Cvent CONNECT Virtual Production
breakout sessions, keynotes, and industry panels
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.