Event Anywhere Founder Sean Gilligan Speaks to Nick Ahad on mid-morning, BBC Radio Leeds

Event Anywhere Team
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Nick Ahad (01:00): As we’ve gone into lockdown, I imagine the thought of attending a live event, alongside hundreds of other people still seems, well first of all terrifying, but also a really long way off. And we’ve all got used to like video calls and what have you, but you can’t really duplicate that atmosphere that you create at a big event until now. An entrepreneur from Leeds has come up with a new technology platform that’s been designed especially to bring the personality and engagement you’d expect at a live event. It’s called Event Anywhere, and Sean Gilligan is the brain’s behind it. Sean, welcome to the show.

Sean Gilligan (01:33): Hi Nick, thanks for inviting me on.

Nick Ahad (01:35): It’s great to have you. I have to say, first of all, that I apologise for describing you as an entrepreneur from Leeds cause, as I know, you’re actually from Keighley aren’t you, and very proud of it too.

Sean Gilligan (01:43): Absolutely, yeah. And I think maybe your brother went to the same school as well.

Nick Ahad (01:49): Absolutely, yes. So, you’re a Keighley success story, and we’re going to claim you as one. Let’s talk about this amazing sounding thing – now you’re going to have to talk to me like I’m a four year old, because when it comes to technology, I don’t really understand all this stuff. I’d not used Zoom until we went into lockdown – tell me about Event Anywhere.

Sean Gilligan (02:09): So, Event Anywhere has been developed since 2016, and one of the problems you’ve got with Zoom and “Zoom fatigue” is that when you get to 20 people, or beyond that, it becomes pretty tricky to manage. We’ve all been there where people are saying you’re on mute, or you can’t hear because there’s too much background music or noise – so what we’re trying to do with Event Anywhere, is take the in-person experience and take it online. So, think about the expo hall, think about the live stage, think about networking. And what we’re trying to do there, is do it in a digital sense. Of course, in-person events are always going to be better, we’re social animals, we want to meet each other, but when we can’t do that, with Event Anwhere, we’re trying to come up with the next best thing.

Nick Ahad (02:54): So is it, obviously it’s going to be different to Skype and Zoom – and what is it that you’re doing with this that helps, as you say, bring that atmosphere that you have at a big event.

Sean Gilligan (03:07):  People go to events for two things – they go for content and connections, and we’re really focused on the people centred approach, so how can we make people better connected online. So for example, there’s a video roulette function, where you can click start networking and it randomly calls other attendees at the show, so you meet strangers or people who have shared interests and common ground, to then conduct business, or better connect. And of course you can have an event for anything can’t you, you know, there’s all sorts of events that are hosted. Some are small scale, 50, 100 person, and then you’ve got these massive exhibitions. So, what we’re trying to do is make events more personable online. There’s also a live stage where you can go on air, and maybe a thousand, two thousand people can join, and stream the content, which is very tricky to do on platforms such as zoom and Microsoft teams.

Nick Ahad (03:59): So, I’m assuming that there’s an awful lot of technical and technology expertise behind all of this – is it the kind of thing that someone like me would be able to use and understand?

Sean Gilligan (04:10): Well, let’s pretend you’re going to a show. So, you arrive at this Great Yorkshire show, let’s call it, and it’s online, it’s the virtual version, and the first thing you’ll do is sign on and you’ll register, but instead of introducing yourself with text, and typing on the keyboard, you might drop a voice note or a short video introducing who you are Nick. And once you’ve done that, you might then go round an expo hall, and it might look like a bird’s eye view of a map where you can go round booths, you can sit on networking tables. And before sitting on a networking table and joining a video room, you can click on a person’s profile, and get to understand why they’re at the show, what their interests are. So, the idea is it’s making the event more personable, but the secret sauce is the data – the data that you can collect online is just so much richer than what you can with an in-person event. At an in-person event, you might be able to track footfall and things of that kind, but on an online event, you can get so much data and insights, you can make networking more relevant, make the whole experience more relevant and enjoyable. Obviously, again, in-person events are better – and I think hybrid events are going to be the future. But, the next best thing is to go virtual I think.

Nick Ahad (05:18): Presumably, this is something you’ve been working on for a while, it’s just a coincidence that everything we’re experiencing in this last 10 months has made this more relevant than ever – it must be extraordinary that you’ve found this little niche, not in the market, but all of a sudden we need things like this. It must be an extraordinary time for you and your company.

Sean Gilligan (05:38): I think it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because in lockdown one, we were all trying to figure out how to do remote work, how to use Zoom, Teams, Google Meet and just really orientate ourselves. I think this time round, people are wiser to the situation, and Zoom and certain applications are useful. A lot of the big American technology companies were actually down yesterday, and that cause a lot of a fuss, but people are now thinking about more sophisticated use cases for their work flows, and their businesses, and their needs – and so when it comes to virtual events, it’s an explosive industry, it’s green fields – very few companies and organisations have virtual events, and so, there’s loads of growth opportunity, and with that, hopefully we can create a lot of jobs in Yorkshire and beyond.

Nick Ahad (06:20): Well, that was my final question actually – presumably, if you’re thinking about technology, and events, and all that kind of thing, it might be interesting to hear this, but actually, there’s another side to this – which is a great Yorkshire company success story.

Sean Gilligan (06:33): Yeah, I think the industrial revolution happened here in Yorkshire, and maybe this is the digital revolution, and hopefully Event Anywhere can be part of that success story and create some jobs during these very tough economic times.

Nick Ahad (06:47): Absolutely. Sean, great to hear from you, thanks for joining us.

Sean Gilligan (06:50): Thanks Nick, appreciate it.

Nick Ahad (06:52): There we go, that’s Sean Gilligan – the brains behind Event Anywhere.

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