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Speaking your language

Speaking your language

Cameron Roberts speaks to Michael Gwilliam and Megan Walters of XSEM, about how translation technology is opening up a world of international events for the agency.

Post-pandemic, event agencies have had to adapt to a new events landscape. Technology and global communities became the forefront of many clients’ minds, meaning event businesses need to be more creative in their solutions to modern roadblocks.

Leeds-based event agency XSEM is utilising translation technology to bring business leaders and employees together and is taking a unique approach to bidding for business. I spoke to Michael Gwilliam, director, and Megan Walters, sales and marketing manager, XSEM, about what the future holds for the agency.

Tech comes first

The pair spoke about how international events have become more commonplace in XSEM’s portfolio with the widespread use of technology to facilitate virtual and hybrid meetings.

What this means in practice is that XSEM must now come up with ways to brings together global communities.

Gwilliam said: “What it’s meant is that it’s opened up more global events, instead of doing a global event each quarter where they are flying people all around the world, our customers now might do it live once a year, but three times do it virtually. “There’s a huge opportunity with global events to continue on a virtual path. For us, it’s enabled us to reach new audiences within our current key accounts.”

The agency has facilitated more global conversations by using a translation software to create avatars of speakers, which can then read scripts in 14 languages. Utilising this tech for training, corporate events and conferences has opened up the horizons for XSEM.

Gwilliam spoke about how XSEM uses this system in practice and how it applies to its clients. He said: “In the businesses that we work with all the senior management leaders speak fluent English. But many within the business may not share a language with us. It is a way that you can get senior leaders from different countries to thank and welcome all levels of new business.”

“It’s just massively widening our reach within existing customers and given the opportunity to pitch for the kind of global business that you might normally associate with larger agencies.”

The translation software feeds into a larger goal for XSEM, since opening up a client base utilising virtual events, the agency has found that technology adoption has unlocked wider budgets. What this means is that the business can now operate on a larger scale and be more innovative and inclusive to global communities.

Change of plan

XSEM is also going through a change when it comes to approaching clients, with the focus now being on longer-term commitments to creative events, rather than the quick turnaround world of tender bid events.

Gwilliam said of this shift: “If you want somebody to be creative, but they are in a process with six other agencies, the chances are they will spend a sixth of the time on it because they’re busy working with paid customers that are supportive of their business and doing that sort of stuff.”

It’s not for the sake of practicality that the agency is looking for more value-add partnerships, but also from the perspective of quality. Every eventprof will be able to recall a time when something had to be delivered with a quick turnaround, for many it’s part and parcel with the industry.

For Walters, however, the culture of quick turnaround is detrimental for truly creative events. She said: “I think when you do things on such a short turnaround, there’s always a scope for ‘what would you have done it differently?’ if you had the luxury to think things through that bit more”.

Looking forward

Nobody has a crystal ball, but I wanted to find out what the next year meant for XSEM. How does a company experiencing rapid growth move forward.

For Gwilliam it is all about steadying the ship, with a new focus around wellness of employees and delegates. He said: “We want to put wellness at the centre of what we’re doing. We’ve just invested in that in terms of wellness consultants to bring the team back together, everybody’s working stupid hours. And we want to kind of reset the balance of that.”

That reset angle, needing to stop and appreciate the journey, was also a key point for Walters. She said: “I think reset and define are the two key words for us going forward, that’s what our processes and training are around, especially as we are working towards being more sustainable in how we operate.”