expensive, and even when the ZAR was any better off against her Majesty’s sterling, I could buy a flat for the same money as 100 keypads! Furthermore, scarce resources were invested in hardware.

So, we had to think carefully about how to 'leapfrog' between multiple venues. It is easy for the presenters to fly from venue to venue, back to back, but near impossible to do the same if you didn’t have enough equipment at the ready for setup the next day.

Facing cold sweats during the night I was calling the van operator, who was driving from Nelspruit all the way to Durban, to make sure they would be there in time for the next setup the following day! There were at least 3 flats worth of keypads in the back of that van.

Fast forward 17 years and the exact same need is still there. Leaders want to feel that pulse whilst engaging with their audience, and encourage interaction, breaking down the one-way channel of communication from the podium.

Would I have believed you if you told me we would be able to have complex interactions via video conferencing? Let alone having the same level of functionality, and all whilst using an application through your own mobile phone? 

Probably not. Yes, we are all aware that these are unique times, and I am not na├»ve enough to think that it will always be like this, I am fully aware that in the not too distant future, we will return to face to face conferences, and so we should.

However, I do believe that the frequency of engagement with widely dispersed teams can be done more effectively via these platforms, through using technology that can offer you a level of clarity to help understand what the mood is.

For the first time you can risk it, to not to only consider a physical roadshow once a year, but to have more frequent virtual town hall meetings on your VC platform and have something measurable to show for it as an end result.

Yes, I do love the open road and driving through our beautiful country, and especially now when we are locked in our homes that desire is even stronger. Luckily, we don’t need hardware that needs transporting anymore. We have the ability to 'leapfrog' straight into the new world with audience engagement at our fingertips, ready to make that next video conference so much more engaging.