Swapcard: All-in-One Virtual Event Tool

As the platform of choice for SXSW Online and 1,500 other virtual events since the pandemic, Swapcard CEO, Baptiste Boulard sits down with TPi Editor, Stew Hume – screen to screen – to recall the trials and tribulations of becoming the industry’s ‘go-to’ virtual event space…

Launched back in 2014, Swapcard’s initial goal was to create a digital alternative to trading business cards at events and, in short, provide a more efficient way of exchanging personal information and connecting with attendees. Through years of trial and error, the French start-up has continued to hone the Swapcard platform with increased functionality including the ability to showcase content, book meetings and host virtual roundtables. With in-person live events no longer possible in 2020, Swapcard found itself as the ‘go-to’ solution for live events in the COVID-19 era.

Since March 2020, the company has hosted 2,000 virtual events within a number of B2B and B2C sectors, including TPi’s Production Futures Online, NAMM 2021 and more recently, SXSW Online 2021. “Before last year, we had never done a purely virtual event,” stated CEO, Baptiste Boulard, speaking to TPi from Swapcard’s Parisian HQ. “Our goal prior to March last year was to provide solutions for more efficient networking at events.”

Since then, demand has grown exponentially, with the company producing 1,500 virtual events in five months, with 5,000 new events scheduled to take place on Swapcard this year alone. This growth has meant the Swapcard team has also grown exponentially, from 40 to 130 employees.

“We are in the midst of employing a further 80 people as we speak,” Boulard remarked.

New employees are placed strategically across the globe – no mean feat in the midst of a pandemic – to offer global support regardless of time zone. Having been picked by a number of high-profile event organisers as an alternative to postponement and cancellation, TPi asked Boulard why he believes his platform has proved so popular.

“When it comes to virtual events, everyone is going through the same challenges,” stated the CEO. “We have really focussed on our UI. Swapcard is a product that was originally made for the end user, not the organiser, so UI and UX are very important to create engagement.”

This focus on the attendees has helped Swapcard winning many clients as many other competitors focus on the organiser’s experience which, as the CEO stated, doesn’t necessarily lead to the best experience for those attending the event and struggle to achieve high engagement. While Swapcard offers an elegant solution, the question remains as to where the platform will exist in a post-COVID world.

“The conversation of the hybrid event is something that we are constantly discussing here at Swapcard,” stated Boulard. “Hybrid is the future and we have already gathered that 70% of organisers are planning on only producing these types of events in the future as opposed to solely in-person events.”

Take SXSW Online, for example. “At SXSW there is a lot of networking that happens outside the main conference in hotel rooms, bars etc. We still want to give people the ability to effectively network and book meetings so having an accompanying platform to an event is vital,” he explained.

“The event had been using the same app platform for the past few years and it was keen to find a more modern offering that pushed innovation,” he continued. “Swapcard offers a full white label solution to help push the SXSW Online brand.”

Equally appealing to SXSW Online 2021 organisers was Swapcard’s ‘guest’ function, where non-ticket holders were able to enjoy free content. “People could see some of the content but would not be able to take part in any of the networking – the idea being that this would lead to many people buying tickets during the event to further experience SXSW,” Boulard noted.

Swapcard also has the ability to archive an event so even weeks after one comes to an end, attendees can still go back and enjoy content and network with others via Swapcard’s messaging system.

“Putting on any more than two big in-person events a year is often all organisers can manage in the real world,” mused Boulard. “This gives you a platform that lives on; you could have your main event take place but then have ‘virtual only’ events that are of value to their audience and help maintain the relationship with them between events.”

Despite promising news from across the globe that events may possibly return to select regions in late 2021, Swapcard will remain as a popular alternative. To discover more about the company and, Evolve 2.0 – a broadcast curated by Swapcard early this year with the goal of providing a space to discuss the future of events – visit: www.evolve.swapcard.com.

This article originally appeared in issue #260 of TPi, which you can read here.