People walking outside

University of Rochester

Maximizing event technology for an ever-better Meliora Weekend.

$100,000

reallocated by replacing in-house system

$30,000

saved in staff hours by reducing manual processes

$13,000

saved going paperless 

The University of Rochester is a private research university located in Rochester, New York. Featuring an alumni network of over 113,000 people, the annual Meliora Weekend is among the nation’s premier university celebrations. Entering its nineteenth year, the four-day event combines reunions, family and alumni weekends, and homecoming activities in one all-encompassing celebration.

Supporting Meliora Weekend and other campus events is a key priority for the higher education institution. “Engaging the attendee is critical,” explains Donna Colline, Operations Program Director of the Office of Alumni Relations. “There is a lot of data that proves the point that the more people are engaged, the more they're going to support the institution.” To successfully manage over 12,000 attendees across four campuses, the team works diligently to create a stellar attendee experience supported by event technology.  

Mitigating In-House Inefficiencies

After leveraging an in-house registration platform for years, the technology team found continued system maintenance to be costly and inefficient. They relied on a patchwork of various systems and processes for online registration and communicating with prospective attendees. Anthony Giordano, Senior Director of Internet and Digital Technology, notes that the registration experience was ineffective as a whole. “We did a lot of system updates that were manual, from registration to backend systems, reporting, and everything else,” he says. “It was expensive to maintain over time. Anytime you start to build things in-house, there are some costs with it. It just evolved past a point of relevancy.”

Though the university decided to "go green,” a paper-heavy packet and ticketing process meant the event did not support the university’s sustainability goals. More than 250 hours were spent stuffing packets, accounting for more than 18,000 pieces of paper. This resulted in inevitable errors, reprints, and extra costs. To allow enough time to stuff packets, team was forced to close registration nearly a week a head of the event. Data reconciliation meant manually processing thousands of attendees within the CRM, which took more than 600 hours to complete. 

Calculating the True Cost of Manual Processes

The amount of staff hours and resources required to communicate to prospective attendees, register participants for their self-selected schedule of events, and then greet each attendee and ensure they receive tickets, badges, and information was becoming more challenging each year. The website was difficult to navigate and general event information hard to find. When a registrant needed to modify their schedule or request a refund, the only way to do so was by submitting an email request. A staff member would then make changes to two separate systems – both the event system and the financial system – before sending a confirmation email. The process ate up more than 100 additional hours of staff time. Finding a technology partner who could help streamline every step of the process was a significant challenge. Anthony explains, “Each aspect of this complex event requires special considerations, and no single vendor had been able to meet all our needs in the past.”

In addition, nearly 2,500 paper registration forms for walk-ins had to be printed and modifications had to be entered into the system manually, wasting more than 200 additional staff hours and another 8,500 sheets of paper amounting to $12,000 in additional costs. Onsite attendance was manually calculated through visual headcounts across 200 different sessions. 

The team knew they needed a comprehensive solution with staying power. “We knew we wanted an organization that had been around a while, was stable, and was going to be there next year. We did not want to get involved in signing up with an organization that would disappear before the event,” Anthony explains. The answer, he says, was Cvent.

Maximizing Event Management Investment

Moving from the in-house system to Cvent’s Event Marketing and Management platform created an improved registration experience with unexpected efficiencies. “One of the biggest advantages we saw in moving from our in-house system was cost savings,” explains Anthony. “Just because you build something in-house doesn’t mean it’s free. Once you build it, it’s constant maintenance. So there was definitely a significant cost year-over-year of maintaining the old system.” Within the integrated platform, registrants could easily modify their own registrations and process refunds. This eliminated over 100 hours of staff time and allowed the team to manage 200 sessions across 75 locations with unique fee structures and target audiences.

The team also integrated their CRM with Cvent to eliminate the need to manually process thousands of attendees within the CRM system, which accounted for 600 hours of lost staff time and left data vulnerable to errorThis ensured all demographic data could be efficiently pulled for reporting purposes. Anthony notes previous list management involved “going into our system to pull lists down to our segmentation filtering, then upload them into other different systems.” Now, data is automatically updated with automated reporting in place. “We have a daily feed where, whenever those custom fields update in our CRM, it pushes over to Cvent and is immediately available for us,” he adds. The integration allows various teams to be more efficient with email marketing and segmentation as well. “We were able to push over a lot of custom contact fields to allow us to do segmentation and reporting,” he says. “The fact that the Meliora registration process is now integrated with our backend system has allowed us to be much more efficient with email marketing, invitations, and communication.” 

Creating an Ever-Better Onsite Experience

With the event’s namesake “Meliora” meaning “ever better,” the team sought to create an unmatched onsite experience for their attendees. Walk-ins could be processed without reprinting badges, meaning registration could stay open a full week longer. This allowed for thousands of last-minute sign-ups. OnArrival allowed attendees to check-in and self-modify registration onsite. The badges contained QR codes that could be scanned for event entry, eliminating the need for paper tickets and clickers for head counts. Real-time reports kept stakeholders updated on the latest metrics from every campus location.

In 2016, the team added CrowdCompass to their technology suite. Attendees could easily build schedules, receive push notifications, post to the integrated social feeds, and access needed resources. Perhaps most importantly, attendees had interactive maps at their fingertips. “We leverage the maps within the app heavily because we are on several campuses,” explains Anthony. He adds that push notifications helps the team communicate with attendees across 200 different events on four campuses. Using CrowdCompass to house session content helped bypass the laborious packet stuffing process, saving more than 250 hours and thousands of pieces of paper. Donna explains, “We believe it has been about $30,000 to $32,000 saved in not having to staff manually stuffing packets. Far and above the paper, it was the printing costs. That was about $13,000 a year that we did not have to do any longer, as we did it all through OnArrival and CrowdCompass.” By going digital, the team is now able to do more with less and provide a high-tech experience while introducing new, environmentally-friendly best practices.

Focusing on the Future of Meliora Weekend

By integrating a single-point solution for their registration, onsite, and mobile needs, the university saved hundreds of staff hours and tens-of-thousands of dollars. Eliminating the in-house registration system allowed the department to reallocate over $100,000 towards improved technology solutions. “We’re able to reallocate that money to do more with what we’re doing with Cvent,” Anthony explains. “Where we would have had a set budget to do registration, we can now do registration and use the Onsite Engagement solutions. It allowed us to expand what we were doing where we just couldn’t before.”  

Bolstering their technology suite has enabled the team to position Meliora Weekend as a premier university event. “There’s a very high expectations, and that’s one thing we’re very happy with in having moved to Cvent,” says Donna. She looks forward to engaging more with event technology across the campus in the near future. “We have a large institution that does a lot of events throughout the year, not only in advancement but across all of our campuses," she explains. “Utilizing Cvent to enhance this flagship event has encouraged us to evaluate our other 450 plus annual events to see if Cvent can alleviate additional fundamental challenges.” 


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