When Fidelity Information Services (FIS) found their events program affected by the start of the global health crisis in March, they knew it would directly impact their sales pipeline. With up to five major hosted conferences each year, as well industry trade shows and internal events like sales kickoffs, the events team needed to find a creative solution to keep the sales funnel active. Cynda Covert, Events & Trade Show Advisor Senior, saw virtual events as the best path forward.
Understanding the Value of Virtual Events
“At the end of March, we were supposed to have our first client conference, but obviously we couldn’t really host in-person events at that time,” explains Cynda. The Financial Services organization wanted to move their planned event to August with the hopes of an in-person experience, but the worsening crisis made it impossible. In April, they made the decision to move forward with a fully virtual InFocus event in June. They also decided to move a second client conference, Connect, to a virtual event in June. The key to the success of both these events was in convincing stakeholders of the value of the planned virtual experience to engage customers and prospects. “We took the time to really show our stakeholders the importance of keeping events moving as virtual events, which I really appreciate,” Cynda notes. With only eight weeks to convert their in-person event to a virtual experience, Cynda knew she needed the right technology in place.
In looking at the needs of her prospective attendees, Cynda saw several key factors that could affect the virtual experience for the large base of banking clients. “We provide them the software and technology they need to move money quickly, safely, and globally,” explains Cynda. "They come to our events to see new innovations, learn how to use our technologies, talk with their peers, and discover what’s happening in the industry.” Realizing that the audience would be working from home with potential distractions, they decided to retool the planned content for a virtual viewing experience. They shortened each day to a half-day and offered on-demand content throughout the event. They also extended the availability of their virtual event to remain open for two weeks after the live event, thereby ensuring additional attendees for their sales leads.
Building on In-Person Event Success
The easiest part of the process, says Cynda, was trusting the Cvent solutions already in place. FIS had seen great success using Cvent for their in-person events. For example, their 2019 InFocus Conference saw measurable improvements from 2018 in proving ROI, mapping the attendee journey onsite, and using data to show attendee insights. For this and other internal conferences, they leveraged a host of Cvent solutions including Event Management, CrowdCompass, Onsite Solutions, Abstract Management, and Passkey to automate processes. For the InFocus conference specifically, the events team added session tracking to their conference in order to provide real-time data for sales teams, and modernized the mobile experience with the CrowdCompass event app. The two-way integration with Cvent registration allowed them to track engagement points and attendance data across the conference. Coupled with the quick and painless check-in and badge printing process through OnArrival, the tools gave attendees the high-tech experience they craved. On the backend, the Marketo integration gave them valuable insights into their marketing campaign performance, moving contacts further down the funnel for their sales teams. As a result, they increased lead volume by 38% over the previous year and influenced $750M in existing TCV, a 300% increase over the previous year. They also saw 68% increase in new deals created and 131% increase in existing deals created, as well as an 89% increase in sponsorship revenue.
Using Cvent to Power Digital Engagement
With such impressive success for their in-person events, Cynda knew their virtual events would need to garner incredible results. Her team relied on best practices from her in-person events in planning the digital experience. “Because all of our events were already hosted in Cvent, it was an easy jump to move the virtual event to Cvent,” Cynda explains. “We used the microsites and were able to whitelist the URLs, which I really like for our brand, and made it easy for people to find us.” She could use weblinks and reference ID’s to target user behavior. She sent targeted invites through Cvent’s eMarketing tool through segmented contact lists. By syncing her campaigns through Marketo, she could track campaign performance in driving registrations.
To execute a virtual pivot under tight timelines, the FIS team created a new registration site in Cvent with a dedicated virtual pathway. They were able to re-register existing registrants while simultaneously expanding their reach to target a broader base of prospective invitees. They integrated the Cvent Event Management solution with the chosen virtual platform to host over 200 breakout sessions with a mix of pre-recorded and live content. The Solutions Expo Hall was grouped into six different product ecosystems for easy navigability. Attendees could network through video conferencing or chat functionality, and could contact exhibitors through their virtual booths. They also created networking lounges for attendees to enjoy a sense of community amongst their peers and colleagues. “We wanted to make sure we had that sense of community in a new virtual wellness center as well. So we had a space where people could go to relax, do yoga, and we even had cycling videos in there,” Cynda adds.
Innovating the Virtual Experience with the Cvent Attendee Hub®
With the initial success of FIS Emerald, the FIS team knew they needed to expand their offerings for attendees with an even more seamless experience across a single platform. After the launch of the Cvent Attendee Hub in the fall of 2020, Cynda and her colleagues knew they found the right solution to host their virtual Image Solutions conference. "With a streamlined agenda and lots of collaborative time to problem solve, the conference was the perfect candidata3e to enable all of the Cvent virtual platform features," notes Cynda. Her colleague, Keerin Pinch, agrees. As the Global Events Technology Specialist, Keerin is tasked with managing all event technology solutions for FIS. Understanding the security requirements for implementing such technology within the Financial Services industry, Keerin knew the team needed a reliable, secure virtual platform solution from the initial website and registration, throughout the virtual event, and through the end of the on-demand period. With the proven security and data integrity found in Cvent, the FIS team could be assured that all sensitive information was secure.
Within the Attendee Hub, attendees could engage with content which was either hosted as a livestream or collaborative session directly through the Cvent Video Player and Cvent Video Conferencing, respectively. These embedded, one-click experiences ensured attendees stayed within the virtual platform throughout the event. FIS was able to produce both live and pre-recorded content through the virtual platform, working closely with the Cvent Virtual Event 360 professional services team. This dedicated team helped guide the execution of the content through project management, speaker training, webcast support, and final content execution.
FIS was also able to engage attendees through engagement features like live Q&A, wherein moderators could approve questions to ensure compliance with industry standards. Attendees could also upvote their favorite questions to ensure the most relevant questions were top of mind for presenters. As the product continued to evolve and incorporate additional engagement functionality like live polling and chat, Keerin and Cynda are thrilled with the insights they are now able to gain from their attendees. "Now being able to chat one-on-one with an attendee and being able to jump into a virtual meeting with an attendee is ideal as well," says Keerin. "The virtual expo booths allow you to upload videos and brand the page, and it's just a huge help to us as an organization because the sponsor and exhibitor aspect of our conferences is huge."
Scaling Virtual Marketing Strategies for the Future
Across the conferences, Cynda’s team was able to track engagement and session attendance to provide valuable metrics for her stakeholders. “Another aspect that really helped us show event success was the on-demand reporting in Cvent,” Cynda adds. “We knew it was important to show our stakeholders that virtual events were here to stay and they were worth the return on investment.” Cynda’s team had previously estimated roughly 1,000 attendees for their in-person Connect event, and therefore expected the same number for their virtual attendance. “I thought we were going to have to fight pretty hard for each of our 1,000 attendees, and I was expecting no more than that in the virtual environment,” she says. Incredibly, the virtual conference garnered three times as many registrations as expected. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d get more than 1,000 clients to attend. We ended with over 3,000 attendees, so we tripled our expected attendance for the virtual event,” Cynda says. With over 45 different countries represented across attendees, the global event was a resounding success for FIS.
With integrated session and registration data synced between Cvent and the virtual hub, Cynda’s team was able to provide key attendee insights for their sales teams. For the InFocus event, Cynda says the average viewer spent 300 minutes within the hub. “That more than hit any sort of benchmarks I’ve seen,” she insists. For the Connect event, attendees spent an average 136 minutes in the hub and her team tracked 46,000 social impressions. Even more impressive, they tracked another 1,000 attendees who logged in during the on-demand period after the close of the event. “That was pretty fascinating to me that people are either coming back to consume more content or spending their first time with us on their own time,” Cynda observes.
For the Image Solutions Conference, they also saw a significant increase in attendance. In fact, with almost 700 registrants, total attendance had increased by more than 238% since 2019, and was up nearly 33% since the previous year. "It just shows the power of virtual events and it was one of the first virtual events. So everyone wanted to attend, to see what it was like," explains Keerin. They also note the conference saw more than 7,600 views of content, with automated tracking and reporting available directly within Cvent.
Proving Virtual Event ROI
Using this data to drive users further down the funnel for their sales team, the events far outpaced the previous year’s already impressive performance. “When everything was said and done, we had 14% more new deals created in the virtual event in comparison to the in-person event last year,” she explains. “We also influenced 35% more existing deals and had 682 influenced opportunities, or a total TCV of $509 million. We tracked 119 MQLs and 57 SQLs as well." The incredible metrics only further proved the value of the virtual environment and expanded marketing reach for FIS. “Needless to say, our events and sales teams were really thrilled with those numbers and they spoke for themselves,” Cynda adds.
What would Cynda advise others to do in shifting their event marketing strategy to virtual? “You’re never going to over communicate with your attendees,” she insists. “Create easy pathways to access the virtual content and find those ways you can help your attendees engage, which will help you in the long run as well.” She also stresses the importance of fostering community within the virtual environment, particularly for relationship-building. She says creating those shared experiences amongst attendees is key to engaging them across the event lifecycle to drive pipeline and keep leads active for your sales team.
Cynda and Keerin foresee a bright future of hybrid events in 2021, with the opportunity to tailor two exclusive experiences for in-person and virtual attendees. “It’s going to be important to treat those attendees at two different groups, so we can really focus on what those regional communities want to see in-person,” she explains. For virtual attendees, she looks forward to expanding her marketing reach to create valuable connections across the globe. As they look forward to the future of hybrid experiences, they plan to host their next conference using the Cvent Attendee Hub for the virtual aspect of the event. As the dedicated technologist, Keerin is excited by the prospect of learning all he can for the hybrid experience. "My advice be to learn as much as you can, as fast as you can, because if you're the technologist, people are going to be looking at you as the expert in the organization," he says. "So the more you know about event technology, the better it's going to be for you to help your company through whatever may be going on. So my best advice is learn, learn, learn, and don't stop learning."
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