Inside Cvent CONNECT: Top tips & challenges for hosting event industry conferences

Cvent Connect 2024
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Episode description

Planning an event, particularly on the scale of a citywide conference like Cvent CONNECT, involves many complex and often overlapping tasks.

Some of the primary challenges include coordinating volunteers, ensuring ample and engaging signage, and effectively managing unforeseen pop-up costs.

And on this week’s Great Events episode, we’re sharing all the behind-the-scenes magic on how to navigate it all.

Alyssa Peltier and Rachel Andrews explore the unique challenges and triumphs of organizing a citywide event in the heart of San Antonio, Texas. From navigating logistical hurdles to sparking local engagement, we discuss the intricacies of relocating a major conference after ten years in Las Vegas.

Tune in to hear:
- Practical tips on scaling your event operations and handling unexpected costs
- Best practices for fostering community partnerships and local inclusivity
- A detailed look at innovative event elements like the breathtaking drone show
- How effective teamwork and creative problem-solving can elevate any event

Tune in now to walk away with strategies and inspiration to elevate your next event.

In this episode, you’ll learn:
• The importance of detailed planning when organizing large-scale, citywide events
• How focusing on creating strong relationships with local vendors, authorities, and even city officials can be highly beneficial
• Investing in experiences transforms events from routine gatherings into unforgettable moments that resonate well with attendees long after the event concludes

Jump into the conversation:
00:00 An introduction to the episode
02:09 The biggest change this year at CONNECT
04:46 Challenges of hosting events
07:40 Busy individuals juggling multiple program areas effectively
10:41 Greatest accomplishment of the week

Meet your host

Alyssa Peltier, Director, Market Strategy & Insights at Cvent Consulting

Meet your guest hosts

Rachel Andrews, Senior Director, Global Meetings & Events

Episode Transcript

Rachel Andrews [00:00:00]:
Just the scale of this event. We need a lot of volunteers. We need a lot of signage. We need a lot more. It's just like, everything's bigger here. So, you know, we just need a lot more of everything, which equates to a lot more money.

Alyssa Peltier [00:00:11]:

Rachel Andrews [00:00:12]:
You know, and working with the convention center, Henry B. Gonzalez has been amazing. But there's, of course, always, like, pop up costs that you need to factor in. And I think that's been a challenge of just, like, the last minute moments where we're like, shoot, I wish we had a checklist for that. I love checklists. I'm a big checklist gal. Like, I wish that more venues would just provide. Hey, here are all the timelines.

Rachel Andrews [00:00:32]:
Here's everything that we need.

Alyssa Peltier [00:00:35]:
Great events create great brands. But pulling off an event that engages, excites, and connects audiences, well, that takes a village. And we're that village.

Alyssa Peltier [00:00:45]:
My name is Alyssa.

Rachel Andrews [00:00:46]:
I'm Rachel.

Felicia Asiedu [00:00:47]:
And I'm Felicia.

Alyssa Peltier [00:00:49]:
And you are listening to Great Events, the podcast for all event enthusiasts, creators, and innovators in the world of events and marketing.

Alyssa Peltier [00:00:57]:
Hello, everyone. What has been going on in this wide, wide world of events? My name is Alyssa, and I will be hosting this week's episode, which is live at Cvent CONNECT, joined by fellow co-host Rachel Andrews. Here, to my right, the audience left. I guess Rachel just happens to be the head of events for Cvent and also is steering this titanic of a conference here in San Antonio this week. So I'm gonna do a little bit of a different tone for this week's episode. I'm going to interview Rachel, and I'm.

Rachel Andrews [00:01:30]:
In the hot seat.

Alyssa Peltier [00:01:31]:
Truly hotter. I'm sweating right now, so it's a truly, truly hot.

Rachel Andrews [00:01:35]:
You could literally ask me anything. So where are we? This.

Alyssa Peltier [00:01:38]:
Where are we?

Rachel Andrews [00:01:39]:
We are in San Antonio, Texas, for Steve at CONNECT. It's been an amazing week. For those of you listening that were here, thank you for attending. It's been seriously so awesome. 4000 attendees. Just a wild week. I think I've walked 80,000 steps or more. Don't have to.

Rachel Andrews [00:01:58]:
I need to take some ankles. It's great.

Alyssa Peltier [00:02:01]:
Yeah, I'm in the heel, so I clearly have not done enough steps this week. Okay, Rachel, what's been, like, the biggest, I would say change this year from years past?

Rachel Andrews [00:02:09]:
Yeah, I think this one's an obvious one. We are now a citywide. We're in San Antonio for the first time outside of Vegas in ten years in Vegas. We love our partners of Vegas. We've been doing CVeT CONNECT there for years. A lot of people don't know. We've been doing Cvet CONNECT for 13 years. One of those was virtual in 2020, but in person, twelve years.

Rachel Andrews [00:02:30]:
So I'm excited to really take over a city. I think the biggest change has been learning how to do that in a citywide format. We have 4000 attendees, which has been so badass, just having the events industry back.

Alyssa Peltier [00:02:41]:
Yeah, yeah.

Rachel Andrews [00:02:42]:
Just like. And be in a new space. San Antonio has been incredible to work with. They've always been partners of ours. Just.

Alyssa Peltier [00:02:49]:
Yeah. Anything you want to highlight. I know, like, culturally, this is quite different than the Las Vegas feel, you know, atmosphere versus. We had a neon rodeo party last night.

Rachel Andrews [00:02:57]:
Yeah, those. I mean, San Antonio has a very diverse culture, and it's a very cute city. Like, I was joking. I signed this about a year ago, this contract, and. And there's just so much to do here. There's a lot of culture. They're building a lot of unique markets, and the pearl area is interesting and very cute. It's historic, but also, like, there's a lot of foodie things to do.

Rachel Andrews [00:03:18]:
The riverwalk. Obviously, there's tons to do along the riverwalk. They have a lot. I mean, it is Texas.

Alyssa Peltier [00:03:22]:

Rachel Andrews [00:03:23]:
It's a different culture. What I felt has been the biggest thing is they're so inclusive here. We're in 17 hotels. We have completely taken over the city, but everyone that you pass on the street says hello. They're excited for you to be here. It's almost like you're part of the fam, walking around. It's awesome.

Alyssa Peltier [00:03:38]:
Yeah. Well, I've noticed that everything has been bigger in Texas. Cause my breakfast taco was massive this morning, so that's been really fun, too.

Rachel Andrews [00:03:44]:
Yeah, lots of food.

Alyssa Peltier [00:03:45]:
I got to go up to the Pearl district last night, and that's been a total change of scenery from the Riverwalk district, but there's a lot of different little pockets. It feels very communal. I happened to be getting ready for that dinner last night, and C Vent CONNECT and the San Antonio CVB were on the local news last night, which was really fun. We don't, you know, always get to see ourselves, like, on the tv. So I was taking all these pictures and watching it. You could really see how San Antonio is working with C vent to kind of bring this to life, but also to kind of put back some energy into the local market here, which is really.

Rachel Andrews [00:04:16]:
They said one in seven people that live in San Antonio are part of the hospitality and tourism industry, which includes the events industry, which I think is really cool. So they've just, like, really rolled out the red carpet for us. Everybody's so excited. Yeah.

Alyssa Peltier [00:04:29]:
And I'm sure, like, I mean, as. As is every city just trying to get back on its feet post-pandemic, you know, everyone's still on this kind of path to recovery, especially in the hospitality tourism industry. So you can really feel that us investing in this space, this region, this city.

Rachel Andrews [00:04:42]:
It's been cool to showcase a new location and. And have a little fun doing it.

Alyssa Peltier [00:04:46]:
Yeah, of course. Okay. Biggest challenge. Events are hard, right? Like, events are not the easiest thing. There's always, like, bumps in the road to get to this amazing energy, this amazing feel. What's been one of the challenges that you have faced?

Rachel Andrews [00:04:57]:
I think just the scale of this event. We need a lot of volunteers. We need a lot of signage. We need a lot more. It's just, like, everything's bigger here, so, you know, we just need a lot more of everything, which equates to a lot more money.

Alyssa Peltier [00:05:10]:

Rachel Andrews [00:05:10]:
You know, and working with a convention center, Henry B. Gonzalez, has been amazing. But there's, of course, always, like, pop-up costs that you need to factor in. And I think that's been a challenge of just, like, the last minute moments where we're like, shoot, I wish we had a checklist for that. I love checklists. I'm a big checklist gal. Like, I wish that more venues would just provide. Hey, here are all the timelines.

Rachel Andrews [00:05:30]:
Here's everything that we need.

Alyssa Peltier [00:05:31]:
Yeah. You don't know what you don't know in a new city. Whereas I feel like, like you said in Vegas for ten years, you're kind of like, you know, the checklist, you've probably created that in your mind already. There's a learning curve. And so, for those planners who are, you know, moving from city to city or choosing new destinations, that's something that. It's a. It's unchartered territory.

Rachel Andrews [00:05:47]:
I have one more funny challenge. We've been working with a drone company for three years to get the drones in the sky, and we finally did it last night with pixis drones. They flew drone show at our evening, our neon rodeo evening event at smoke barbecue last night. But there are so many things that go into planning a drone show, from FAA regulations to street closures to getting SAPD, San Antonio police Department involved, to getting the city to approve it. And a lot of these things we didn't have done until 24 hours before, which is, like, very unusual.

Alyssa Peltier [00:06:18]:
We don't recommend.

Rachel Andrews [00:06:19]:
I recommend getting the street closure permits way in advance. But luckily, you know, visit San Antonio is amazing. They called their city, and their city is all in on this. So they were, like, totally cool to help us raise that fire and get it done, and we just. We pulled it off. I almost cried tears of joy last night. Like, when the actual drone drinks die.

Alyssa Peltier [00:06:38]:
There'S a lot of hard work. And this profession is so visual, right? Like, you can see things come to life and you actually get to witness that. It's got to be pretty powerful. Yeah, it's amazing because you're creators at the end of this, right? Like, you're making experiences happen, you're making connections happen. So, totally night was just kind of the culmination of those types of things.

Rachel Andrews [00:06:54]:
Serious Maker is my name.

Alyssa Peltier [00:06:56]:
Yeah. New title. I was thinking about all of the cars that were going on the highway who were just getting, like, a totally free show.

Rachel Andrews [00:07:02]:
Free drone show.

Alyssa Peltier [00:07:03]:
Free drone show. Let's talk a little bit about the team. So, in years past, we have had a third co host on this stage with us. Paulina waves with the event integrator and amazing things. But how's the team dynamic been? No tears. No tears.

Rachel Andrews [00:07:15]:
I'm already crying. No, I mean, obviously, we. We miss Paulina as a podcast co host. And C Venter, she did a lot, but our team has stepped up in such an amazing way. I feel like I've always had just such a great team. The planning team is like the heart and soul of this conference and all the other events. We do almost a thousand events a year, and they just always do it with. We nicknamed ourselves the Ducks because calm, cool, and collected when we're swimming.

Rachel Andrews [00:07:40]:
But underneath, we have a lot of things going on. We're. We're paddling fast, right, and spinning all those plates. But everybody has their own program area, in some cases, eight different program areas that they're. They're owning, and they're. They are just the masters of their own universe, the masters of their own craft. And they, you know, the event design team has, like, stepped up in such a big way from creating all these amazing experiences. Like, there's always something that I'm like, oh, did we think of this? And then they're.

Rachel Andrews [00:08:05]:
They say, yes. And so I'm just lucky in the fact that I have such bright, talented people on the team globally, but more specifically, supporting Cvent CONNECT here.

Alyssa Peltier [00:08:14]:
Yeah, that's awesome. I mean, you are the leader of this team, but it takes a village to actually produce this, and it takes a really high-functioning, high producing highly creative team to actually make it all happen. It's not just you, right?

Rachel Andrews [00:08:24]:
And they do with their smiles on their face and having fun wearing neon boy hats.

Alyssa Peltier [00:08:30]:
What's tonight's event?

Rachel Andrews [00:08:31]:
The SP is an old train station in San Antonio. It's cool. It has different train depots. So, each of the train depots will be themed. A different thing. There's stations in the different depots. There are different food and beverage in the different depots. There are activations in each one of them.

Rachel Andrews [00:08:46]:
But the main event is really under their pavilion, which is like a huge bandstand area. We made it a music festival, so we're calling it the Lone Star Jam. Huge music festival. Posters everywhere. We've themed the event cowboy like country western, but there's going to be a ton of fun surprises we have. I mean, I guess if you're listening to this podcast, you'll already know we're having our Matildilla races. We're having derriere paintings, which is terrified. Exactly what you think it is.

Rachel Andrews [00:09:12]:
We have beer burrows, which are the donkeys that walk around with beers on them. Oh, my God. I'm so excited for those. And we have. Oh, shoot. What else do we have? We have just tons of entertainment, tons of fun surprises. Activation. I love it.

Alyssa Peltier [00:09:23]:
I'm pumped. I will be there 100%. And my. What am I supposed to wear tonight? I don't know.

Rachel Andrews [00:09:28]:
Like Taylor Swift.

Alyssa Peltier [00:09:29]:
Taylor Swift meets Coachella meets a country ho. Noun.

Rachel Andrews [00:09:32]:
Yeah, like clit black. I don't know.

Alyssa Peltier [00:09:34]:
It's definitely in my bag somewhere. I've got all those elements. Okay, let's end on a high. What's been greatest accomplishment this week? Cause I think the drone show probably was a pretty big one. Greatest or best moment this week. And I will also call out. Rachel spoke and moderated a discussion on Monday with MPI president, NBA CEO Paul Van Deventer. Yeah, it was wonderful.

Alyssa Peltier [00:09:57]:
And not only was that whole experience wonderful, super positive feedback from everyone who participated. This is for more leader level individuals and to our conference. But Rachel hosted a fireside chat very similar to what we're doing here and was awesome. So on top of, you know, doing an event, producing an event that also casually speaks at this event, too, which is not an easy feat.

Rachel Andrews [00:10:17]:
It's funny. I get up there and I just am on autopilot. But I know Paul well from being on the board at MPI. He jokes and says, I'm his boss, which I love that title. Being a boss's CEO is fun for me, but.

Alyssa Peltier [00:10:29]:
And I like, to say that, because I feel like I watch and I'm able to, like, react and see you in your element here.

Rachel Andrews [00:10:34]:

Alyssa Peltier [00:10:35]:
And, like, that, for me, is a great accomplishment. Cause I just get to watch you grow and, like, take on more and more. And I just, like, I'm really proud.

Rachel Andrews [00:10:41]:
Of this wolf in here, so I am. I think that was a fun accomplishment to talk to Paul. It not only was a fun conversation, but one of the things that I love doing with MPI is being able to be a planner and give my voice back to them. They do a lot of things really, really, really well, and they're. They're still learning and growing each day. They're trying to modernize more. So having that conversation with the leaders in the room and us trying to encourage more heads of events to get involved or even, like, encourage their teams to get more involved with the community, I think is really important. Like, I just love this industry so much, and I think if you don't have something outside of your day to day job, I know it's hard because you're like, I don't have enough hours in the day.

Rachel Andrews [00:11:17]:
Right. But if you make that time for yourself, it is more rewarding. And honestly, some of my best friends have come from doing that. Obviously, I have a lot of best friends at sea, but I have the new network. Yeah. So that's been cool. But I will say my high. Definitely the drones.

Rachel Andrews [00:11:33]:
I think my second high would be the innovation pavilion this year. If you all weren't at Seabed CONNECT. You can see pictures online. We just did it, right. We did so many cool things in here. We were activating or giving people alcohol at every time of the day, but we were also. It's not just swag laid out. It's, like interactive things that people can do and personalize and brand, and I love that so much.

Alyssa Peltier [00:11:53]:
Yeah. There is a human claw that I'm staring at right now. And when I say that, I mean literally putting somebody up, rigging them, and having them dive for prizes, basically, into a massive ball, it was hilarious.

Rachel Andrews [00:12:04]:
I would recommend. So we have a lot of products that we want people to stop by and do. And so we did kind of a punch card. If you go to all these products and talk to everybody about, go to all the booths and talk to people about the products, then you could do a turn on the human claw machine in it.

Alyssa Peltier [00:12:17]:
It was a hit.

Rachel Andrews [00:12:17]:
It's like incentivizing people to have conversations.

Alyssa Peltier [00:12:20]:

Rachel Andrews [00:12:21]:
That you get a prize at the end.

Alyssa Peltier [00:12:22]:
Oftentimes, the prize is like a thing and you're stubbing it in your bag and whatever. Right? But, like, you're winning an experience here that we're just kind of contributing to this whole notion of experience.

Rachel Andrews [00:12:30]:
100% thrive business.

Alyssa Peltier [00:12:32]:
Yeah, you know. All right, rach, I know you are a busy lady, so I'm going to set you on your merry way.

Rachel Andrews [00:12:36]:
Oh, yeah, I got to go check the lunch.

Alyssa Peltier [00:12:38]:
Yeah, you got to check. Yeah, 1145.

Rachel Andrews [00:12:41]:
I don't even think I've eaten today.

Alyssa Peltier [00:12:42]:
So with that, listeners, thank you so much for tuning in, and we'll see you next week.

Rachel Andrews [00:12:46]:
Thank you.

Alyssa Peltier [00:12:50]:
Thanks for hanging out with us on Great Events, a podcast by Cvent. If you've been enjoying our podcast, make sure to hit that subscribe button so you never miss an episode.

Rachel Andrews [00:13:00]:
And you can help fellow event professionals and marketers just like you discover great events by leaving us a rating on Apple, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform.

Felicia Asiedu [00:13:09]:
Stay connected with us on social media for behind-the-scenes content updates and some extra doses of inspiration.

Rachel Andrews [00:13:17]:
Got a great story or an event to share? We want to hear from you. Find us on LinkedIn, send us a DM or drop us a note@greateventssevent.com.

Felicia Asiedu [00:13:26]:
Dot big thanks to our amazing listeners, our guest speakers, and the incredible team behind the scenes. Remember, every great event begins with great.

Alyssa Peltier [00:13:35]:
People, and that's a wrap. Keep creating, keep innovating, and keep joining us as we redefine how to make events great.