The American Marketing Association (AMA) is the global leader in marketing knowledge. Its events allow marketing professionals across the nation to collaborate, network, learn, and grow professionally. “We are a nonprofit trade association serving marketers all over the United States in three main cohorts,” explains Molly Soat, Vice President of Professional Development. “We have collegiate students, academic researchers, and professional marketers.” The AMA includes 75 professional chapters and more than 300 collegiate chapters throughout the country.
Searching for a scalable event management solution
The AMA originally relied on multiple solutions to support its events portfolio, which consists of external conferences, instructor-led trainings and bootcamps, internal events, vertical-specific webinars, and much more. When the global pandemic hit in early 2020, the team was already prepared to manage the quick shift to virtual. “The good news about when the pandemic happened is that AMA has a long-standing history of hosting virtual events, so we weren’t completely new in the space,” explains Julie Schnidman, Vice President of Alliances. She adds, “However, we obviously had a lot to learn.”
The AMA team realized they needed a single platform that could serve as the one source of truth for their total event program. They also needed a tool that could be suited to different event formats and types as the pandemic continued to impact the industry. Julie explains, “We started with a different platform that had a lot of limitations that didn’t work for us. Our lack of familiarity with the backend structure prevented us from being able to make some of those real-time changes that we needed and it also didn’t have a hybrid element to scale for the future.” Finding a reliable and flexible solution that could quickly adapt to changing market needs would ensure the team was prepared, no matter how the industry evolved.
Cvent and the AMA: a true technology partnership
With flexibility and the ability to scale at the forefront of their concerns, the AMA team launched a comprehensive search for a new event management platform. They ultimately chose to partner with Cvent to support their total event program. “There are a few reasons Cvent really is the right platform for the American Marketing Association and our virtual and live events,” Molly explains. “First and foremost, Cvent is able to scale with us as we grow our hybrid event experiences, whatever those might look like. Whether the virtual component is larger, whether the in-person component is, or whether they’re happening at the same time or different times throughout the year, Cvent is able to really meet us where we need them to be.”
In fact, the AMA now utilizes a number of Cvent solutions, including the Event Management solution, Attendee Hub, OnArrival, the Mobile Event App, and Appointments. The organization also relies on an API to sync registration data and fees from its own required system with Cvent and then Salesforce, creating one centralized data source. This seamless process reduces friction for the AMA team while ensuring data integrity and ease of use on the backend. By utilizing a single integrated system, they are able to streamline their internal processes while mitigating potential errors or data gaps. “That’s another reason we chose Cvent,” adds Molly. “It really is the ease of use on the backend for our internal AMA team, for our sponsors and our speakers, and of course, on the front and most important end, our event attendees.”
Curating exceptional hybrid events with the Attendee Hub
An example of the AMA’s partnership with Cvent is exemplified through a recent hybrid event, where they utilized several different Cvent solutions to support their Higher Education Symposium. “In terms of building community and wanting to have accessibility across our communities, the AMA finds that hybrid events are an integral part of our infrastructure moving forward,” notes Julie. With over 100 sessions, the AMA team knew it would be a tall order to successfully execute the broad session mix of workshops, keynotes, panel discussions, networking sessions, roundtables, and much more. With this in mind, they leveraged the Attendee Hub and the Mobile Event App to drive deeper engagement for more than 780 registrants.
The AMA hosted a mix of livestream, simu-live, and pre-recorded sessions within the Attendee Hub, including a number of collaborative sessions. Both virtual and in-person attendees could engage with content and speakers through features like Q&A, moderated chat, roundtables, and more. Gamification gave the AMA team the ability to drive specific attendee actions like checking in for a particular session or completing a survey. Molly notes, “These features available on the Attendee Hub are really the highlights for a lot of our events we’ve been using.”
Moreover, they were able to score actions taken by attendees, such as completing polls or meeting with an exhibitor. Together, these actions created a quantifiable engagement score for more targeted follow up by their sales and marketing teams. They also were able to extend attendee engagement after the close of the event through the on-demand video library.
Powering customer insights with Cvent and Salesforce
Navigating two experiences across one event was not without its challenges. To craft a seamless hybrid event, they needed to make sure their content was well-suited to each audience. By leveraging an integration between Cvent and the organization’s CRM, the team was able to analyze key data to ensure the right audience mix for each experience. “Customer insights are paramount to every project that we do,” adds Molly. “Knowing that we could connect Cvent to our CRM, Salesforce, so we can get a 360-degree view of our customers and how they consume our content was most important to us in finding a partner.” This also helped ensure more strategic post-event engagement with each audience. “We did take a targeted look at more senior level audiences for our live component and a broader look at other marketers in higher education for our virtual component in this event,” notes Julie. “While we had differing goals across those experiences, using Cvent allowed us to really achieve both of those goals towards different audiences.”
Importantly, while the virtual and in-person experiences were unique in terms of content and production formats, they remained connected across one platform. The audience could access the Attendee Hub either on their desktop or through the native Mobile Event App. Here, they were able to engage with content, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors, and fellow industry professionals. For those using the mobile app, the personalized home screen allowed for easy access to session materials, speaker details, sponsors and exhibitor information, and much more. Attendees could also manage their agenda directly from the app, utilize engagement features like polling and Q&A, and foster connections via 1:1 attendee messaging. Attendees stayed up to date thanks to push notifications and were able to provide important feedback through integrated surveys.
Ensuring a seamless hybrid event for all stakeholders
The AMA team also wanted to drive engagement for sponsors and exhibitors while providing opportunities for faster connections with attendees. They were able to host 30 exhibitors onsite and virtually through the Attendee Hub. Exhibitors and sponsors could engage attendees through their virtual booth just as they did onsite, providing contact forms, embedded video content, documentation, key links, and event video conferencing. At the same time, they leveraged the Appointments solution to pre-schedule and manage one-on-one collaborative meetings with attendees onsite and virtually. With the ability to easily set, edit, or cancel their appointments directly within Attendee Hub, managing their schedule was a breeze.
Onsite, AMA used Cvent’s OnArrival solution to support the in-person experience. They were able to eliminate queues and streamline the badge-printing process. As COVID was still a concern, the entirely contactless experience helped ensure the safety of their attendees and their staff alike. Attendees could check in with a QR code on the phones and event managers received on-demand reports to ensure accurate attendee counts. Badges were printed on-demand to eliminate the need for pre-printing, reducing manual labor and ensuring accuracy.
As an association dedicated to serving the marketing industry, the AMA team understands the power of personalization in helping to drive engagement. “Personalization is no longer a nice-to-have; it's now a must-have,” insists Molly. “You have to understand what kind of content each of your individual customers are looking for, how they engage with content, and how they want to engage with content.” Utilizing session-level surveys within the Attendee Hub meant the team could gather feedback in one location and evaluate session performance. “We were able to get a ton of great feedback specifically through Cvent for our higher ed marketing conference, because Cvent makes it really easy inside the Attendee Hub to get live, real-time feedback on breakout sessions,” Molly says. She adds, “How can you really understand what they're looking for from an event without looking at their past behavior? Those customer insights are paramount as we're building customized experiences.” Ultimately, the survey feedback from the Higher Education Symposium helped prove the impact and value of the event for their attendees. “The majority of the feedback we got was really about the quality of both the connections and the content that folks experienced, both in-person and virtually,” Molly explains.
Establishing a trusted relationship for the future
As they evaluated the event performance, Julie and Molly reflected on the importance of the support they experienced from their Cvent team - particularly as first-time users. “We feel grateful to the Cvent team for supporting us, especially as this was a new area we moved into as an organization,” notes Julie. “We went through a lot to figure out who the right provider was and we’re really glad we landed on Cvent.” She adds that the Cvent team helped directly support not only the event from an execution standpoint, but also as invested partners in AMA’s success. “We were really thrilled with the steps the team took to hold our hands through it as first-time customers, and we really felt that level of support,” adds Julie. Not only did the Cvent team help customize the registration process, but they also supported the event day-of and helped the AMA team understand their post-event reporting metrics to determine overall performance. “We felt Cvent’s support from the onset of the event through the end, and I think we continue to feel that support in executing our events today,” Julie adds.
With over 30 events now hosted within the Cvent platform since the fall of 2021, the AMA team feels confident in navigating the path forward. With several upcoming events on the horizon, they are expanding their Cvent use case to extend to new event types like webinars. “We have virtual conferences, we do webinars with Cvent for a lot of our partners, and we have hybrid and live events, so we’ve got a lot that we’ve done and a lot on tap to go,” says Julie. With strong participation from virtual and in-person attendees, they have seen the benefit of utilizing a single platform to drive attendee engagement and build a sense of community. “I would say to other companies, make sure you don’t fall behind and just do live or just do virtual events. Cvent really offers that integrated pathway to the future through hybrid events, and we are excited about that,” Julie says.
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