Meet Mr. Jonathan Seevaratnam, Founder & CEO of Jiggee, a premier event management agency based in Malaysia. In this Q&A spotlight, read how Jonathan morphed from a professional clown into a business owner, how to keep audiences entertained and engaged and find out what his advice is when planning digital events.
Can you tell us a little about you and Jiggee?
I am an accidental entrepreneur and founder, having started my career as a professional clown, earning some side income whilst hustling away in college. Jiggee was my clown name circa 1997-2002, before I retired from clowning, and moved into event management.
I started off by working part-time for an entertainment company in Malaysia, and thereafter whilst furthering my studies in Michigan, I founded Jiggee in May of 2000 as an Entertainment company focusing on providing party planning and entertainment services. I brought it back to Malaysia at the tail-end of 2001, and spent 2 years doing entertainment-related events, to then graduate to becoming an event manager, starting off with small annual dinners, launches, meetings and conferences before going full-blown from 2005 onwards to produce the scale of events, soirees and luxe weddings that we do today.
After retiring as a clown in 2002, I moved into Deejaying and Emceeing, entertaining at events as a Corporate Entertainer, and whilst I hung up my DJ Headphones in 2012 or so, I still emcee till today, enjoying every moment of my stage or livestream time!
What are the three things you’ve learnt about creating bespoke corporate and luxe events?
The key things that I’ve learned in my career as a bespoke corporate and luxe events planner is that no two clients or events are ever the same. When crafting such events like this, a deep thought process must go into ideating so that the true depth of the wealth of one’s erudite creativity that stems from years of honing your trade truly comes out to shine bright like a diamond in the form of the work you produce and present to these discerning clients. Hence, one must take extreme pride in what they do, undertaking these opportunities to plan special moments with a passion that can only come from the pit of one’s belly.
Congratulations on having recently completed the Digital Event Strategist (DES) course, how have you applied the content to your day-to-day business? What was the best takeaway you had?
Signing up for the DES course in the thick of producing digital events truly was the best move I made in 2020, as the learnings I took away truly bolstered my ability to become a better well-rounded producer, enhancing my knowledge of the industry, as coming with years of Live Event experience, and being catapulted into the Digital Events scene overnight.
It was great to have modules that reiterated what you already knew but hearing it again really drove that point home. The biggest takeaway was just the important do’s and don’ts that make up any digital event, having them pointed out clearly, and hearing it twice, really reinforced the learning experience, to ensure I always brought my A-game with my team to all virtual events we produce.
How do you entertain and keep audiences engaged online? Do you have any advice you can share with the APAC community?
The best way to entertain and keep audiences engaged online is to plan interactive elements that involve them. As a now experienced virtual event emcee, I’ve firsthand experience watching people just get up off their seats and literally catwalk in front of the webcam. This is based on the basic human mindset where the ability to win a freebie or goodie will spur them to let all inhibitions aside and get involved. Be it a simple chat, a physical gesture, or full-on running around their workstations at home, engaging your audience has never held a truer meaning, as people combat Zoom fatigue and whatnot after a year of an extreme overdose of screen time.
My biggest advice is to ensure you weave in interactive activities throughout your event, something as simple as a virtual photo booth or a trivia game show can go a long way in ensuring that event doesn’t become a snore-fest!
Having been in the events industry for 20 years, what is the best advice you have for those working in the events industry?
Be driven by passion! The events industry can only carry on when more passionate people keep carrying the torch and leading by example. This is not an industry for the fainthearted, hence the job of an Event Manager ranks highly up there as one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Yet, when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life! This is me. I get paid to produce happiness, to me, that’s the best job in the world!
How do you maintain a positive and fun work culture, especially during 2020?
I always remind my team, that we’re blessed to have been able to pivot to digital events so quickly, and the fact we had work ongoing, and events to plan, was all the music to our ears we needed to keep us going. Also, learning so many new things each and every day, as is the case in the world of virtual events, as one unearths new platforms, new tech, new gadgets and gizmos, it’s easy to always stay lively and upbeat, whilst anticipating what’s coming next!
Favourite APAC destination and why?
Has to be Bali, there’s a plethora of options for event planners to go ape over, and one can truly flex one’s creative muscle if they tried hard enough there. I’ve produced more than 5 events there, more than any other city across the region, traveling to Bali over 13 times in the process, so that’s testament to the fact that it ranks highly on the list of most clients when choosing a location in APAC.