What if instead of just watching a presentation, you could actually take part in it – shape it, change it, get feedback? Glisser is a suite of interactive presentation platforms which allow questions and answers between the presenter and the audience, live polling, and slide sharing.
Glisser are a highly ambitious, quickly growing, Microsoft-backed startup with offices in London, New York and Portland, and a QA team in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
The platform was built using Node.js with Web Sockets for the backend, Angular 6 with TypeScript, SCSS, and Bootstrap 4 for the frontend. I was the Head of Design at Glisser, and for wire-framing and prototyping I used Sketch and Adobe XD.
Glisser started when the founder, a former Marketing Director, realised that whilst a lot of his marketing budget was being allocated to events, it was difficult to measure whether that money was actually being well spent. Event effectiveness was still being measured on attendee numbers, and calculated by how many unused name badges were left. He calculated that inputting the data from paper feedback forms into the company CRM system would take his team almost 400 days! Whilst at the same time £1,000s were being spent printing copies of slide decks to leave on seats for attendees - only for them to be thrown away when last minute changes were made to the presentation.
It turns out he wasn’t alone. Forrester Research indicates that business-to-business companies spend nearly a quarter of their marketing budget on events. Despite big budgets, very little is being spent measuring, analysing and proving event ROI.
The aim of this project was to collect and use event data to give event managers a way to prove that their events are successful.
When I joined Glisser there were just four of us. The core functionality had been designed and built by the CTO, with a basic proof of concept working for select clients. I attended live events in London and I spoke with existing clients to understand the key problems that they were trying to solve, what tools they were currently/previously using to solve them, and any workarounds that they had found so far.
Presenters - It's stressful being a presenter! You've got enough to worry about on the big day without some fancy, new tech being one. How can Glisser make presenting easier and better for them?
Attendees - The app needs to be intuitive and fun to use, which will drive engagement. Attendees are key to the success of Glisser, but ultimately they're not the buyers.
Event Managers - Being an event manager isn't easy, there is so much to organise in advance of the big day - and there are always unexpected issues to overcome on the big day too. Whilst event managers interact with Glisser the least, they are the buyers. The key is to make their job easier and more importantly, to help them to measure ROI from events.
A lot of time and money had been spent on creating a basic attendee app, which was live on the app store. However, speaking to attendees, the most important thing we learned was that they were often reluctant to download a disposable app from the App Store just for a single event. Although venues do usually offer free wi-fi, it’s rarely reliable, straightforward to connect, and fast enough to quickly download apps (sometimes downloading apps is even blocked).
Some other interesting feedback I received was that whilst the original platform worked well, it’s not always clear how to use everything on it. The learning curve to using the platform had sometimes got in the way of using it to its full potential. This meant that the redesign had to feel more intuitive, natural, and easy to pick up.
The People Problem
With these user personas in mind, I defined the people problems as:
As an event manager, I would like to report back on the success of the events I run with analytical data.
As a presenter, I would like to better engage my audience to improve my presentation quality.
As an attendee, I would like to be more involved and engaged in the presentation.
Overcoming the Problem
Presentation Management Platform
Glisser was never going to become a slide creation tool, therefore for content creation we had to work with existing tools. Presenters would be responsible for uploading their slide decks into Glisser, and adding interactive elements, polls, and slides to their presentations, so I looked into PowerPoint and KeyNote to understand and even mimic parts of the user interface and behaviours that presenters were already used to. With interactive presentations being a relatively new concept it was important to make the transition from presentation to interactive presentation as seamless as possible.
Presenters want to engage their audience and keep their presentation fun. Linking to the audience member’s phones, the presentation management platform would actually use that audience engagement as a trojan horse to encourage audience members to provide valuable data – essentially the Facebook modal for live events.
It wasn't an easy call to make, especially after so much work had gone into the iOS and Android apps, but we quickly decided to shift to creating a web-app instead, which the attendees could access via any browser.
For presenters and even more so for attendees the platform was essentially a single-use, disposable platform. They would have little to no say in whether or not Glisser was used - so user familiarity was crucial. There is no learning curve, either it's instinctive or it won't be used. Glisser had to feel like any other app on your phone.
With this in mind I designed a custom design framework based on Material Design. With almost everyone used to the Google suite of products, the idea was to make everyone immediately feel at home on the platform.
With the development team I worked to build a component library, which although took some time to get right, meant that any new features were quick and easy to build.
Presentation Management Platform
We built an event structure idea, housing a collection of presentations organised within an event agenda. The event structure also changes the audience’s perspective, as the app becomes an event agenda with access to all presentations. Having spoken to event managers about how they plan their events it was clear that we had to integrate with other event platforms and import existing event agendas, to save the user having to build their event agenda twice. And with presentations often being supplied last minute it was also important that the structure could be built in a non-destructive way for when inevitable last minute changes and additions are made.
Getting presenters on board with fun presentations was crucial, but the key persona in all of this was the Event Manager. We needed to not only make their jobs easier, but to arm them with data they’ve never had before on their events to take to their managers to prove the event’s, and their own, success. Therefore the analytics platform would be Glisser’s biggest sell.
The presenter platform is what goes up on the big screen at the front of the room - the interactive slides, the polls, Twitter wall etc.
I went for a stripped back, simple, visual interface - designed to suit any slide design.
Some of the bigger clients asked for more control over their presentations, specifically being able to moderate potentially embarrassing questions before they appear on the main screen. A moderation platform would typically be used by a presenter’s aid in the audience, on a tablet or laptop at high profile events.
This user has a crucial role at an event, managing what is being displayed on the big screen. I ran extensive user testing to understand exactly how users interpret icons, buttons, and terminology in a high-pressure situation such as during a live event.
The 'disposable' web-app, accessed by a unique web address or QR code. It uses a custom Material Design component library aimed to be instinctively intuitive above all else.
When interactive presentations are linked together into an event the attendee web-app becomes a searchable presentation platform which allows the attendee to go in and out of the various presentations.
The Final Outcome
The Glisser Presentation Management System is now used by some of the some of the biggest companies in the world, including LinkedIn, Herbalife and EY. It has been used at events such as Mobile World Congress, Cannes Lions, and various TEDx talks.
Testimonial - Filming and Post-Production
In 2019 I flew to New York to film and edit a testimonial video for Glisser. Below, Joe Chabot from Bowlero talks about his experience using the redesigned Glisser platform and the problems it has solved for him and his team.
Can I just say, that this is the sexiest audience engagement solution for live events. Simon, you’re one of the most talented Product Designers I know. Big kudos to someone who puts so much love and passion into their work.
CEO at The Event Tech Tribe