Virtual Event Myth #2: Technology Gap

Virtual Event Myth #2: Technology Gap

In this second episode of our Cvent Virtual Week series, we continue to debunk more virtual event myths. This time we talk about the myth of not having the technology to host a virtual event.

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Cvent CONNECT is going virtual

We are halfway through Cvent Virtual Week and we are continuing to debunk myths around hosting virtual events! In the second part of our three-part series, our guests Taylor Bohn and Lauren Turner demystify the myth that is on many people's minds -- not having the right technology to put on a virtual event. Our guests talk through the technology you need to run a virtual event and how it's not as complicated as we may think! 

Stay tuned for the third and final part of this series that will focus on making virtual events fun and engaging.

Guests

  • Taylor Bohn, Senior Event Technology Analyst, Meetings & Events, Cvent
  • Lauren Turner, Manager, Mobile Solutions, Cvent

Hosts

  • Brooke Gracey, Senior Manager, Demand Generation, Cvent
  • Cody Liskh, Team Lead, Event Quarterback Team, Cvent

 

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Transcript

Cody Liskh 
All right, Lauren and Taylor. Thank you so much for joining the podcast. But before we get started, can you briefly just tell us a little bit about how you started at Cvent.
 

Taylor Bohn 
Yeah, hi. I'll start. My name is Taylor Bohn. I've actually been at the Cvent for four years now. I am a senior event technology Analyst here at Cvent currently I'm responsible for really implementing and managing all of our event technology us at our flagship events. And any new event programs that we do roll out. So, this has definitely been a really exciting and challenging time for me as we sort of onboard any new virtual events and we're re-strategizing so many of our programs. Looking at how our technologies adapted to handle that new strategy. So definitely been an exciting time for me and my big project right now is Cvent Connect virtual. I'm going to go ahead and just shout that out from the beginning. I'm overseeing all the event tech for that event so super excited to be here with my favorite podcast host
 

Cody Liskh
Oh, thank you, Taylor. What about you Lauren? 

Lauren Turner 
Um, so I joined Cvent back in 2012 as a member of our account management team back then I think there were only maybe 20 of us Which is very different from the 200 or So I think that we have now. I actually came to Cvent after working in hotels and I was serving on the board for the International Association of conference centers to Establish the partnership between Iraq and Cvent and then shortly thereafter joining this Cvent family. so I spent a few years on the account management team I worked for a number of years as a product specialist for crowd compass, which is our mobile product and currently I'm leading our virtual sales efforts, we have a team of nine Technical Sales consultants that are essentially fielding all of our customer questions about how to take events from this physical environment and into a virtual one. So, as you might imagine, we've been fairly busy for the past couple of months here.
 

Brooke Gracey 
My gosh, I've worked with you for eight years and I did not know the background about how you got to Cvent. And like you said, I mean technology, Virtual event technology is all anybody can talk about right now and we're doing this three-part series this week as part of Cvent virtual week to kind of bust some of the myths That are out there about virtual events and today I really want to focus on the whole idea of people think they don't have the technology that they need to actually power a virtual event. So, what is the first thing to look at when you're thinking about all the technology that you need for virtual events? Where do you recommend our listeners start?
 

Taylor Bohn 
Gosh, that's such a great question. I mean, there's, it's a long-winded one I think as event industry professionals, whether you're a planner your event technologist, or just someone who kind of is a stakeholder in the events industry. Your gut reaction always is just to jump in start executing problem solve. That is what you do day in and day out events pre-event, whatever. When we're pivoting to a Virtual event might be that same instinct to try to sort of just recreate that in-person event got to kind of get it out up and going Execute it in a virtual manner. We really need to just put the brakes on taking a step back and evaluate the goals of the event that you are trying to pivot, just before you actually start diving into execution. Ultimately, this is a reimagining of your event. You are not starting from scratch, necessarily. I know there is that feeling of dread with that. But you're really, reimagining and creating a different iteration of that event, you were originally planning and ultimately your attendees, you should get the same things out of that event.

The planning team should be able to report on the success of the event with data proving that ROI and anything else that you would be able to with the in-person event. So those outcomes should be the same. Once you have those goals identified, you can start looking into the tech that you will need to perform this event obviously being a virtual event, it's going to be pretty tech-heavy. I recommend that you take a look internally at your organization. First thing. Once you have your goals. Kind of look inward, see what your organization already has, and see if what you have could accomplish the goals, you're looking to accomplish for that virtual event.
This is definitely going to involve a lot of collaboration with the other departments at your organization. Some of these departments, you, you might not typically work with it might be your IT department that you're not used to working on for these events. It might be an existing marketing department that produces some webinars. It might be your training team who does client training and so on. You can kind of see how the list goes on. But you might want to Kind of just corral a committee of folks together from these different teams to Ida and collaborate. Just start from a square run. See what you already have. See if those tools will eventually work for what you're trying to get out of your event. And ultimately, as I mentioned earlier, you just need to ensure that you're going to be able to get the data out of that system or group of systems you need to make sure you're able to compare The success of this new virtual event to the success of your in-person events. It's actually, it's really important to be able to compare the two side by side. So, as you're assessing providers, whether you already own them or you're sourcing them externally. I know We'll talk about that in a little bit. Make sure you're understanding the full capabilities and be a laser focus on what you're looking to get out of them. Again, make sure you're comparing side by side, those virtual events, and your in-person events. 

Cody Liskh 
I also imagine planners have a very specific tech stack that they've used for years when crafting their in-person events. But now that were largely changing the virtual what should they do to branch out into new options.
 

Lauren Turner
Yeah, so I mean, to be honest, they may already have technology that can help, but they don't realize if they're just kind of thinking through if their organization hosts any sort of virtual meetings just internally to meet with one another whatever that platform is can probably be used, maybe they need like an extended or an upgraded license to support a larger audience or maybe an external audience, but you could probably lean on that existing technology.
Also, at this point. Most major event tech vendors are actively making a pivot to support this sort of new normal virtual event right now so If they're using any of the kind of big-name providers in the market, they probably have some sort of toolset to offer for virtual events. I know Cvent has spun up a number of new partnerships and integrations of different product enhancements in the past couple of months. For example, if they already had even like a mobile app, for example, but they had planned to use for an in-person event. Most of those if they didn't already, they will now offer a web component and that the bees on the desktop by virtual attendees so I think there's some tools that are probably kind of hidden in the technology stack that already exists internally that can probably be pivoted to help with this reimagining of events they are called it 

Brooke Gracey 
Yeah, that's a really good point. Right. Like, you probably own a lot of technologies but maybe you're not using them all to your full capacity. But what happens if These planners do start digging into the existing technology, they that they have and they find out Nope, this does not meet all of their names, what, what should they do that.
 

Lauren Turner 
Yeah, there are a lot of options out there and it's definitely not a Sort of one size fits all, in terms of those different platforms. So Taylor kind of alluded to this, but I would definitely start by creating a list of must-have functionality or You don't even really know where to start Within that list, then think about the goals and the structure of the event and see what has posted it and kind of how you're starting to pivot that Because we start without any overall direction, you may end up kind of spinning your wheels and probably sitting on a lot of product demonstrations that you didn't necessarily need to I think one way that we've been breaking it down within Cvent that's been really helpful is looking at events by different tiers, so Kind of starting at the more simplistic Tier two or tier three events would be something smaller like a webinar seminar usually like a single track or single speaker events.

For that, you really have a lot of options. Anything from like a WebEx or Go-To-Webinar can support that kind of event, I think. With those probably the key thing to consider would just be bandwidth is few are starting to get into the thousands of attendees, which is a little bit more common with a virtual event. You might be better off looking at something like a streaming provider versus a Webinar tool. And then if you get into kind of the next year. Those Tier two events would have been something like maybe a regional conference training program customer appreciation that kind of thing. For those, you'll start getting into multiple days multiple sessions different personalized schedules for your attendees networking elements that would have typically happened in-person. Or you need a little bit more flexibility in terms of that virtual meeting platform. Something like zoom, for example, has the concept of zoom webinars and do meetings, people can actually interact. So, something like that is helpful. And then you'll probably also want a more centralized location to host all of the content. And then if you want to really make it interesting. You can start to incorporate some networking and gamification. I think that's where a lot of these mobile event app providers. Can start working well in this space, assuming that they offer a web-enabled version of the app. 
And then the Tier one event's kind of depends on how you approach them some customers really sort of Trying to just like pick up that large Expo with the tradeshow floor and multiple tracks and appointments and kind of pop that into a virtual format. And there are some platforms like in Intrado that work well here but even with that sort of copy and paste method, you definitely need to be thoughtful about how you structure this event. You can't necessarily hold a virtual audience's attention for eight straight hours a day. So, you may want to think about breaking up the schedule a little bit into smaller sections. We've definitely pared down the agenda quite a bit for Cvent connect taking it into a virtual format. 

Cody Liskh 
I'm so glad you brought that up because Cvent connect has been on my mind a lot lately. And this question is probably for Taylor. How are we using Cvent for our Cvent connect virtual event that's coming up and know what external integrations, are we using like other components for general Sessions, for example?
 

Taylor Bohn 
Oh, Cvent connect virtual has been on my mind a little bit too. Definitely geared up for that. And I know this question has been Probably asked to me 20 times a day, a couple of things I want to share it and kind of point out is it is OK to use different types of technologies to host an event like Cvent connect virtual, To Laurens point earlier it is one of those Tier one events. It has a lot of different components multiple days, that type of thing.

And furthermore, it's okay to have several solutions to get this done one technology may not solve all of your problems, in fact, it probably won’t, and different technologies are going to help you achieve those various goals. The best way I think about this is kind of the same way as your in-person events, you might have a trade show vendor a general session provider Navy company, you're going to have the actual venue that you're working with. And then so on and so forth. And then you get into your actual registration providers and your attendee tracking all that good stuff.
We're looking at that same thing with our virtual events and we are certainly in the same boat as all of you event professionals out there for our flagship event feedback virtual, We are excited to be using and showcasing Cvent technology obviously will actually be showcasing and using a new platform that will really take that attendee experience to the next level. We are thrilled. We are super excited to be doing this and we're really excited for our attendees to experience it more to come on that I Can't give away too much information, but we are excited and it's definitely something you'll want to you'll definitely want to experience and then Cody, I think you mentioned The like video provider or the Some of the other components we have definitely been exploring and researching a ton of options here. The good news about using our own Cvent platform for the attendee experience is that it will be one consistent attendee experience. Regardless of the play the video player there.
So more to come to get excited. We are definitely in the weeds with planning and everything like that. So, we're excited to have you guys 

Brooke Gracey 
This is awesome, between the two of you just a wealth of knowledge on virtual events. I mean, it truly is amazing. You know what We've been able to do over the past couple of months. I mean, it's been all about virtual like we've been saying but We also know that in-person events could be around the corner. And so now the conversation is really kind of moving to how do virtual and in-person events work together in that kind of hybrid events and How should we look at technology in that way. 

So, I guess what I'm saying is, you know, from a marketing perspective I'm always looking at the data. And if it's segmented in two separate places It makes that really hard. So, what are some of the benefits like the data of having all of that technology in the same place? 

Lauren Turner 
Yeah, there's definitely a few key benefits worth mentioning here and I think we can start with the data being one of the first ones to address having that one centralized location kind of system of record to compare, everything is going to be really valuable in terms of offering visibility, especially Think for a lot of planners, at this point, this sort of virtual event space is kind of a new for Ray for them. So being able to compare that 2020 versus maybe 2019 physical event data will be really valuable. And I think some fighters may actually be pleasantly surprised to Compare and contrast and see things like maybe potentially an increase in leads because you've extended the reach of the event to a little bit Or maybe even an increase in your return on the investment from events ease attended as a sponsor because the cost to attend those virtual events kind of attending and quotes to speak, is much lower. And then I think the other thing, and I'm Taylor and her team are probably experiencing this is I think a lot of people are underestimating the complexity of hosting a virtual event, yeah, yeah, you still really need almost all of the exact same management tools in terms of media website marketing tool registration speaker and abstract management tools that communication platform. And now on top of this, you have to have this kind of entirely new suite of technology that you aren't used to managing to host the event itself so Don't just kind of rush a webinar out the door and call it a day. You definitely want to be thoughtful, so that this virtual event makes an impact.

Then I think the other thing I would say is, especially for these planners that had some or events or are really sort of this like scramble to find a virtual event-specific tool. But those tools If there are specific to virtual aren't really going to provide a whole lot of flexibility and this is a Pretty dynamic climate at this point. So, when you get 3-6-9 months down the road and that changes and you want to pivot to a hybrid event or eventually, hopefully back the in-person event sooner rather than later. You need a platform that can kind of help pivot with you so that you're not having to reinvent the wheel and find a completely different technology every single time you make a slight adjustment to that event strategy.

 Brooke Gracey 
 Ooh, that's a really good point. I mean, it is a lot of work to go out there and find new technology and you don't want to have to, like, to your point. After reinventing the wheel every single time. So, while people are out there looking at other technology. What are some of the things they should be considering?
 

Taylor Bohn 
 Yeah, so Lauren and I mentioned this earlier. Just make sure you know those goals and make sure you're staying true to them throughout Always make sure you're working towards sort of that North Star and keeping in mind the data story, make sure that there's a story to be told with your data. Keep in mind, your ROI reporting and ultimately Having good cross event data is going to be so important that can be used year over year, just because this year is different because we're moving to virtual does not mean that it doesn't fit in with your event program and your goals of the of your event and your organization. Moreover, just because you are not hosting an event at a physical venue. There's not physical breakout rooms. There's not food and beverage, all that good stuff doesn't mean you and should not still be capturing attendance time spent in certain sessions sponsor page views and so on. You can kind of match up the data points from virtual to In-person and if anything that's data really becomes I think even more important because you will probably have a lot more attendance At these virtual events you so it really becomes critical to track those engagements.

Someone who attends one break Maybe your CEO breakout session versus someone who attends this session and click on one of your product videos. Those become even more qualifying pieces of data that you want to follow up on Obviously, you don't have the luxury of sort of the face to face interaction. Another thing you want to don't want to keep in mind is the attendee experience. We talked about sort of the back end from the planner perspective and the organization, but You as the event professionals the plan or whatever the case is. You know your audience best. So be aware of that. Know that this will definitely be a new experience for your attendees. Interacting with your event online They're going to be consuming content in a completely different lens. They're going to be networking differently, etc. All in front of a screen possibly at their house with their kids running around in the background or their, their pets making noise. 
So, if you have an audience Maybe that generally needs a bit more handholding. I know that that comes up a lot with some of our customers, maybe they need More advanced engagement. Make sure that your tech that you're looking at addresses and acknowledges that those sorts of those needs and other kinds of tidbit which at this point I think Goes without saying, make sure that the technology company that you're has a history of doing virtual events successfully. We all know this is a brand-new sort of concept of pivoting to virtual and doing everything virtual but Make sure that the company you're choosing is acting as sort of a consultant, not just the provider. They should be providing you value beyond just the technology and data, they should work with you share best practices and Ultimately be making suggestions that benefit your event and working with you and working towards those goals. So, I think those are sort of pieces that are not just getting the technology pieces that you need, but kind of making sure that it's a consultant and a partner with you. 

Lauren Turner 
I think that's a great point, which is one thing that I would add, there is. I think we've seen this with our own events and customer events as well is anticipate a much higher attendance than you would have had For your in-person event and make sure that whatever platform you select can scale to support that. Because the last thing that you want to have to do is Actually turn away these valuable registrants and attendees Just because whichever platform you ultimately selected can't support that volume on whatever streaming or webcasting service that provides
 

Cody Liskh 
Those are some really good points, talking about scaling for, you know, A larger audience. And I also love what Taylor said about when you're choosing a provider, make sure that you find one as a history of running virtual events. That's probably your best bet to avoiding some kind of inevitable tech troubles. But, you know, even with in-person events I don't think I've ever been to one where it goes 100% smoothly without any tech troubles. What can our event professionals do to prepare for those tech troubles?
 

Taylor Bohn 
Run around and scream, not. First, I think is really important to remember that it is a technology and things will happen. That's part of the fun, right? We've, we've already been seeing this with everyday things in our current world like the person on the news being interviewed and the chat pops up from zoom and it's Fine. It's super pixelated or whatever the case is the person drops off the zoom, whatever the case is. This is happening on our news. This is happening every, every kind of moment, people are used to this at this point. People kind of know this about technology. We know it's not perfect. That being said Being the responsible event logistics planners, we can be prepared for these sorts of things to happen. And it's really, it's actually critical for the virtual events. Lauren mentioned this earlier, you don't want someone to just like walk away and give up on the event you want them to stay engaged and You almost want to make it hard for them to leave, not the other way around.

We've, we've seen this before. I think it's all, it's happened to all of us probably where you've made one or two attempts logging into a system or refreshing a screen and you're just going to leave. So one thing that on the Cvent side our meetings and events team we've come up with is having a virtual War Room of sorts, where it's kind of a safe space where all of our stakeholders and people who are working on the event come into a group message we use Slack. But it could be really any group message system that you guys have but everyone's in that channel or group Where you have immediate urgent access to all of each other. You have your event technology person you have your lead planner, you have all the folks that would need to be Getting got ahold of so we can report issues we can resolve them immediately Essentially, and it's all in one place. So, we can say, okay, there was an issue with XYZ. And then someone can say yep it's fixed So that's been really helpful for us. We use this leading up to the event. Obviously, we use it during the event that's probably the most like urgent SOS time and then we even use it after the event for reporting and kind of compiling all of our thoughts. 
And other really important things and this sounds obvious, but with a virtual event is like just testing, Testing, testing. Just like you would do a dry run or a rehearsal for your in-person event, you're going to want to test for your virtual event, too. But you're going to want to test everything and the end. So, everything from pre-event registration logging into that virtual provider or whatever the cases to watching content, maybe submitting some questions or pulling depending on the engagement. Types of tech that you are using. And then even completing that feedback survey at the end of the event you want to test that and I, we actually always do A thing where we'll get other folks from our organization maybe not even in our event planning team To help out with this, get some fresh eyes on everything and get those things that yes, you have been staring at the system for probably months leading up to the event. Getting those fresh sets of eyes will sort of get a fresh perspective and catch things that you might not have caught.
And then lastly, I think having a backup plan is always a great thing. No one wants to think about things failing or going wrong, but as event professionals, we know it is the smart and realistic thing to do. The show must go on as they say. And this remains the same with virtual events. So be prepared, have a backup plan, and kind of go with the flow. 

Cody Liskh 
and those are all really really good points. And I think, test, test, test is such a huge, huge thing that people should really be taking away. But if you had to leave one other takeaway or piece of advice to squash the myth of ‘I don't have the technology I need’, what would that be?
 

Lauren Turner 
Yeah, I mean, I would say, obviously, you know, people are missing human interaction and want to start hosting their large in-person events Again, but I think my biggest piece advice would be just don't just cancel your events. There are some real perks to hosting virtual events. And I think we've talked about How the process of executing them might be a little more simplistic then than you think. In terms of finding that technology and there are some real perks there that you actually get with a digital virtual event that you wouldn't have in-person. In terms of extending your reach and kind of increasing those registration numbers. It's actually easier to get more visibility into additional data because all the interactions are digital. So, they're trapped, a little bit more easily.

And generally, you can host these events pretty cost-effectively. So, I know it's a big sort of pivot, but I would encourage planners to really embrace virtual for the time being, and just use it as an opportunity to maybe shake things up a little for their events. 

Brooke Gracey 
So really good tip and most likely virtual are not going to go away anytime soon. So it's probably good for people to get used to using that technology and hosting those types of events. Speaking of hosting those types of events Taylor. Anything you want to promote or share with our listeners?
 

Taylor Bohn 
Oh, you know, I do. Called it out earlier but Cvent connect virtual is open for registration, like I mentioned, we are so excited and to Laurens point we are We're excited to actually sort of be taking this on as a new adventure and kind of leading the industry and what virtual that can look like I promise you guys will not want to miss it. We are stoked The whole company is kind of gearing up and registration is open like I mentioned if you hop on over to 
www.Cventconnect.com/virtual Grab more information, go ahead and register with our quick registration process and we are so excited to see everyone in August.
 

Brooke Gracey 
Awesome. We will be there.
 

Brooke Gracey 
And thank you guys both so much for joining us today. This is great information. I'm sure our audience will get a lot out of it. And for all of our listeners. We will also put a link to Cvent connect virtual on our podcast page at 
www.cvent.com/podcasts