How Adobe’s Wouter Van Geluwe keeps webinar participants engaged with mmhmm
Jul 28, 2022
The pandemic forced Adobe’s Chief Technology Officer for Western Europe to move all of his carefully crafted in-person sales presentations and product demos to static virtual calls. After discovering mmhmm, Wouter Van Geluwe quickly became a super user, using mmhmm on calls for eight hours a day. He has integrated mmhmm into hybrid live/recorded presentations to get his product demos just right. He now layers mmhmm onto his in-person presentations—instead of appearing as an avatar on a screen, he’s standing in front of the projector screen—to better hold and direct his audience’s attention.
“Most companies, whether it's online or offline, use a corporate slide deck, but I've always been somebody who prefers telling his own story."
Wouter Van Geluwe
Adobe Chief Technology Officer for Western Europe
From full-time travel to full-time screenshare
When the pandemic hit, Wouter Van Geluwe, Adobe’s CTO for Western Europe, found his schedule flipped on its head in an instant. Before the pandemic, he traveled for work five days a week, holding in-person meetings to develop relationships and demo products to potential clients. After everyone went remote, he found himself leading Zoom and Teams meetings eight hours a day, five days a week.
“After 15 years of traveling constantly, I went into home office mode on March 13, 2020,” Van Geluwe says. “I have a wife and four kids, so we had to adjust to each other. It was quite challenging, working at home with four kids running around the house.”
Standard web conferencing tools didn’t help. Van Geluwe found it clunky to share his screen while his audience and he were pushed off to a sidebar.
Founded in 1982 by Charles Geschke and John Warnock, Adobe is headquartered in San Francisco and employs more than 26,000 people worldwide. With its holistic Creative Cloud, Experience Cloud and Document Cloud portfolio, Adobe is redefining the possibilities of digital experiences. Businesses count on Adobe to help them meet the challenges of digital transformation. With Adobe, they can take creativity to a next level, harness their data and deliver personalized experiences that drive business growth and customer loyalty.
The challenge: Creating dynamic sales presentations
Van Geluwe began looking for a way to make his virtual meetings and presentations more immersive and engaging. He’s never liked traditional slides in presentations; he finds them static and boring, regardless of whether they are presented in-person or on video.
“Most companies, whether it's online or offline, use a corporate slide deck,” Van Geluwe says. “But I've always been somebody who prefers telling his own story. Telling a corporate story in the right way is very important, but not always so compelling or engaging. So I've been looking for ways to spice up how to deliver presentations before Covid, mainly focused on offline face-to-face presentations.”
Van Geluwe had spent more than a decade fine-tuning his approach; he used a real whiteboard and live sketching to tell stories and demonstrate points. Online, sharing a screen was a clunky experience, and he was too far removed from his delivery.
For someone who already finds traditional slides problematic, it was a nightmare.
The solution: Executing live demos flawlessly
A few months into the pandemic, in the summer of 2020, a colleague in the UK told Van Geluwe, who is based in Brussels, Belgium, about mmhmm. Van Geluwe began using it immediately.
True to his preferences, his slides were whiteboards that he could sketch on, and he suddenly had his own image, and a handy pointer, to help reinforce his messages. He found mmhmm produced an experience with some of the benefits of being in-person in a way that standard web conferencing tools simply didn’t, leading to much more professional-looking and “dynamic” sales calls, he says.
Two years later, in March of 2022, Van Geluwe found himself back in the office, and having in-person meetings with clients in coffee shops and board rooms. Not willing to give up the tricks and tools of mmhmm for his presentations, Van Geluwe began using it in-person as well as online; instead of being on the screen itself, he’s physically in front of it, but still using the pointer to interact with the content.
When presenting virtually, Van Geluwe is experimenting with hybrid virtual presentations, where he seamlessly combines recorded video with live interactions. This way, product demos can be executed perfectly, while other parts of the presentation are more conversational. As long as he wears the same clothes and keeps the lighting consistent, his viewers can’t tell whether he’s presenting live or using pre-recorded material.
“We often have very complex webinars with C-level executives of Fortune 500s,” Van Geluwe says. “In five minutes you have to explain many things. And with live demos, as you know, things can go wrong. Sometimes that's OK, but if you have an important summit in front of hundreds or thousands of people, then nothing can go wrong. If I'm doing it on the fly in front of many people, my drawing skills on the whiteboard might be less good, and there is the pressure of all those people watching. In this case, the whiteboard is completely ready.”
The perfect pitch = near-perfect participation
While Van Geluwe says it’s hard to offer quantitative results, he has found that when he hosts large webinars and other virtual meetings, a higher percentage of participants stays on the call to the end when he uses mmhmm.
In fact, Van Geluwe has found mmhmm to be such a compelling and crucial part of his work life that he’s gotten more than 50 people at Adobe to begin using it, and is lobbying for funding for green screens and some tutorial sessions to encourage more people to use it.
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“Don’t underestimate the value of good hardware and lighting,” Van Geluwe says. “If you’re doing a webinar for 1,000 people, you want the image to be crystal clear. And you can't do that without the proper hardware.”
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