August 26, 2020
By John Hunter

Day 1 of Cvent CONNECT Virtual was a day like no other — literally. With 40,000 registrants joining us online, it was a day for the record books, the largest gathering of meeting and event professionals in history. If you missed any of the action, you can watch it free and on-demand in the Cvent Virtual Attendee Hub

Our “new normal” virtual conference kicked off with a keynote by our CEO & Founder, Reggie Aggarwal. Reggie spoke about the power and resilience of the meetings and events industry, his views on our road to recovery, and how we can shape the future of events. Virtual and hybrid events are not necessarily new, but today, they are more critical than ever, and represent the new frontier for meetings and events. As we navigate the days ahead, Reggie reiterated that our industry was truly forged by fire, and the future of events is bright, exhilarating, and exciting. Nothing will stop us ... not even a global pandemic. We are adapting and evolving. The events industry will not only recover, but together we will transform it and usher in a golden age.”

After Reggie’s opening remarks, we were joined by an esteemed panel of guests for their personal views on the future of events. Susan Robertson, President & CEO, American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Jason Dunn Board Chairman, National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP), Paul Van Deventer President & CEO, Meeting Professionals International (MPI), and  Kimberly Gishler CEO & President, Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA) offered their views on the road to recovery, diversifying our industry through inclusion, and how we can shape these lessons learned for the future of events & hotels. 

Cvent CONNECT Virtual 2020 Day 1: Session Recaps

A Conversation with Arne Sorenson

To kick things off in the afternoon, Marriott President & CEO Arne Sorenson sat down for a conversation with our master of ceremonies Mark Jeffries to provide his thoughts on the industry, the current state of affairs, and where he predicts we're headed next. The largest hotel chain in the world, Marriott International has over 7,000 properties in 131 countries and territories. Mr. Sorenson extended a message of hope and inspiration for our industry, and how we all look forward to meeting in-person in the near future.

Creating and Maintaining Safer Onsite Experiences for In-Person Meetings

The value of in-person events is undeniable and, more than ever, the wellbeing of your attendees has to be your top priority. The more organizers can build and market a safe experience, the more likely they are to have a successful, well-attended event. This session covered how to manage the physical space of the venue, how attendees check-in, move through your event, as well as consume content, and network with one another.

Improving Lead Performance and Conversion: The Event Opportunity

Designed for operationally and revenue minded Marketers, this session explored how to programmatically capture event activity, create actionable engagement scores, and integrate these insights for better funnel performance. Your in-person, virtual, and hybrid events generate thousands of valuable touchpoints, giving you powerful insight into attendee interests and preferences. Every appointment held, booth visited, session attended, or survey completed paints a clearer picture of your customers and prospects. Systematically capturing this event activity data and combining it with your existing customer and prospect profiles, allows you to build smarter follow up plans, accelerating your leads through the funnel faster.

Partnering with Venues to Ensure Safer Events

As a planner, you’re probably focused on the future of your event programs – even while working from home. When in-person and hybrid events return, there will be a whole new way to think about event spaces and layouts, with details that you have not had to consider before. Your attendees will expect an environment with social distancing and health protocols in place, so it will be more important than ever to plan internal events or find the perfect venues that can deliver safe event experiences. The added challenge is finding event spaces with enough room to accommodate layouts that ensure safety, without you physically going on site. In this session, we discussed how you can leverage Cvent’s venue sourcing and venue diagramming solutions, whether you’re planning internal events or offsite in-person events, to create layouts with social distancing guidelines in mind.

The Business of Events: Managing Partners and Sponsors for Your Digital Events

It's more important than ever to grow your events and brand, which depends on fostering great partnerships and sponsorships. In this session, we shared an exclusive, inside view into the world of Cvent Partnerships and Sponsorships, with tips on how to build a mutually beneficial & long-lasting relationships, create value for your investors through digital opportunities and events, and maintain partner engagement while demonstrating value in year-round programming.

The Future is Now: Intro to Virtual Events

According to PCMA, 76% of event planners are taking their events virtual, and as we look to the future, that trend seems here to stay. While the fundamentals of in-person and virtual events are the same, there are some key differences. In this session we covered the key components of a virtual event – from business objectives to engaging content to the different technology needs. Attendees left feeling more confident in understanding what they need to execute a successful virtual event. We were joined by David Moricca, Founder & CEO, Socialive, and Sara Larsen, Chief Marketing Officer, Brightcove, for this forward-thinking session.

The Way Forward: Insights Into a Recovering Industry

What will group business recovery look like? What exactly is the “new normal,” and how do suppliers adjust and optimize to meet the needs of event professionals? This session featured Cvent Co-Founder and President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing, Chuck Ghoorah, and Melinda Burdette, Director of Events at Meeting Professionals International. They led a discussion about what we’ve learned from analyzing data and sentiment trends, and offered unique perspectives on what's happening in the industry and how that is likely to inform future best practices and trends in terms of planner requirements. They also showcased key data and trend learnings meant to give shape to the group restart.

The Future is Now: Intro to Hybrid Events

As Reggie mentioned in his keynote, many large events have taken a hybrid approach to deliver content to those not attending in-person for years. However, with advances in virtual event technology, it's time to completely rethink hybrid events as experiences for both in-person and virtual attendees. This session outlined the benefits and opportunities with a hybrid event, how to think about hybrid event design, and how this event type fits into your total event strategy.

The Virtual Experience: Humanizing Events in a World Gone Digital

It stands to reason; virtual and hybrid events are now an essential element of the marketing mix. And like any channel or tactic, success requires us to clearly define our event objectives. Lost in this discussion of objectives is perhaps the most important one - humanizing the virtual experience. This fireside chat session explored these key questions: As we're setting objectives for our event, how do we keep the human element at the center? And how do we tap into the potential to make emotional connections with our virtual attendees? Brad Gillespie, VP of Enterprise Solutions at Cvent, and Ajith Krishnankutty, Head of Events & Creative Studio at Capital Group, discussed how to humanize events in a world gone digital.

Think Digital to Power Your Group Recovery

Through the first half of 2020, Synergy Research saw corporate spending on cloud services grow by almost 40%. Simply put, COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation – and group business is no exception. In this session, Vice President of Marketing for the Cvent Hospitality Cloud Chris McAndrews and PwC Partner Jennie Blumenthal showed how digital usage has grown far beyond a crisis management tool or nice-to-have option, but instead to the forefront of the recovering meetings and events space.

A Celebration of Excellence

The day ended with our first-ever virtual Cvent Excellence Awards. Now in its 8th year, the annual ceremony typically brings together the best in the industry at Cvent CONNECT in Las Vegas. While the virtual experience may have looked a little different this year, we pulled out all the stops to honor our record number of finalists. 

The awards ceremony celebrated customers driving innovation in the meeting and events industry in new and inspiring ways. This year's awards showcased the incredible work done by our finalists as well as their contributions to shaping the path forward. Hosted by Brian Ludwig, Senior Vice President of Sales, and Stacey Fontenot, Senior Vice President of Marketing, the ceremony was packed full of incredible entertainment and surprises. We were treated to a tremendous, custom performance from the Eclipse Shadow Dancers and saw cameos from the true stars of the show. Check out our winners here!

Up next, check out all that went down on Day 2 of Cvent CONNECT Virtual. And to everyone, THANK YOU for being a part of our most inspiring user conference in history.

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John Hunter

John is the Manager of Event Cloud Content Marketing at Cvent. He has extensive copywriting experience across a diverse set of industries, including broadcast television, retail advertising, associations, higher education, and corporate PR.

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