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Cvent CONNECT Virtual Production

Industry-leading production for innovative digital experiences at Cvent CONNECT Virtual

43,000+

registrations

35+

 breakout sessions, keynotes, and industry panels

2,600

average session attendance

Cvent’s annual user conference, Cvent CONNECT, provides exciting opportunities for over 4,500 attendees to connect and grow as industry professionals in Las Vegas. Working almost a year in advance of the world-class user conference, the Cvent team was deep in the planning process when the global health crisis hit in March. Facing a significant challenge just three months ahead of the scheduled event, Cvent leadership evaluated options to postpone, cancel, or take the event virtual. Recognizing the potential reach of a virtual event to help support the industry while navigating global restrictions, Cvent CONNECT soon became an entirely free virtual event. With a tight timeline to produce the now fully-digital experience, Cvent’s cross-functional teams were ready for the challenge.

Rethinking the Event Production Playbook 

Cvent’s Event Management, Event Marketing, Technology, and other teams worked together to ideate what a truly impactful digital experience would look like for thousands of online attendees. With the novelty of virtual events within the industry, they knew the opportunities were endless -- as were the chances for significant errors. Producing a virtual event meant re-evaluating existing best practices and retooling playbooks to fit the virtual space. It also meant shifting roles and responsibilities to allow teams to work even more closely during the planning process.

Quickly adapting to meet new demands, Cvent’s Onsite Solutions department transitioned from managing traditional onsite responsibilities to virtual production. As Britney Faustine, Onsite Solutions Manager, explains, “This team usually managed over a hundred events each month focusing on hardware management, onsite support, and so on. With the onsite experience voided, we needed to reset our expectations and reallocate our talents, all while learning the new virtual space.” Overnight, her team became digital event producers with new responsibilities and skills to master. As Cvent CONNECT Virtual evolved, it became apparent there were two significant challenges the teams faced: working within a new product and executing a high quality virtual production.

Fostering Strong Production Partnerships  

Producing session content for the new Cvent Virtual Attendee Hub® platform meant event producers needed to work well in advance with a strategic plan in place. The event would include 28 breakout sessions across seven different tracks in addition to keynotes, industry panels, and entertainment general sessions. Virtual booths and other sponsor and exhibitor opportunities would also be featured within the Virtual Attendee Hub. Cvent partnered with Socialive, an industry-leading video production company, in addition to utilizing their own best practices from their Virtual 360 and Advanced Production services. The team knew tackling the steep learning curve and maintaining a tight partnership with the Socialive team was the best way to be successful. Britney notes it was a process that required her team to work in uncharted territory while giving them invaluable experience. They received dedicated training in managing speakers, sessions, content delivery, shot setup, graphics and video, and much more. They also managed each session’s run-of-show to ensure a dynamic viewing experience that would keep over 43,000 attendees glued to their screens.

With years of experience working closely with clients to support onsite processes, the team expanded their scope to work directly with virtual booth reps, attendees, internal stakeholders, and speakers. Britney notes that this endeavor was successful because of the valuable relationships formed between these various teams, allowing them to quickly pivot when needed. She advises cross-functional teams to “build workarounds and make sure there are guardrails to make the experiences as successful as possible.” For example, managing production across Cvent’s global team meant navigating different regions, time zones, and network capabilities. With this in mind, Britney’s team created fail-safes to guarantee a seamless viewing experience for attendees. They set up initial walkthroughs for all speakers to conduct speaker training and followed with a full dry-run that was pre-recorded in case of networking issues during the live broadcast. It was a valuable piece of prep work that paid off more than once and is now a best practice her team leverages for client events.

Creating Impressive Digital Experiences for Virtual Events

Producing high-quality virtual experiences requires event producers to tailor planned content to an entirely digital viewership. Britney advises clients to work with their production team to establish the virtual session goals, tone, and aesthetic they’d like to achieve. For example, is the session meant to include a moderator, be a fireside chat, or include panel speakers? Will there be multiple split screens or will the images need to be scaled to full-screen? Will the talk track be casual or more technical in nature? The virtual space brings fewer opportunities to interact with audiences directly, so content must be engaging and dynamic. Sessions should be shorter and more visual, with graphics, images, and videos used in place of text-heavy slides. In fact, one of the most popular sessions at Cvent CONNECT Virtual was moderated by two remote speakers who worked closely with the production team to execute their unique vision. They sought to create a highly visual, fun, and fast-paced session to keep thousands of attendees engaged for the full thirty minutes. The production team partnered with the speakers to manage not only the required graphics, videos, and other presentation elements, but to also plan detailed framing, shot transitions, script timing, and more. While the presentation appeared to be a seamless conversation between the two speakers, every moment was in fact carefully orchestrated by the production team well in advance of the live session.

Britney also advises event managers ensure their speakers have the right hardware to create a high-quality video. For Cvent CONNECT Virtual, all speakers were mailed an adjustable Ring Light with tripod stand and high quality USB microphone in a branded speaker box. This ensured remote video looked high quality and speaker audio was crystal clear. By investing in quality hardware for speakers and sessions, the production value of those remote sessions increased dramatically.

Differentiating Unique Production Requirements 

Due to the nature of the global health crisis, the vast majority of session content for Cvent CONNECT Virtual was captured remotely. However, the team did also produce a limited number of sessions, including live content, from a central location. Closely adhering to mandated safety protocols, a select number of sessions were filmed in a small studio at the Cvent HQ office in Tysons Corner, Virginia. This presented additional configuration challenges for Britney’s team and their partners at Socialive, as they coordinated in-studio shots with additional remote speakers around the globe. Pre-recorded sessions were captured during dry-runs and Cvent worked closely with their production partners to orchestrate run-of-show for each session. This experience provided a more elevated studio experience while still allowing for remote participation using high quality hardware and production capabilities.

Importantly, certain content is best suited to advanced studio production. This was the case with high-impact sessions like CEO Reggie Aggarwal’s keynote, panels with industry leaders like the CEOs of major airlines, and virtual awards programs like the Cvent Excellence Awards. While the costs of this type of production are undoubtedly higher, the value-add of that specific content is closely correlated with those costs. Shaun Simon, Director of Professional Services at Cvent, notes that you should reserve those advanced costs for high-impact sessions like keynotes and industry panels. Partnering closely with a production team can ensure the right level of investment for different session types. The cost of a full studio is not always a viable option for smaller or lower-cost events. For small sessions, he says, it’s best not to overcomplicate things. Think about ways to create interactivity amongst attendees using video conferencing tools. With quality hardware and advanced production, your other sessions can achieve similar impact to those filmed in a studio. Supported by your production partner, these sessions will be polished and well-branded without requiring a full AV team to execute. Shaun insists it’s important to consider which sessions you’re investing in and why. “Many people approach virtual events as a webinar, which is great for that use case, but the moment you expand into a fully virtual event, you need a cross-functional team,” he says. Working with stakeholders from technology, planning, AV, and other teams means you’re able to create a truly engaging virtual experience for your attendees.

Ensuring a Seamless Virtual Production Experience for All

Britney adds that it’s equally vital to connect your production partners with highly-knowledgeable event professionals. While everyone continues to bring fresh virtual event ideas to the collective industry, event professionals know their speakers and content better than anyone. That’s why she says it’s best to bring them into any conversations between speakers and production teams to provide candid feedback and capture the session goals accurately. With services like Cvent’s Virtual Event 360, producers work with event professionals to configure events from strategy to event build, coordinate exhibitor and sponsor management, manage session creation, and provide post-event reporting. Full webcast support ensures a smooth digital experience for your attendees. Advanced Production includes session producers, production strategy, custom graphics and overlays, video layout configuration, and content capture and casting.

That close relationship between event professionals and their production partners ensures a sense of collaboration that provides immeasurable value and a myriad of opportunities. “There’s a lot of space and runway in this virtual world, and the possibilities are endless,” says Britney. “Everyone is excited for what’s to come, especially for the continued value of virtual experiences in the future of hybrid events.” As Cvent’s teams begin planning for a hybrid Cvent CONNECT conference in 2021, Britney is excited to advance both the virtual and in-person experience with the valuable insights gained from Cvent CONNECT Virtual.