registrants - 2x from in-person event
VIP attendance ratio for improved lead quality
satisfaction among networking session participants
Rising to the Virtual Challenge
For 20 years, NEC had been hosting the Annual C&C User Forum & iExpo every November, as a forum to showcase their latest technologies and solutions, attract customers and co-creators, and activate business negotiations. The multi-day conference was attended by representatives of major IT corporations from around the world. However, during the global health crisis of 2020, NEC was unsure how to proceed with planning their highly successful flagship event. After months of deliberation, they decided to shift this conference from in-person to virtual and rebrand it as ‘NEC Visionary Week.'
Since this was their largest annual event, NEC was expecting an attendee count of more than 15,000 at the virtual conference. Kei Noguchi, Manager of NEC Corporation, says, “We wanted to attract people from rural areas who had not been able to attend the event before.” Attracting so many people at their first virtual conference meant they had to guarantee a stellar and flawless event experience to their attendees. This was a challenge, considering by the time the decision to go virtual was made, they had only two months left to plan the entire event. On top of that, NEC started out with just two people working on planning the three-week long conference that consisted of 150 webinar-style sessions and 25 networking sessions.
Prior to using Cvent, the NEC team did not have extensive experience with event technology. Earlier, they used a web content management platform to create their event websites and manually handled other tasks like registrations, appointments etc. But with their transition to virtual, NEC realised they needed an event technology partner that offered a robust, secure, and reliable solution that could automate their event lifecycle from start to end.
An Engaging Virtual Event Experience
Since the NEC Visionary Week was a complex event, NEC decided to host the event on the Cvent platform. The team felt the functionalities offered by Cvent would help simulate the experience they had offered at their physical conferences over the years. They were encouraged by the fact that Cvent had already managed 60,000+ virtual events since the start of the pandemic and realized they could use this expertise to ensure a smooth transition to virtual.
Prior to Cvent, NEC had to depend on a separate tool to manage their event websites. Using the Cvent Event Management™ solution, the NEC team was able to create a website through which their prospective attendees could register for the event. Adds Kei Noguchi, “We built a professional looking modern website in both Japanese and English language easily, using Cvent.”
NEC then set up their session content in the Cvent Attendee Hub®. To ensure maximum engagement levels at the virtual conference, NEC set up digital exhibitor booths on the Attendee Hub, encouraging their attendees to visit and network there. Though initially worried about how to attract sponsors to their event, NEC was able to get 11 different sponsors by offering them the opportunity to display their brand in the hub through tiered sponsorship packages. The hub also enabled the team to capture key attendee data across their various sessions and, integrated with Cvent’s Survey tool, helped provide a single source of truth for post-event analysis which could then be shared with sponsors.
The webinars were mostly held live, while some were simulive, based on speaker preferences. The event was designed keeping their in-person conference in mind, so their live-streamed sessions also had live Q&A. With the Attendee Hub, NEC was able to accommodate all these different requirements without compromising on user experience. “We were able to solve all our various issues by adopting Cvent," says Kei Noguchi. In addition, Kei Noguchi explains, "With Cvent, you don’t need to waste time building, testing, and connecting multiple systems together. You don’t need to spend a lot of time and effort to build a system that can handle the load of an increasing number of participants. By using Cvent, which has a proven track record globally, you only need one solution to make it all happen.”
The Attendee Hub received a great response as it was easy to navigate and helped attendees go through different sections of the event. Attendees could join or select sessions and meet in virtual booths or with sponsors of their choice, all with a click of a button. The best part was that NEC was able to offer the session content on demand once the event ended – a feature that was appreciated by several customers. As one of their attendees said in the post-event feedback, “We can listen to the presentations of various speakers in real time. We can also listen to sessions that we could not watch due to schedule conflicts, by accessing the archives.” Another attendee adds, “Compared to other companies that conducted lectures at the same time, I think it was good that the structure was designed with real-life implementation in mind, including QA support. The quality of live streaming was clear and good, and easy to view.”
less cost and shorter event prep time
A Success Story
Though NEC started out with reservations about their pivot to virtual, the success achieved by their event made up for it all. The team was able execute the event successfully with half the cost and in a much shorter time frame than their in-person events (from six months lead time to just two months). “What we could not achieve with our in-person event until now, we were able to achieve that with our first ever virtual event – all powered by Cvent,” says Kei Noguchi.
NEC saw participants from 20 countries for the virtual conference, with registration numbers nearly doubling from 17,000 to 32,000. Their networking sessions, in particular, were incredibly successful as they brought in participants that comprised 30% of VIPs. Since this meant improved quality of leads, they saw participants rate these sessions with 100% satisfaction. Perhaps the best part of their pivot to virtual was that the event continued to gain traction even after it was over, with NEC reporting 18,000 pageviews and 5,000 downloads across all their on-demand event content.
“All in all, the event was received very well by our customers. We received comments that it was very meaningful because there were no restrictions on time and place, while we were not able to accommodate business trips that were planned, to allow people who in previous years would have found it difficult to participate due to distance and time limitations to do so online,” says Kei Noguchi.
Attendee feedback praised NEC's efforts, saying, "Despite the pandemic and the scale of this event, I felt that NEC was trying to turn a pinch into an opportunity to do something new and unprecedented.” They appreciated the breadth of the content and virtual experience. One attendee even added, "There were many attractive sessions. The content was diverse and interesting. As the event was online, there was no crowding and no fatigue, and the time commitment for the attendee was minimal, so I could participate in my spare time.” One attendee summarizes the experience and the general appreciation for the event. They explain, “It was great to be able to reach out to VIPs not only in Tokyo, but also in other parts of Japan. For local participants, the barrier of travel expenses was removed, which led to increased opportunities for participation.”
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