Creating the new playbook for hybrid event design with Cvent and RDC
hybrid event attendees
virtual session views in Cvent Attendee Hub
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is a global member association committed to transforming the health ecosystem. As a mission-driven non-profit, HIMSS offers expertise in health innovation, public policy, workforce development, research, and analytics to advise leaders, stakeholders, and influencers from across the ecosystem on best practices. HIMSS has served the global health community for more than 60 years across North America, Europe, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific.
Establishing Partnerships to Support the Event Ecosystem
As the global health crisis has evolved, definitions of event success have changed. There are more choices than ever, meaning event success is directly linked to organizational success. For HIMSS, the question became - what does success look like and how could they future proof that success? As an established brand with a rich history of membership engagement, the challenges of the pandemic opened the floodgates of opportunity for HIMSS. They aimed to redefine the event experience, engage audiences in new ways, enrich sponsors, and empower the creativity of their team. They decided to partner with Cvent and RDC, an experiential advisory firm, to achieve their goals. RDC works closely with brands, agencies, and organizations to create moments that maximize online media engagement resulting in greater brand awareness and growth.
As a member association committed to transforming healthcare, the annual HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition is the cornerstone of its membership connection, education, and influence for healthcare professionals globally. HIMSS needed to not only serve the needs of their 100,000+ membership community but also maintain revenue streams and set themselves up for future success as an organization. “Our strategy today will help shape the future of our events,” says Peggy Diab, HIMSS Vice President, Events. She adds, “The events landscape is changing. Events today are different than how they were two years ago. We have to rethink our approach to how we design our in-person and digital experience.” So began the strategic work of designing a digitally enabled experience that would complement the large-scale in-person HIMSS Conference & Exhibition, which would drive over 15,000 virtual registrations alone and garner record content engagement.
With significant size and scale, the scope of the HIMSS Conference & Exhibition saw valuable experience design considerations and opportunities arise. The initial goals for the event were two-fold. “There were two critical components to developing an influential and effective strategy for the new HIMSS event design: relevant data and actionable customer insights,” shares RDC Founder and Experience Advisor, Robyn Duda. She adds that there were clear opportunities for the right strategy and event technology to benefit the organization. “With an event this robust, there are many goals to achieve including both short and long-term audience and revenue growth, content development and realignment, integration of sponsorship partners, and cohesion of tech and data that are additive to the experience and scalable,” Robyn adds. She explains that her team established two primary goals, noting, “First, design and implement an integrated experience strategy made up of a cohesive set of movements. Second, follow a framework I developed that aligns every moving part into one cohesive, integrated experience. I call this framework The Anatomy of Experience.”
RDC implemented the curated Anatomy of Experience to show how HIMSS, RDC, and Cvent worked closely together to navigate a complex content, tech, marketing, and design landscape. Leveraging the Cvent Attendee Hub helped weave together the entire digital journey, and using the integrated Cvent solution suite for both experiences helped ensure a cohesive dataset across the event.
Challenging the Status Quo with Cvent Event Technology
HIMSS and RDC put forward a clear ethos to keep the event relevant by defining one key goal: to design a high-value and engaging hybrid solution for both virtual and in-person audiences. Additionally, they outlined the mission to reform the global healthcare and wellness ecosystem in order to realize the full health potential of every human everywhere. To do this, HIMSS selected Cvent as their event technology partner and virtual event platform to support this critical point of collaboration. “The partnership between Cvent and HIMSS was outstanding, and that became an important backbone to success because the solution was so complex,” says Rob Hamlin, Cvent Regional Vice President. “With a robust tech stack, multiple technical teams, and reg and data integrations, having clear communication allowed us to stay focused on the attendee journey. It was critically important that even though we were solving for the curation of attendee data through multiple platforms, everything was smooth, integrated, and aggregated in a way that was usable and made complete sense.”
With a significant technical build out, it was clear the online experience had to be intuitive and easy to navigate. It also needed to be visually engaging, as it was the only immersion point audiences had. This is easier said than done when building a custom solution. “You are dealing with API’s, SSO, writing code, integration reg systems, and more, so it’s easy to get caught up in the back end around data and integrations,” says Rob. Cvent has made significant investments in building and enhancing their new REST API. This ensures technologists can more easily automate manual processes while saving valuable development time.
He adds, “These are important, but there’s much more to consider: does the product look great? Is it user friendly? So, we implemented a key role that we called The Event Quarterback.” The key support role was able to monitor progress across the event lifecycle to ensure a seamless experience for HIMSS teams and attendees alike. In fact, leveraging Cvent professional services, like day-of support, and working closely with their Cvent team across the event was key. From building custom road maps, to understanding the power of a first impression, to providing direct training, the focus on navigation was detailed—tying to the bigger picture that digital is a long-range investment—and this annualized content strategy is paving the way for how audiences will consume content now and in the future.
Curating a Content Experience for Hybrid Audiences
To put all of this smart digital and data foundation in place, HIMSS created customized education pods for a tight and curated onsite experience. In total, they hosted hundreds of hybrid sessions. They also developed 90-minute digital content segments that were designed to entertain and educate individual personas in TV-like broadcasts – as opposed to days filled with hour-long sessions by track. These sessions were anchor-hosted and included keynotes, fireside chats, panel discussions, and industry highlights, which were livestreamed via the Attendee Hub. “We didn’t want to end up with a media catalog environment,” insists Peggy. “We wanted to develop content wrapped around experience. We curated strong content, and allowed the attendees to design their own digital journey.”
Building real engagement digitally was another key challenge that RDC and Cvent had to solve for with HIMSS. Robyn adds, “Likewise, evolving how we ensure people connect in-person has shifted.” She likens the strategy design to popular digital media platforms. She explains, “Putting this connection at the forefront means we find experiential and content-based ways to say ‘yes’ to the right audiences, make them feel at home, and design programming they don’t have to search for but that we put front and center – a la Netflix and YouTube recommendations.” She adds that the partnership between the different organizations was key to their success. Robyn says, “Working with HIMSS and Cvent, we put connection in the driver’s seat and that was woven through the entire design experience.”