encaptiv: An Origin Story
Shannon Malkin Daniels
Founder & CEO, encaptiv
I often get asked how I came up with the idea for encaptiv, so I finally decided to take keys to blank screen and write it down. But for you to be able to understand the origin of encaptiv, you should first know a few things about me.
I’m a self-proclaimed communication geek. I’m one of those weirdos who not only isn’t afraid of public speaking, I absolutely LOVE it! I don’t know what it is — maybe being on stage as a dancer from the time I was six years old — but I thrive at the podium. Instead of being filled with anxiety, I am filled with excitement when I step on stage.
“I'm one of those weirdos who not only isn't afraid of public speaking, I absolutely LOVE it!”
That love for public speaking and communication only grew as I did. I wrote and edited for my elementary and high school papers. I went with my Nene (grandmother) to ‘take your daughter to work day’ at the Ocala Star Banner when I was in middle school. They gave me a project interviewing strangers and writing an article, which went on to get published. And I was always the first one to step up to the plate when it came time to present group projects throughout my schooling career.
Given this background, you’d think I went to college for journalism or writing, but you’d be wrong. I also had an immense love for all things mechanical. I was the only girl in high school in Power and Transportation Tech and, as my teacher used to tease the boys, I could take apart an engine and put it back together faster than anyone else in the class. I also attended a special engineering school within my high school where I learned drafting, design and the fundamentals of architecture and engineering. And instead of subscribing to fashion magazines and hanging posters of boy bands on my wall, I subscribed to Car and Driver and plastered pictures of Aston Martins and ’57 Chevy Bel Air’s around my room.
I wanted to design cars and rockets, so I originally went to college for aerospace and mechanical engineering (I know, weren’t expecting that from a communication nerd). But I soon learned that while I loved engineering and design, I had a hate-hate relationship with math. Math is just a little important for engineering, so I had to make a change.
After some back and forth, I landed on Liberal Arts with a focus on communication, writing and marketing. And that’s where my love for communication really spawned. I went on to obtain a master’s in Interpersonal Communication from UCF (Go Knights!). When pursuing that degree I was often asked, “What are you going to do with THAT?” My answer was simple, “Win at life and business.”
From there I spent a 15 year corporate career in various communication positions, mainly sales and marketing related, with a 3-year stint in project management. Presentations and events were a major part of the strategy used to garner leads, so I got a lot of first-hand experience in utilizing these techniques to drive sales. And as a project manager, I learned that successfully running meetings and giving presentations were crucial to a project’s success.
After working my way up the ladder into executive positions I realized the corporate life wasn’t for me, so I left corporate America and started a coaching business. At the same time I also started teaching public speaking and communication at the college level, teaching on the faculty at Iona College and Columbia University.
Throughout all my various career paths — corporate sales & marketing, communication coaching and academia — I noticed the same problems arising with presentations and events.
Presentations are 1-way. The presenter stands at the front of the room, usually with slides behind them, and talks AT their audience.
Audience members are distracted. Most people carry smartphones in their pockets these day, which are notorious for pulling audience attention away from the speaker and into the tech rabbit hole.
In person interactions are hard to measure. Sure, you can count how many people attend a session and send out feedback surveys, but survey response rates are less than 50% and they don’t do a great job of measuring audience engagement and interests.
Motivation walks out the door with the audience. This is a biggie. Most business presentations have a call to action such as ‘book a consultation’ or ‘buy my book, product or service’ (in academia it may be ‘schedule office hours’). If the speaker has done their job right, a good portion of the audience will be excited to complete the call to action. The problem is, attendees generally can’t complete the action until after they leave the room — and their motivation leaves with them — leading to hours of follow-up and low conversion success.
Frustrated with all of this and more, I went in search of a solution that would transform smart phones and tablets from a distraction into an engagement tool, measure that engagement AND convert audience members on the spot. When I couldn’t find a solution that did all of these things, I sat down and designed what my perfect solution looked like.
“I went in search of a solution that would transform smart phones and tablets from a distraction into an engagement tool, measure that engagement AND convert audience members on the spot.”
I started showing my drawing to friends, colleagues and clients and kept hearing, “When can I sign up!?!” My answer was, “You can’t sign up. It’s just a drawing on a piece of paper.” To which they responded, “Okay. When are you going to build it so I can sign up?” That’s when I knew I was on to something.
Having worked in a co-working space for a while, I had built relationships with a number of tech entrepreneurs, so I solicited their advice, engaged a team and encaptiv (originally named “Engage”) was off to the races! That was in 2018.
We originally designed and built encaptiv for the in person experience, and when we launched our beta in 2019 we put our hypothesis to the test: That encaptiv could improve audience engagement and increase conversion success. We watched closely throughout the beta period and learned a lot from both our presenters and attendees, iterating and making modifications to our platform as we received feedback.
The most exciting thing was witnessing the conversion success rates. Presenters were experiencing an average 56% conversion success rate, and some as high as 100% (compare that to an average sales conversion rate of 2% to 5%). We were stoked and ready to get encaptiv out into the world!
“Presenters were experiencing an average 56% conversion success rate, and some as high as 100%!”
In early 2020 we began our sales and marketing efforts and started booking events and conferences. We set our BIG LAUNCH for April 2020 at a 15,000 person conference at Javits in NYC. But then Covid happened, and we had built an amazing platform for the in person events market.
So now our team was faced with a challenge…how to make the virtualexperience engaging, immersive and fun, while still driving exceptional ROI.
Being a communication geek, encaptiv is designed using human communication principles. We consider ourselves a communication company at our core, and technology is the conduit through which we enhance human connection.
Keeping this in mind, we spent countless hours interviewing customers, potential customers, partners and various events professionals across the spectrum, from large corporations to small mom and pop shops. We took a look at what other event technologies were doing in the virtual space, and then designed and built a platform for virtual and hybrid events that increases audience engagement andprovides numerous opportunities to maximize ROI — using communication research, theory and principles to drive our design decisions.
As part of this, one of our design principles has been to keep it simple. We feel that what we do is just as important as what we don’t do. We don’t feature stuff. We don’t have tons of menu items. We hide irrelevant buttons when in session. We don’t do question upvoting or “twitter” walls. WHY? If the goal of your session is to share information with your audience, have them retain that information and remain engaged throughout, then adding too many interactive elements distracts. People can’t listen, read, type and upvote all at the same time — they have to choose where to place their attention.
When it comes to holding an audience’s attention, less is certainly more. At encaptiv, we focus on a clean, simple design that is user friendly, and utilize automations and algorithms to assist users in using the platform and navigating the event. We also have purpose-designed rooms to keep attendees interested and engaged, including content style rooms for education, fireside rooms for panel discussions and fireside chats, social rooms for networking and more.
This isn’t a sales pitch for encaptiv. It’s our WHY and what makes us DIFFERENT.
When I set out on this journey, I had a vision to create imaginative communication solutions that transcend technological barriers and strengthen human connection. That remains our goal. Human communication is at the core of everything we do, and we will continue push past the barriers of what technology allows to innovate solutions that streamline communication and make it more impactful; resulting in elevated productivity, heightened understanding and inspired action.
Our story is still being written, and we invite you to be a part of it.