For the first piece of our new “Meet the Partners” Blog, Michelle Cartín-Storey, Global Channel Manager at KUDO, connects to a KUDO session, coffee in hand, and asks a Partner all she ever wanted to know.

On this edition, Michelle sat with Jelle De Leeuw, from Presence Translate & Interact, connecting via KUDO from Luxembourg.

Hello Jelle, thank you for taking the time to meet me today.
First of all, tell us about Presence´s journey into the world of interpretation.

Presence started about 20 years ago. Peter Van Den Steene (the owner and co-CEO), an interpreter himself, founded the company which started as an interpretation agency. Gradually our clients asked for additional services such as technical equipment, written translations and consultancy services which led to the full-service communications agency we are today. At this moment we offer all services linked to multilingual communications (hard- & software, translations, interpretation, copywriting, subtitling,…), we have a department focused on event creation and organization and a consulting agency that provides trainers and speakers. We offer these services all over Europe and beyond to multinationals, federal agencies, associations and federations.

When did you first start thinking about using multilingual online event software?

Presence has always been highly involved in new developments in interpretation. We started looking into remote solutions more than five years ago. Although the market was mildly interested at first, even back then, we believed this was where the future of interpretation was headed. That is the reason why we are continually investing in virtual and hybrid solutions.

True pioneers! How did you find KUDO?

KUDO crossed our path early 2020, just when we needed a more performant, user-friendly and interactive solution. Pre-COVID-19, we organized over 100 meetings per month, but we needed a solution that allowed our clients to keep meeting during the pandemic. We noticed immediately that our clients were switching to virtual meetings on the KUDO platform.

Thinking about your work-life; what do you think is the impact of multilingual online event software on it?

All our clients were forced to look for alternatives to live meetings, so online solutions definitely helped us serve our clients. Presence offers live, virtual and hybrid solutions, depending on the specific needs of the clients.  The enormous increase in virtual meetings took a significant toll on our team, but thanks to the flexibility of our staff, we managed to change workflows very quickly.

Setting up virtual meetings is very time consuming because of huge communication flows with clients, firewall issues that need to be resolved, participants and moderators that need to be onboarded and trained… (it’s very different from live set-ups).

It´s interesting you bring that up because, as an Event Manager myself, I feel the same way. I think some customers believe online events are as easy to set up as having a video call with a friend. It takes time to explain that we have a software that allows for active involvement from participants, polls, voting, messenger, you name it! Sometimes, there is an oversimplification of the process of setting up events (whether in person, hybrid or fully digital) and that could lead to communication flows. It’s a “nice to have” challenge, helping clients shift into a digital world and understand that, to have a successful event, you need to prepare, it doesn’t matter the event´s format.

Looking at the last six months, what have your projects been like? Any challenges or lessons learned?

Many of our meetings are very similar: we typically have smaller groups of participants (30 – 40), many languages (8-12), high interaction between participants, over a long period (2-3 full days). The biggest challenge was to advise the client and to make sure that the meeting experience was optimal (meeting online simply is not the same as live). That is why Presence spends a lot of time talking to clients to identify their specific needs.

12 languages = 24 interpreters were working remotely. Wow! You have accumulated much experience in a very short period. Kudos to you!

What do you think the coming months will be like?

Moving forward, we see that live meetings will not return for at least another six months, so the next step will be the implementation of hybrid solutions: people who are allowed to travel can meet and network in person, others can participate remotely.

And, if we think of the next, say, six years… What role do you believe multilingual conference software will play for companies such as yours?

Presence is a believer! We are convinced that these solutions will remain a big part of the meeting industry. Up till March 2020, clients were reluctant to implement a virtual component, but COVID-19 left them no other choice. Many of them have now seen the benefits and the opportunities, such as cost-effectiveness, reduction of carbon footprint, time savings, etc. In the not too distant future, I’m sure we’ll return to live meetings (people miss the networking aspect), but always in combination with a virtual component.

And if you think of your specific workplace, in 6 years?

I think the same will also apply to working remotely, as the pandemic has shown organizations the benefits of doing so.

I think so, too! There are different challenges, but the challenges are smaller in comparison with the benefits.

To wrap this up, in case anyone here is looking to become a Partner: If you could give them three tips, what would they be?

  • Test the waters: KUDO has different payment plans and subscriptions, so you can “soft launch” the solution. KUDO really helped us to find the best subscription and advised us when to upgrade.
  • Train your staff: switching from live to virtual events does have a huge impact on your project management and on your sales teams.
  • Communicate with your KUDO account manager: like everybody, KUDO has seen a huge increase in demand, and it is a solution that changes constantly with new features continuously being added. This is a rapidly evolving market, and clients are very demanding. KUDO makes huge efforts to keep its partners updated with slack channels, weekly updates, the Partners Portal, etc.

Thank you so much, Jelle, for taking the time to share all these insights with us today. It was great to -virtually- get to meet you and, of course, to learn more about your experience with RSI, KUDO and all things remote work.

Un grand merci!

Thank you, too, Michelle. My pleasure.

Presence at a glance

Industries served:
Multinationals, federal agencies, United Nations, federations, associations

Year established:
2000

Office locations:
Luxembourg (HQ), The Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, business agents in Spain, Poland, France and Turkey

Dream software:
Our dream software: a meeting platform that allows you to connect by pushing one big red button in your calendar invite without the hassle of firewall issues, testing, or demo’s (we’re getting there).

Although a device that makes a coffee right out of my laptop would probably be my personal preference…

Website:
www.presencegroup.eu