Another one in the books.
While Cvent CONNECT brings together meetings, events, and hospitality professionals to evolve and inspire their own meetings and event programs and put cutting-edge strategies into practice--there's an internal team of planning and marketing superstars that have to put it all together.
After holding our first-ever virtual Cvent CONNECT in 2020, and first-ever hybrid Cvent CONNECT in 2021, a hybrid encore was on the books for spring 2022. If you're a planner or marketer, even the most "typical" events can be a bumpy ride, fraught with unexpected hiccups and myriad challenges. And as we now know, there is nothing typical about events in 2022.
What the marketing and planning teams at Cvent did realize, was that because this new event landscape is considerably more complex than it ever has been, collaboration, communication, and a team-first approach was the best way to execute a first-class experience for our attendees. In this post, we'll hear from representatives from both the planning and marketing teams, who will give it to us straight (no chaser) about the lessons learned in 2022.
Question 1: Tell us what you learned from collaborating on a hybrid event?
Paulina Giusti: Collaboration has always been a critical skill set to executing events, regardless if your events are internal or external, in-person only, virtual or hybrid! I can confidently say, project managing a complex conference like Cvent CONNECT requires clear and consistent lines of communication. True to prior years, the team behind Cvent CONNECT is just as broad as the event is complex – it takes a village! That being said, one of the keys to successfully planning an event is being able to seamlessly communicate event goals, updates, and expectations across varying levels of stakeholders, teams, departments, and external vendors.
We have really leaned into technology to help improve our own communication in the pre-planning stages. Examples include - weekly, bimonthly, and monthly Zoom planning meetings depending on the stakeholder audience, dedicated Slack channels for specific purposes, for example, core planning committees, attendee support channels, and staffing channels, to name a few. Additionally, our teams contributed to and developed comprehensive Wiki pages housing a whole host of helpful content for our internal stakeholders to share with registrants and attendees. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how we used our very own Cvent event tech to support pre-planning!
For example, from a program design perspective, the entire event design team collaborates within our Cvent diagramming tool to plot floorplans and effectively layer in programming over unique areas, for example, creating the diagram for the one-day trade show and layering in where F&B will be located, sponsored activations. From a staffing perspective, all Cvent staff whether virtual or in-person are able to register and see what our attendees see within the event app – additionally, all staffing assignments are communicated via our Cvent appointments tool – so that our Cventers are able to see their meetings, sessions and staff roles in an integrated view!
Dara Burg: I think the biggest takeaway I had was that the little details end up making a huge difference in attendee engagement and attendee experience. This year, we focused on creating marketing content that was tailored to major personas within our audiences.
One example of this was our Attendee Guides which gave personalized in-person and virtual agendas for Marketers, Partners, Event Profs, and Hospitality Profs. We applied this personalized approach to all our marketing for Cvent CONNECT, and we saw great results in attendee engagement within Attendee Hub and improved our marketing engagement metrics overall. Though our customized approach was highly complex in execution and collaboration, it’s this level of detail and personalization that takes your hybrid attendee experience to the next level.
Question 2: What are some lessons learned about working with partners and/or vendors?
Paulina Giusti: I could just gush for hours on end about how wonderful our conference partners and vendors were this year - the positivity and enthusiasm that was brought to each pre-planning meeting for Cvent CONNECT felt so uniquely different for obvious reasons, people were really excited to be back in person. Our partnership with Caesars Entertainment throughout the entire pre-planning process felt like an extension of the Cvent family and I think in large part of that is a reflection of what I mentioned earlier – having consistent and clear communication.
We met with Caesars Entertainment weekly six-months out from the event and bi-weekly in the weeks leading up. That level of communication created a foundation for how we all prefer to communicate with one another, mitigated a lot of last-minute change management, and set us up for onsite success. However, in addition to the excitement for the return to in-person events, we’ve also created really meaningful partnerships with vendors for supporting the virtual experience – our sponsors SnackMagic have been hugely impactful for engaging with and celebrating our virtual attendees by gifting snack boxes!
Dara Burg: One thing that was important this year was leaning in on partnerships and capitalizing on the many mutually beneficial marketing opportunities throughout the entire event lifecycle (pre, during, and post). There are some easy wins for partners and planners like product giveaways, discounts for attendees on services in -pre-event emails, and on-site activations. Not only did these provide value for our partners and help them deepen relationships but it also improved the attendee experience. A win-win all around.
Question 3: What about planning for contingencies, what are some lessons so your event will go off without a hitch?
Paulina Giusti: Well first off, your event is never going to go off "without a hitch" so let’s change that expectation 😊! Having hosted a hybrid program in 2021, that particular experience was immeasurably valuable for how to better prepare for the 2022 program. This time around we asked A LOT of questions, took some additional programming risks and doubled down on what we thought worked well previously. Three areas that we really honed in on to ensure both audiences experienced a seamless event include the following:
- Networking/Internet stream testing – ensuring the bandwidth speeds are consistent for your live stream produced sessions
- Speaker Enablement – this year we offered dedicated speaker enablement training pre-event to really help onboard our internal and external speakers to not only the program, and the production but also the amazing engagement features within the Cvent Attendeehub platform.
- Two Integrated staffing plans: In-Person and Virtual – each year we produce a really comprehensive onsite staffing plan with includes a variety of Cventers (sales, customer success, product management, marketers, etc.) But this year, in the weeks leading up to the event it was decided we should add additional Cvent staff members for the virtual offerings - a strategic suggestion to support the virtual engagement by incorporating subject matter experts as part of the virtual experience as well as support resources as well.
Dara Burg: Certain milestones within event planning are always fluid as there are so many different parties working together and a lot of times you are working with external teams as well. My secret recipe for planning out event milestones (such as registration opening, agenda announcements, speaker announcements, etc.) is having a soft launch and a hard launch date. The soft launch date is the date you aim for, and the hard launch date is the date that you will most likely hit. By soft-launching big milestones, you allow time for testing and any last-minute messaging shifts without having to rework everything before your big messaging push.
Question 4: This was your second time planning a hybrid event, what are some new lessons you’ve learned producing a second hybrid event?
Paulina Giusti: I think attendee behaviors are going to continue to evolve. Pre-pandemic people were pretty committed to their conference routine, now, it’s a whole new ballgame. Everything from, food and beverage consumption standards to expectations for
Dara Burg: This year, we got an even better understanding of the behavior differences between an in-person and virtual attendee. A virtual attendee most likely won’t register as early as an in-person attendee, and they will likely register for different reasons than an in-person attendee. Understanding how and why your attendees attend your event helps you create better content for them to engage with and also helps you find pain points in your attendee experience. One thing we did to help better prepare our hybrid attendees was to create more pre-event content for both in-person and virtual attendees in the months leading up to the event to try to help our attendees make the most out of their experience.
While the team plans for Cvent CONNECT 2023(!), we invite you to learn more about how our team created a successful hybrid event that made our attendees ready to come back for more.