November 23, 2023
By Mike Fletcher

Just how far the meetings and events industry has bounced back was in full effect at Cvent CONNECT Europe this year. Delegates in their droves descended on the Hilton London Metropole for three enthralling days of innovation, inspiration and networking with peers. 

If they couldn’t be there in person, viewers could tune in for the virtual Cvent CONNECT Europe experience, while delegates gathered in Frankfurt to watch the opening keynote and product roadmap sessions, before hearing from experts from across the European MICE sector during a dedicated satellite event. 

On the main stage in London, BAFTA award-winning TV presenter, journalist and now CONNECT Master of Ceremonies, Claudia Winkleman, moderated with poise and brilliance - keeping the audience energised and informed. 

In between sessions, attendees could explore event technology solutions in the Innovation Pavilion, take guided Tech Tours with Cvent experts, plus share ideas and ask questions during a series of networking roundtables. 

Read on for some top highlights from this year’s CONNECT Europe. 

3 Inspiring Keynotes

Reggie Aggarwal, CEO and Founder of Cvent, took to the main stage to deliver an inspiring opening address and reflect on the strengths of the meetings industry, coupled with its rapid digital transformation.

Technology adoption is accelerating at rates we haven't seen before, enabling us to connect intentionally, purposefully and in a more measurable way,” he told the audience. 

Highlighting the importance of embracing technology to automate processes, integrate systems and collect data from across the entire attendee journey, Reggie praised the power of digital to drive business outcomes. 

He also advocated AI to supercharge these efforts. “The powerful intersection of people and technology is all around us, and it’s going to help all of us achieve our goals, especially with resource constraints and continued economic uncertainty,” he concluded. 

Following his opening remarks, Reggie participated in a candid armchair interview with Claudia Winkleman. He shared a fascinating account of his personal and professional journey and distilled 24 years of business experience into three key lessons: 

  1. You learn more on the way down than on the way up:  encouraging individuals to recognise the opportunities that exist even during the most challenging moments and to be critical of every decision. 
  2. Be persistent and consistent: emphasising the importance of determination when running a business and the resilience required to weather any storm. 
  3. Stick to the fundamentals: stressing the significance of hiring the best people, building the best products and always listening to customers - the formula that Cvent still follows today.

Day three’s keynote speaker was double Olympic champion, Dame Kelly Holmes. She took attendees on an emotional and powerful journey through her military life, sporting career, mental health struggles and the reasons behind her decision to come out as a gay woman. 

“I was the first woman athlete to win two gold medals, so I was celebrated. Everybody loved Kelly Holmes and put me on a pedestal and yet I had already had a breakdown during my international athletics career - which I didn't talk about until my first autobiography in 2005 - when no one talked about mental health awareness.... Being more open and honest is important for change. To normalise conversation.” 

Dame Kelly Holmes

To close Cvent CONNECT 2023, Mike Ford, CEO and Founder of Grateful Lemon, gave a captivating talk about wellbeing and its link to performance. 

He spoke on how to ‘master the dance between stress and unapologetic bouts of recovery’ and gave common sense advice on reframing stress, making sleep your superpower, rewiring the working day, becoming the gatekeeper of what you feed your mind, and the correct way to breathe. 

“By making small habitual shifts, you’ll see significant change over time. Don’t focus on the goal, focus on always showing up and your goals will take care of themselves.” 

Mike Ford

A wealth of thought-provoking sessions

Two of the most anticipated sessions at Cvent CONNECT Europe each year are the Product Roadmap talks, where Cvent experts discuss updates and outline new platform developments coming soon for marketers and event managers, plus venues and suppliers. 

In the Product Roadmap session for Event Marketing and Management, the two biggest announcements were the launch of Cvent Webinar, powered by Cvent Studio and the unveiling of Cvent Events+.

Cvent Webinar offers broadcast-quality live streams that anyone can produce in Cvent Studio, using easy and powerful production tools with a streamlined attendee experience. 

Cvent Events+ is an ‘always on’ branded hub to showcase your upcoming events and webinars, broadcast video content from past events on-demand, and allow your audiences to access those events they’ve already registered for to make connections, access content and discover more reasons to attend. 

Other Cvent technology insights were covered in Mastering Your Check-in and Badging Experience, where attendees gained an in-depth overview of Cvent Onsite Solutions. 

During the event’s Leadership Summit, attendees were told that 50% of the people sourcing venues through the Cvent Supplier Network are new planners - highlighting the influx of new talent joining the MICE industry, replacing those that had left as a result of the pandemic. 

Elsewhere, American Express GBT revealed findings and trends from its 2024 Global Meetings and Events forecast - an annual survey of more than 500 MICE professionals from 26 countries.

Amongst the findings, when respondents were asked which areas of their meeting programmes they are focused on improving, the top three selections were technology updates(38%), simplified data collection (18%) and using preferred suppliers (18%). Some 42% of respondents said they expect to see more AI-driven improvements in 2024.

At the Big Debate: People vs Technology, Ashleigh Ainsley, Co-Founder of the Black Tech Fest, went up against Alistair Turner, Managing Director of Eight PR and Marketing, in an entertaining verbal skirmish covering the thorny issue of how far technology should go to replace humans. 

Meanwhile, a panel of successful women in senior leadership roles, chaired by Claudia Winkleman during Women in Leadership: Beyond the Stereotypes, explored different approaches to career progression and leadership and challenged the traditional notions of what it means to be a successful female leader.  

“As women, we have to keep pushing ourselves forward. If we want something, we have to ask for it. Too many ladies wait until they are 100% certain they’re ready for the next opportunity. Men are more likely at 60% to just go for it. We have to learn to stand up and be counted sooner. It will benefit your career, your pay, your promotion prospects and everything you do in the workplace.” 

Fay Sharpe OBE, Founder, Fast Forward 15

And the winners are…

On the evening of the second day at CONNECT Europe, the winners of the 2023 Cvent Excellence Awards were announced during our glitzy gala ceremony in the ballroom of the Hilton Metropole. 

These annual awards recognise event, marketing and hospitality leaders from companies that use Cvent’s tech offerings. This year’s winners are:

  • Meaningful Impact: NASUWT, The Teachers’ Union
  • Outstanding Total Event Programme: St. James’s Place
  • Best In-Person Experience: Cross Media Ltd.
  • Best Hybrid Experience: PKF International
  • Best Virtual Experience: Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA)
  • Cvent Newcomer of the Year: Upwork
  • Cvent Partner of the Year: Proske
  • Cvent Advocate of the Year: Joy Thomas | IQVIA
  • The MICE Game Changer of the Year: Starhotels
  • MICE Sustainability Partner: Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse
  • Planners’ Best Partner: Leonardo Hotels
  • Transient Champion of the Year: Hyatt Place London Heathrow Airport
  • Cvent Hospitality Advocate of the Year: Deutsche Hospitality
cvent excellence awards winners

To go out with a celebratory bang on the evening of the last day, attendees flocked to Reign, a ‘show club’ located in the heart of Piccadilly, for an evening of dancing and entertainment, with special guests, So Solid Crew.  

Thank you 

Cvent CONNECT Europe 2023 was a game-changer for showcasing the recovery of the meetings and events industry. As attendees, speakers, sponsors and partners, you each played a significant and much-appreciated part in our conference’s success, and we thank you for being in the room or online, engaging with what proved to be a phenomenal content programme. 

If you missed anything, or wish to watch the virtual-only segments on CONNECT Europe TV or any of the sessions again, you can catch up on-demand here. 

Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.

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