The Georgia Bankers Association (GBA) is the trade and professional organization representing the interests of banks and thrift institutions in the state of Georgia. Jenna Lynn Warner, Professional Development Coordinator, works closely with GBA members to facilitate professional development opportunities for all areas of the bank. Her team manages a significant number of in-person events each year with tailored professional development opportunities for their various members.
Navigating Crises with Cvent Event Technology
In the spring of 2020, GBA had to navigate the challenges of the global health crisis by quickly evaluating which previously-planned events to pivot to virtual and which to cancel altogether. “A large majority of our events changed format, which was a struggle,” says Jenna Lynn. Despite the difficulties of the moment, there were opportunities that came with the unexpected pause in live events. “We were usually so bogged down in in-person events that we never really had time to look up from our desks, but because of COVID we had time to think through what we could do differently that would help us in the future and help sustain our association,” she explains. Her team identified several key areas to help improve the member experience, including creating a more user-friendly registration process and automating reporting structures. The antiquated, manual processes bogged down the small team of three, meaning they had less time to devote to creating a stellar attendee experience. They also needed a way to better connect with their bankers and expand their reach within the bank. “That’s where Cvent came in,” says Jenna Lynn.
As a relatively new user of Cvent, evaluating the effectiveness of the platform against other options was important. After seeing how fellow industry associations leveraged Cvent, the GBA team was inspired by the depth of the technology partnership. Knowing that the American Banking Association already utilized Cvent increased their certainty that Cvent was the right choice. “We really look to the American Bankers Association for a lot for guidance, and we know our bankers do as well,” notes Jenna Lynn. She adds that when her team first pitched Cvent to their leadership team, seeing the American Bankers Association’s use of the platform created an immediate sense of confidence in the decision.
Empowering GBA Team Members to Succeed with Cvent
During the onboarding process, Jenna Lynn was tasked with quickly getting her team up to speed on the tool. “As the admin, my job was to get everyone on board, which was a bit of a daunting task,” she adds. Her anxieties were alleviated thanks to the dedicated training and resources she received from Cvent. “I was impressed by the Cvent Community and the Cvent training modules, and I jumped in instantly,” she says. “I don’t think I waited, as I was just so excited. I knew this was going to be great for the team so I started training and I was just so amazed at how many resources you can find.”
She also appreciates how easily customizable the solution is for GBA’s specific use cases, a tip she shared with her team as they familiarized themselves with the platform. By adopting the integrated Cvent Event Marketing and Management platform, GBA was able to eliminate manual processes and create automated efficiencies that would help sustain the business during COVID and beyond. “It was almost like having an extra person all of the sudden, which was wonderful,” insists Jenna Lynn. “It relieved us and we knew instantly we could start depending on our reporting.” GBA no longer needs to manually track or manage registrations for their events, whether virtual or in-person. “For the first time, our bankers could actually register themselves, which was amazing,” she adds.
Her team also adopted Cvent Payment Services as a secure, reliable solution for payment processing. Traditionally, GBA relied on invoicing and refunds via check, a highly manual process that was open to human error. Using Cvent Payment Services meant fully automating fee collection and refunds for both GBA and their registrants. This in turn provided GBA team members full visibility into their payments, sales, and refunds through financial reporting directly in Cvent. “Just that small step of when someone pays via credit card, they can then be refunded on that same credit card within five to seven business days…that was incredible,” says Jenna Lynn. What once took four or five steps across multiple team members can now be facilitated through the single click of a button. “It’s so efficient, especially for auditing,” she adds. “We never imagined a solution like this was out there, but we’re so glad to have access to it now.”
Creating Safe In-Person Experiences with the Cvent Attendee Hub® & Mobile Event App
As the pandemic progressed, Jenna Lynn’s team looked to specific committees for guidance as far as virtual versus in-person events were concerned. “We take each event on a case by case basis,” she advises. “What we’ve learned overwhelmingly is that of course people want to be together again.” With this feedback in mind, GBA began planning in-person meetings for 2021. To ensure onsite safety, they work closely with their chosen venues to facilitate daily temperature checks, sanitizing stations, appropriate social distancing, and other important measures related to duty of care. They also leveraged the Cvent Mobile Event App, a native app included in the Cvent Attendee Hub, to create a touchless onsite experience for their attendees. “The mobile event app allowed us to go paperless, which eliminates all those touchpoints and that was very important during COVID,” says Jenna Lynn.
GBA began hosting in-person events again in early 2021 using Cvent for registration. GBA’s Annual Meeting in June 2021 served as the premier event of the year. “It attracts all of our bank presidents, CEO’s, board members, and senior leadership from all over Georgia to one place,” explains Jenna Lynn. With over 500 attendees, they knew the use of the Cvent Mobile Event App would be key. Built as a fully integrated part of the Cvent Attendee Hub, the mobile app served as a powerful engagement tool in the palm of their attendees’ hands. GBA could instantaneously communicate with their attendees via push notification, as well as allow attendees to build their own agenda, self-manage session registration, find speaker and session information, and much more. They could also engage with sessions and speakers through interactive features and network with other attendees. Importantly, they could also access sponsor and exhibitor information directly in the app. Moreover, all registration data was automatically synced between the Event Management system and the Attendee Hub, ensuring a seamless workflow for GBA. For the Annual Meeting specifically, they created 47 sessions and managed 15 speakers. They were also able to include custom pages dedicated to venue information, WiFi details, and floor plans.
Jenna Lynn explains that the attendee base wasn’t what one may typically consider a “digital crowd,” meaning there were very real concerns around app adoption. “We weren’t sure how people would feel going from these jam-packed folders full of information to this little app,” she says. That’s why her team was thrilled to see the results in their post-event reporting. “We were so excited to see after our event was over that we had over 50% of our attendees participate on the app, so we consider that a huge success,” she says. In fact, they saw 316 total logins across the event.
This level of measurable success inspired the team to use the mobile app through the Attendee Hub for another in-person event, the GBA Leadership Conference. Here, over 400 registrants were able to access more than 34 sessions within the app as well as 8 speaker profiles. They saw a login rate of 90% among primary registrants, with over 226 total logins over time. Again, attendees were able to view exhibitor profiles, speaker information, sessions, and custom pages within the app. Exhibitors were able to sponsor sessions within the app, and attendees could view session documents as well as stay up to date with push notifications.
Future-Proofing the Industry through Event Technology
By using the integrated Cvent platform for their in-person events, GBA created a consistent member experience across the attendee journey. From registration to the onsite experience and post-event reporting, GBA eliminated disparate point solutions in favor of one single source of truth. “Overall, the feedback we've received since the adoption of Cvent is overwhelmingly positive,” says Jenna Lynn. She adds that the feedback makes the hard work her team has put in worthwhile. Importantly, the expertise her team has gained as event technologists in just a short time has broadened their professional skillsets. “With the adoption of this software, it’s personally made my day much more exciting,” Jenna Lynn offers. “I’m excited to get into Cvent and see those numbers, those dashboards right in front of my face. It’s so easy and it’s made us so much more efficient as a team during a time where it was very crucial that we worked efficiently.”
As they plan for 2022, there is a distinct opportunity on the horizon for both GBA and the industry as a whole. GBA is looking forward to integrating their membership database with Cvent and leveraging new Cvent solutions and features. “I think it will really help further propel us forward as an organization,” says Jenna Lynn. While the difficulties of the past few years have certainly impacted the organization, she believes additional time afforded by the pandemic was a silver lining. “Something that the year of COVID did for us was that it pushed us outside our comfort zone and outside of what was considered normal,” she insists. “We learned that just because it’s the way we’ve always done something, it isn’t always the best way to do something. So it was a good time to look for an opportunity to change.”
She sees this as a universal lesson for the industry as the events landscape continues to evolve. Jenna Lynn considers it to be a bright future with the advent of hybrid events. She explains, “I think it’s important for leaders in this industry to look at what were the good things that came out of this year….what things can we keep instead of just going back to the normal way? Could we potentially be gaining more attendees by having a hybrid environment? I think that’s a huge plus.”
She notes that while they are in the early stages of their Cvent journey, GBA is looking forward to the future thanks to their use of event technology. “I’m inspired by what others are doing, but I’m also really proud of what we’re doing,” she says. She notes that as a small organization, it would have been easy to stay in their comfort zone and maintain their manual process. “It’s a common misconception that we sometimes think we don’t need technology like Cvent because we’re smaller,” she explains. “But we do desperately need this technology…and I’m looking forward to the future and I feel like we’re able to lead the way.”
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