Kristin Huben, Account Director at Mary O’Connor & Company, first saw the global health crisis affect her company in early March. The meeting and events planning agency underwent the same challenges as the rest of the industry, with the knowledge that many of their clients’ events would be postponed or cancelled. With the uncertainty of the global pandemic affecting the outlook of their clients’ business, she knew the answer was to pivot as quickly as possible to virtual.
The 25 year-old company manages events of all sizes for clients across industries. It was their existing relationships with their customers that helped drive their expertise in the new virtual world. “Going from being with all of our customers, who we love so much, to the virtual atmosphere meant the face of meetings and events was changing as well,” she says. “We needed to change to meet the customer’s business objectives.” As a result, Mary O’Connor & Company team quickly shifted to execute premier virtual events for their clients.
Powering Virtual Event Success with Cvent
After seeing almost all events paused for the first half of 2020, virtual events become the norm for the second half of the year. As a result, an association client partnered with Kristin’s team to evaluate virtual meeting technologies in the marketplace. They hoped to find a solution that could serve not only their virtual event needs, but the eventuality of in-person events. The association combined three separate conferences into one virtual experience. They needed a virtual platform that could support complicated registration logic while offering customizable features, an easily navigable platform, and the ability to follow advanced rules to create custom experiences. Kristen was able to see the new Cvent Virtual Attendee Hub® in action at Cvent CONNECT Virtual, Cvent's virtual user conference. She quickly recommended the tool as the right solution for her client.
The virtual event would require advanced logic to manage multiple registration pathways. Different packages were available for members, non-members, and sponsors. The content was designed for professionals working with franchise organizations, so it was also tailored to fit three unique business services based on the global situation: those not yet re-opened, those partially re-opened, and those fully re-opened. Further, there were pre-registration sessions with head count ceilings. The content offerings could be purchased à la cart or as a package, and were further split into marketing, operations, sales, and development thematic tracks. Post-event recorded content would be available to all, with a few thresholds in place.
The complexity of the event build and registration logic meant the flexibility of the Virtual Attendee Hub and integrated Cvent Event Management system were a perfect fit. “Cvent is certainly the industry leader by leaps and bounds, especially in terms of the need for complicated registration advanced logic to drive a really custom experience for attendees, and with the Virtual Attendee Hub,” says Kristin. Registration data flowed seamlessly into the virtual platform across the four day event. Attendees were guaranteed a secure login experience with one-click access to the virtual environment protected by two-factor authentication and built-in privacy controls. The single system of record also offered clear data insights for Kristin’s client, with on-demand reports to track attendance and measure key data points across the event lifecycle. The technology “was definitely designed with the user in mind,” Kristin insists. As both experienced Cvent users and novices would be accessing the tools, she felt comfortable with the clean interface and user experience for both registration and the Virtual Attendee Hub.
Advancing Production with the Cvent Virtual Attendee Hub
To manage the complexity of the build and high-touch virtual experience, Kristin’s team partnered with Cvent’s Virtual Event 360 Advanced Production services. Kristin’s team was able to scope the client’s goals and objectives for the virtual experience in conjunction with the production team. She appreciated the ingenuity of the Cvent experts in working with the client to engage speakers and craft compelling content for sessions. She explains, “We were able to really control the production of the content and make any edits that we needed to, and Cvent’s advanced production team was really the linchpin in this process. The most important person on this entire team was our Virtual Event 360 project manager.” They offered session production, strategy consultation, custom graphics and overlays, and video layout and configuration. Content capture and casting from various remote locations across multiple time zones required a down-to-the-minute production schedule. If issues or questions arose, Kristin says the production team was always ready with a solution. She credits the knowledge of the team and their versatility within the tool to help keep their event on budget and within scope, all while creating a polished virtual experience. With such expertise in place, the client’s event looked incredible and ran smoothly from start to finish. “It was just completely seamless, and the advanced production services from Cvent were pivotal to our success,” she insists.
Within the hub, the fully-branded, personalized home screen gave attendees access to key event details. These included live sessions, upcoming sessions, and networking events, all dynamically displayed based on on registration type. Content included a daily mix of plenary speakers, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities. They offered a selection of live, simulive, and fully pre-recorded content based on session type and audience. Kristin’s team used the Cvent Video Player for embedded streaming directly within the hub, creating a seamless viewing experience for the end user. An emcee helped guide users to appropriate sessions and events, including a select number of RSVP-only networking events like mixology classes and cooking demos. These all were capped with registration ceilings, so they offered optional networking rooms for overflow attendees. They also used the Cvent Video Conferencing tool and a Zoom integration to manage interactive networking experiences. Live Q&A allowed attendees to engage with one another and was configured as a type of chat feature. Kristin says her team used the mobile app as a “great in-hand tool to moderate session Q&A.”
Maximizing Sponsor ROI with Engagement Scoring
The fully-sponsored event also featured multiple levels of sponsor engagement packages. Kristin’s team used the Exhibitor Management solution to streamline workflows and automate processes. She explains, “We had about 35 sponsors at different levels. We were able to offer them activations at different levels, using various parts of the hub to feature them in unique ways.” Sponsors were highlighted within the sponsors showcase on the home page and within dedicated sponsor pages. Here, they could promote key collateral, content, and contact information. Kristin's team used the digital space to tailor their sponsorship packages based on number of documents to be featured, character limits, and so forth. She adds, “We were also able to create a really enriching experience leveraging virtual booths for high-end sponsors." Offline mailers and virtual swag bags increased sponsor visibility with attendees.
With the ability to offer post-event content up to 90 days after the close of the event, Kristin’s team provided further visibility for sponsors and value for attendees. With over 350 live event registrations and a steady stream of additional registrations after the event closed, the client views the longevity of the virtual environment as a key aspect of their success. Kristin's team also relied on a wealth of data to prove event success, including engagement scoring. “There is value in engagement scoring not only for the client, but for sponsors of the event,” notes Kristin. “We were able to show the value in the numbers of links and click throughs and views on their content.” Coupled with custom reports on web page analytics, question submissions, and attendee tracking, both the client and sponsors saw valuable leads generated from the event. They also distributed an event-level survey with custom logic to gain insights into the attendee experience, viewing an overwhelmingly positive response as a significant metric of success. “We got some really positive feedback, not only in the navigability of the tool, but the execution and professionalism of the content. The customer has been really happy with the result,” Kristin notes.
The Future of Virtual and Hybrid Events
Working with clients of all sizes across industries, Kristin appreciates the flexibility of the Cvent ecosystem to execute successful virtual and in-person events for her clients. She explains, “We really put every feature into use, and it may not have been the exact intended use, but that’s our favorite thing about Cvent. There’s a perfectly prescribed use case, but at the end of the day, you’re also given the tools to figure out how to make the tool work best for you.” Measures of success for her client included staying under budget and producing a world-class experience, both objectives she says they readily achieved. Kristin notes, “We produced a fantastic event and got to work with great people from Cvent who were really knowledgeable in tool. They helped us meet business objectives and our budget goals, so that was incredible.”
As for the future of the industry, Kristin naturally hopes for the return of in-person events but foresees a bright future for virtual and hybrid experiences. She does note that “we’ve opened a door that can’t be closed again with virtual,” which will be an integral part of future events. That means consumers and event producers alike need to adjust their understanding of event best practices, including shorter session content, technology adaptability and engagement, and ensuring attendees can engage in meaningful conversations through video conferencing. “The tools are already right there in the Cvent toolkit,” she insists. The right tools, she says, are transferable from virtual into hybrid meetings environments, which she believes is the way back to in-person events. “As a third party planner, I would say helping the customer understand the technologies that are available to them and how it will serve them beyond the virtual-only environment is key,” advises Kristin. “You want to make sure the technology has the legs to serve them twelve or eighteen months down the road so they don't find themselves in the marketplace for a new technology all over again.”
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