Tech Giants: Lux Narayan, CEO, StreamAlive
Talk to Lux Narayan, co-founder of event audience engagement technology platform StreamAlive, and it quickly becomes apparent that he is anything but your typical event tech CEO. Not only has the serial entrepreneur founded three technology companies over the past two decades, including AI-powered SaaS StreamAlive in 2021, social media benchmarking company Unmetric and online data backup company Vembu Technologies, but also he is a TED speaker, amateur standup comedian, author and storyteller who feels just as comfortable telling jokes in front of an audience as he does delivering PowerPoint presentations and pitching potential investors.
“While the event technology space is new for me, one thing is definitely not: presenting in front of audiences,” Narayan said. “The dynamic and interaction between me as the presenter and my audience has always fascinated me. My grandfather was also a public speaking teacher – one of the first in India in 1967. So, you could say it’s in my blood, too.”
He added, “The ability to play a part in making [event] audience engagement a better, more positive experience is what I like most about being in [the event tech] space.”
Corporate Event News had a chance to sit down with Narayan to hear about how an extended work sabbatical inspired StreamAlive, what sets the audience engagement platform apart from the competition and how the platform will be integrating AI to help presenters foster more engaging live presentations for virtual, hybrid and in-person meetings and events.
A few years ago, you took some time away from the working world to pursue your own passions. Can you give us an overview of how this experience inspired you to create StreamAlive?
After we sold Unmetric [in 2019], I was fortunate enough to be able to take some time to reset and pursue some personal ambitions as a writer and storyteller. It was fortuitous because right around this time we had a medical emergency in the family that would have been much more difficult to contend with if I had still been at the helm of a company.
It was during this extended time off that I wrote and published a book called “Name, Place, Animal, Thing.” Since this was also during the height of the pandemic lockdowns, a lot of the cohort-based courses I took on writing and book promotion were online on Zoom, Facebook Live or YouTube Live. Having been on the other side of the presentation table, I could see that the native chat functions for whatever presentation platform the teacher or coach was using were not great for true audience engagement.
During these courses, I was asking questions and responding to questions the teacher was asking, but most of the time I was being ignored because the presenter/coach could only respond and react to so many comments at a time. The virtual nature of the live session compounded this, but I also realized this problem is the same even with in-person or hybrid events. Once an audience reaches double-digits, it becomes impossible for the presenter to acknowledge and engage with everyone.
The inspiration for StreamAlive stemmed from wanting to create something that turned a typical presentation monologue into a dialogue where everyone can feel that their voice is heard and acknowledged.
Is StreamAlive meant for just virtual and hybrid events, or can it be used for in-person events, as well?
Presenters at in-person events can absolutely use StreamAlive. Even if your audience is all in-person, the problem is still the same. At scale, it is impossible to acknowledge and empower every single person to have a voice. You can get on stage and say things that elicit a binary response. For example, you could say “Raise your hand if you’re from out of town.” People will raise their hands and then two seconds later that info and moment is gone forever. You can’t realistically ask every person what city or country they are from, [but] with StreamAlive, you can.
We kept in mind that in-person events and meetings would make a comeback and that hybrid was likely going to be the new normal for these types of events and sessions. One of the first things we built after our proof-of-concept was a browser-based chat feature that connects everyone in the room and everyone not in the room to a group chat. The audience gets the same live session and StreamAlive experience no matter where they are located. Everyone can participate in the audience interactions and literally see that their voices are being heard.
What sets StreamAlive apart when it comes to helping meeting and event planners produce standout sessions at events?
For starters, there is no app install for the audience. For those participating in online sessions on Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, Twitch or YouTube Live, there is no user interface, no learning curve and no opportunity to get distracted by looking at a second screen. The audience can become an active participant in the session directly from the chat. Any question they ask is automatically picked up by our AI and collated into a question bank.
For in-person and hybrid events, the browser-based chat is a way to bring the audience together to have a continuous shared experience, and not just when the presenter asks them to vote for something like other audience engagement apps do. By keeping everything as simple as asking the audience to type it in the chat, participation in events can be increased [and] participants are more connected with each other.
For online events, we recently helped an author in India launch his book during a YouTube live session. He had more than 15,000 viewers tune in, and StreamAlive helped him generate more than 13,000 comments with the audience interactions. The author sold more than 5,000 books during the one-hour live stream. He was also streaming to other platforms and had a combined audience of 140,000 viewers.
Another example is a coach to independent business consultants ran a webinar and a combination of his high-tempo delivery and StreamAlive’s audience interactions meant that the audience stayed tuned in to his presentation for the full hour. More than 85% of the audience participated in the chat and had their voices heard.
What does the future hold for StreamAlive in the coming year?
We have a lot of exciting things in the works, including plans to add generative AI capabilities powered by ChatGPT 4 to the presentation workflow to make the whole experience of creating live sessions as frictionless and effortless as possible. Having given presenters the ability to listen in real-time to their audience, the next step is to help them engineer engaging presentations that incorporate listening. AI can greatly help with this as users embrace new behaviors.
We’re also adding new meeting and streaming platforms, some of which will be enabled by our recently launched Chrome Plugin, which can pull the chat stream from any platform, even if there’s no API available. We’re also expanding our library of visual interactions. It currently includes maps, polls, word clouds, falling blocks, winner wheels, etc. We have plans for at least three more interactions in the immediate future.
Lastly, we are looking at improving workflows. We will be integrating into authoring tools like Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint, and becoming available in various app stores to become truly ubiquitous and pervasive in all presentation authoring and meeting and streaming environments.
Which comedian has inspired your own standup comedy and why?
I’ve been most inspired by the great George Carlin. Besides his sense of comic timing, voice modulation and act-outs, his ability to find comic gold in the seemingly mundane is inspiring. He also had a nuanced way with words and inspiring verbal dexterity.
Among current comedians, I am most inspired by Bo Burnham. His ability to do multi-modal comedy, and his many talents are extremely inspiring. His special, “Inside,” produced, written, edited and performed by him from one room during the pandemic, is a testament to the power of creativity and how one person can, with talent and effort, be so prolific and bring (bittersweet) joy to others.
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