Back to the essence of events: connecting people, knowledge and network
News - 6 min read.
Online and hybrid events are on the rise, and connecting people, knowledge and networks effectively is therefore a greater challenge than ever. Elma Bassa and Margriet de Groot, founders of Networkapp, already saw over ten years ago that congresses and events were not as effective as they could be. The importance of Networkapp is therefore to help participants get the most out of their event by creating an environment where contact is easily made.
In an interview with the Genootschap voor Eventmanagers, Elma Bassa talks about connecting networks, the possibilities of Networkapp and the ambitions for the future of (online) networking.
Click on this link to read the interview in Dutch.
If connecting networks is the starting point
Elma Bassa and Margriet de Groot, founders of Networkapp, noticed so much unused potential during live events over ten years ago. “At a congress with 1,500 participants, where every participant possesses valuable knowledge and skills, only a handful of speakers delivered them. And even one of the speakers on stage literally said: ‘I don’t know what you are going to talk about today, but I wish you an inspiring day’. There was no possibility of discussing the themes of the presentations at conferences with other participants,” Elma explains. “While the reason for organising an event should be to connect people, facilitate meetings and exchange knowledge. It is essential to understand what the participants are interested in or involved in, in order to be able to add value as an event organiser in the right way. However, this applies just as much to the speakers, sponsors or even the supplier.”
The moment Elma suddenly bumped into Margriet, unaware of the fact that Margriet was also attending the conference, they decided to develop an app together that does provide insight into the participants: Networkapp. An app that allows you to see who is participating in an event, where you can get in touch with all the participants and arrange to meet up. Before, during and after the event. Something that did not exist in the market until then. Both Elma and Margriet have a background in product innovation. They know how important it is to involve stakeholders – whether they are clients, suppliers, sponsors or participants – in the process and to come up with a product together. “Networkapp puts the participant first, because how the participant experiences the event reflects on your event,” adds Elma. “Meanwhile, 10 years on, Networkapp has grown into a major player in the field with national and international clients who actively use Networkapp for one-off but also recurring (online) events. The app is also used as a community, for clients who can maintain continuous contact with their target group this way.”
The key to innovation
“The corona crisis had a big impact on Networkapp. The events for which the app was used were postponed and dropped in 2020,” Elma explains. Elma and Margriet then took the time to take a critical look at the company’s own vision and strategy: are we still doing what we think is important? And do we still stand behind what we do? Does it still fit in with the times? Corona acted as an accelerator to look at how Networkapp wanted to deal with this branch-wide. And what turned out to be the case? After nine years, they came to the conclusion that what was important at the start of their company had remained unchanged. “Networkapp wants to use the platform to let participants look over a ‘wall’, as it were, to see what else is out there. Connecting networks regardless of function or hierarchy. Connecting people who think differently is the key to innovation, a way to get to your goal faster, whatever that goal may be,” explains Elma passionately. “We went back to innovating in full, resulting in our custom-made virtual rooms, a networking carousel, a networking plaza, the digital exhibition floor and an easy-to-follow personal programme for participants.”
App or platform?
“The name Networkapp is actually a bit deceptive because Networkapp is a complete and flexible platform, which can be used on all kinds of devices both PC, laptop and mobile phone,” Elma explains. “Within this environment, an event manager can create separate events. This environment can be set up by the event manager himself via an interface. It is a plug-and-play concept, so you can quickly and easily start setting up the event yourself. But are you running out of time? Networkapp’s project managers can help you with that either partially or completely, depending on your wishes. The styling of an event can be saved after the event so it can be reused at a later time. The platform is not location bound and therefore you have freedom in how, when, with whom and where in the world you organise an event. The reliability of the technology has been proven extensively and extra functionalities can be deployed as needed. Moreover, you can easily upgrade yourself. If suddenly more participants register than expected, you can adjust this flexibly in Networkapp’s dashboard environment. Our clients tell us that this is the most all-round platform available. Networkapp always puts the participant first, by which we mean that you can experience an online event in such a way that the participants can get the most out of it. But also in the run-up to and after the event. If you work with a fixed target group, you can also use Networkapp as a community, a place where participants can permanently exchange knowledge with each other.”
Innovation with partners
The vision of connecting networks to add value for participants is also reflected in the partnerships Networkapp engages in: “Networkapp offers a complete platform with various networking functionalities. We look at the opportunities and possibilities with an open mind. In this way, we also look for options to cooperate with partners, customers and companies that strengthen Networkapp. For example, we work together with TU Eindhoven. They do research into people’s networking behaviour, we test the theory in practice and use the findings to improve our services,” says Elma.
Trends and developments
Looking at the future of live, online and hybrid events, what trends and developments do you see emerging (for Networkapp)? “Although live meetings are of course the most wonderful thing there is, I expect online to remain and hybrid to become important. With the rapid development of technology, so much is possible. Location is becoming less important; after all, an event can be held anywhere in the world. The footprint of people must be reduced. Events and meetings will continue to be important in the future, but today’s issues require ways to bring a group of people together temporarily without unnecessary travel movements. With Networkapp, we offer that possibility and continue to develop based on our innovation pillars: how to make sure everyone stays connected and how to keep the feeling of being together high. These times have thrown us back on ourselves, and also made us more conscious of what we put our time into. People are becoming more selective about what they want to spend their attention on, especially online. For hybrid events, I see opportunities to use Networkapp to give participants the feeling of being connected, even if they are spread across multiple locations.”
There is great enthusiasm when Elma is asked about Networkapp’s ambitions: “Just imagine: how cool would it be if you could connect participants from two completely different events but with the same interests? The cross-fertilisation that then occurs has a truly unique added value for the participants! But that is something we can grow into.
For now, it is important to go back (again) to the essence of events, live, online or hybrid: with Networkapp we place the participant back in the centre. To this end, we always focus on the participant’s interests: what does a person need in order to optimally deploy his network and reach his goal? Networkapp facilitates this and also wants to surprise when it is not so obvious that spontaneous meetings will happen.”
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