Henry Tran of 6Connex: “A great presentation cannot be done without audience engagement”

We work closely with clients to create a bespoke approach to virtual events that includes different types of engagement, such as polls and breakout sessions. A great presentation needs to make people feel like they are part of it! The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But […]

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We work closely with clients to create a bespoke approach to virtual events that includes different types of engagement, such as polls and breakout sessions. A great presentation needs to make people feel like they are part of it!

The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Henry Tran.

Henry is the Chief Technology Officer at 6Connex. He is an executive with 20+ years of business and technology experience, including leadership roles at Virtustream, PROS, Rackspace, and most recently, Alert Logic. Henry has built his career successfully transforming organizations’ product management, technology, customer success, and operations capabilities, including converting established, traditional software businesses to SaaS. Henry started his career as an engineer with a Cisco Certified Internetwork Engineer certificate. Additionally, at Current Technologies, he was awarded two patents.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory” and how you got started?

I started as a telecommunications engineer out of college. When I moved to the U.S. in 1998, I switched over to information technology. This was largely due to the fact that I appreciate an IT department’s impact on the business and how fast it changes over time.

During the dotcom era, I was interested in data centers. So, I got into networking and eventually was certified as a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE).

I worked at several large companies, leading their cloud-based operations, and started at 6Connex as chief technology officer in May 2020, right in the thick of the pandemic. While it was certainly a challenging time and stressful for many, I was very appreciative of the 6Connex team, which was certainly up to the task of working closely with clients. Many of the organizations we were working with were using large-scale virtual environments for the first time. Stressful, yes, but also very rewarding in a professional sense. I’m proud of how our team came together and were able to educate clients on the importance of, and best practices related to, an engaging virtual environment.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I started with a financial services and payment company for eight months as a network architect. When a management position became available, my colleagues tried to convince me to apply for it. I was surprised since I hadn’t thought much about getting into management. As it turned out, they liked how I provided vision and helped them to achieve the team’s goals.

Through this experience, I learned quickly that leadership is not about having a title; it’s about how an individual can serve and work closely with their team members to accomplish common goals.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I think that the most important lesson I learned was from “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People,” by Steven Covey. In particular, I take inspiration from “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” This line of thinking encouraged me to focus on what I can influence by being proactive.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I remember when I came to the U.S. from Vietnam, I was very excited to live and work here, but obviously, there was a learning curve and several colleagues helped me adjust as well as provided professional guidance.

At the time I was working for Montgomery County Public Schools as an IT specialist. At one point I went to my boss to try to apply for another job in the public school system. My boss looked at me and told me that I shouldn’t apply. Her rationale was that I was too smart to be in an environment that was not moving fast and encouraging innovation and technological advancement. Instead, she recommended that I pursue work in the commercial space.

Not to say that education and academia isn’t innovative! But for this particular role at this time and based on her understanding of my capabilities and aspirations, this supervisor realized that I would likely find more success in the commercial sector.

While it was a somewhat jarring experience at the time, in retrospect I really appreciate that this supervisor — with nothing to gain personally and perhaps even contrary to her own benefit — recommended that instead of staying in the school system I pursue a career elsewhere.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe strongly that if you are successful, you should provide not just guidance but mentorship to younger people. When I was in Houston, I was on the board of directors for a school that taught Vietnamese as a language. I wanted to “pay back” the goodwill demonstrated by my colleagues when I first came to the U.S. I also wanted to ensure that the next generation of young people who may have immigrated to this country (or had parents who did) see themselves represented as leaders at innovative organizations.

In terms of formal mentorship, when I worked for Rack Space, we developed a mentor program. For two years I was mentoring younger colleagues not just in my capacity as a supervisor at the company, but also as an experienced professional in their industry. I strove to be a mentor not only for careers but also for how they conducted themselves outside of work.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Here at 6Connex, we are in the business of events. Events are essentially a venue for people to communicate. The challenge is how to achieve targeted communication or communication with purpose. This is where our development of artificial intelligence into our product suite plays a significant role. We operate on the AWS cloud platform and we leveraged AWS’ industry-leading AI tools to create the first set of AI functionality for the virtual events industry.

With AI, we can recommend better content, better meetings and better presentations for attendees. We are therefore improving the experience and also the return-on-investment for event organizers.

We conduct sales and marketing events across sectors and industries. But a significant part of our customer base is in the healthcare space and it was particularly gratifying to work with many healthcare organizations over the past 18 months as the pandemic disrupted professions and lives. It was critical that the latest forms of communication were available to mitigate the worst aspects of the pandemic.

Another important aspect of communication is audience engagement and audience feedback, specifically during presentations or webcasting/streaming. We need to engage the audience by enabling them to share their thoughts, reactions, sentiments, and feedback. It should be done in real time and recorded with the right context. During presentations, in-person or virtual attendees should be able to share how they think and feel about the content. By engaging with the content, they also have opportunities to engage with like-minded attendees and explore further conversations. With the right platform, virtual attendees can get as much information and as many human connections as physical attendees.

As workers across the world struggle with the lingering effects of the pandemic, including burnout and mental health issues, it is imperative that communication channels are engaging and inclusive to mitigate the nature of remote and virtual work.

How do you think this might change the world?

The world has already changed significantly. During COVID-19, virtual platforms became a permanent fixture of events. Even organizations that are now holding physical events need to include a virtual component for their audience. This will remain a post-pandemic feature of largescale events. This virtual component has added to many companies’ sustainability efforts as virtual events create significant carbon emission avoidance. Additionally, more engaging virtual meetings and conferences allow a broader range of participants, from persons with disabilities to those unable to travel for whatever reason.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Regarding the widespread use of AI, there is the potential for privacy concerns. We take great efforts to protect our data. We do not collect data that the audience does not want us to. We also only use the data to make the experience better, as opposed to taking advantage of the audience.

In regard to streaming, we don’t consider it as a way to get information. We use it as a mechanism to engage with the other participants.

We are not using the virtual platform to eliminate human connection; we are using it to facilitate greater human interaction.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Obviously COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of virtual event platforms. But around July or August in 2020, we were experiencing massive adoption of our virtual platform, we realized that engagement was more more important than simple presentations.

People want engagement. So, we started looking into advanced video streaming and AI features in order to connect the virtual and physical worlds together.

People were tired of webinars and were craving virtual platforms that allowed participants to connect with each other.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

The question could have been “what did we need to create widespread adoption?” The national “lockdown” forced many organizations to use virtual meeting technology out of necessity; and frankly, many were surprised at how effective it was and has been. The awareness of what’s available, combined with first-hand experience — is critical. Leaders can now consider the value of virtual events to their audiences with an understanding of what virtual events can and can’t do.

Specific to the use of AI within virtual events, data is the key. It’s vital in all AI implementations, no matter the industry. The more data, the more the AI can train itself to create accurate recommendations and matchmakings.

The value of virtual events and return-on-investment has been proven over the last 16 months and even “physical” events will have some virtual component moving forward.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

The innovation at 6Connex directly addresses how to humanize technology and foster more collaboration and interaction even when colleagues, partners, clients and prospects are hundreds and thousands of miles apart.

We believe that more and more attendees/participants will use virtual tools at events in order to take advantage of all of the offerings that event organizers are providing.

The event industry will never be the same again. Leaders and large organizations who have pushed the envelope on virtual events already know this. Those that haven’t already done so need to educate themselves in order to succeed in a post-pandemic world.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. You can be very productive working with a remote team.

At 6Connex, most of our employees are remote/virtual. Even before the pandemic, we were hiring based on talent, not location, and leveraging our own products to create a strong culture while enabling remote work. It’s not only feasible, it’s rewarding to work with a team that maintains such a strong culture of collaboration, partnership, and efficiency.

2. A great presentation cannot be done without audience engagement.

We work closely with clients to create a bespoke approach to virtual events that includes different types of engagement, such as polls and breakout sessions. A great presentation needs to make people feel like they are part of it!

3. In order to be a high-performing team, you will need to address inefficiencies or lack of buy-in quickly.

I’m fortunate to work with a great team at 6Connex. But as a young professional, I didn’t realize that for fast-moving tech products and the teams creating and implementing them, it’s imperative that there is buy-in and expertise all around.

4. Always listen to the customers. Your product is not something you sell, it’s something that solves the customer’s problems.

Customers are savvy enough to tell the difference between a salesperson and someone who has created a great product to solve their problems.

5. Embrace agility.

Earlier in my career I’d embrace the waterfall model to ensure that we have all requirements written before we even start building a product or service. But now I know that often it’s a better idea to get started on smaller ideas, especially when you’re working with a smart and agile team. This also manifests in my personal life. Since 2018 I’ve been racing cars as a hobby!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As I shared earlier, I like and have benefited from mentorship that doesn’t necessarily benefit the person directly but is a greater benefit to the mentee’s career and professional development and outlook.

I’d like to see more leaders, especially those of large organizations, foster a culture where mentorship is considered a critical endeavor for senior management.

Considering that more and more people will conduct business remotely, I would encourage leaders to proactively think about how they can best engage all of their stakeholders in a virtual capacity; how they can make those who are virtual feel like they are in the room with everyone else.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Our website has resources that could help anyone who is looking for ways to engage their employees, especially in a remote working environment. This includes e-books, guides, white papers and blog posts.

The following link hosts all of these resources: https://info.6connex.com/resources

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

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