To create innovative digital experiences in an entirely virtual world, many organisations turn to new technologies to power their digital events programme. For their annual Americas Solution Partner Conference, Siemens sought to bring an incredible live experience to the screen to empower their business partner executives, technical resources, marketing experts, and sales teams. The ASPC brings together all Americas partners from the USA, Canada, and Central and South America for networking, expert instruction in business leadership, sales, technical, and marketing. The event starts their fiscal year and brings all Channel Partners and Siemens employees together to form a unified force of technology innovation and customer success.
With the health and safety of their Solution Partners and employees at the forefront of their business priorities, they knew the in-person event would need to shift to virtual for 2020. "We also have a duty to bring industry insights and actionable new tools and resources to our Solution Partners so that not only do they thrive in this 'new normal,' but they can help their customers not only survive but thrive in these unprecedented times," explains Brenda Ainsburg, Channel Program Manager for the Americas Partner Channel. As such, she had less than seven weeks to create an almost entirely live virtual event that would drive engagement and equip business partners with the tools they needed to foster channel success.
Strategising for a Global Virtual Experience
The four-day event was comprised of a mix of general sessions, breakout sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities for attendees. This also included a fully-live awards ceremony honoring key partners from across the business. As an experienced Cvent user for Siemens’ in-person events, Brenda knew the power of centralising event data within a single platform. In moving to virtual, she anticipated difficulties in managing duplicate registration lists, virtual platform configuration, and manually syncing data between multiple systems. To execute a seamless live experience for all stakeholders and attendees, Brenda knew the production process needed to be flawless. By leveraging the Cvent Virtual Attendee Hub® and partnering with Cvent’s Virtual Event 360 Advanced Production services, she created an engaging digital experience that captured key attendee insights with on-demand reporting to prove event success for senior leadership.
With less than two months to plan and execute the event for over 820 registrants, Brenda realised each session type would require an entirely different production strategy. Not only did they each have unique configuration requirements, but up to six concurrent sessions at a time would take place each day. “We needed full-collaborative virtual rooms, a separate use case for Cvent Video Player live with Q&A moderator, and we needed a full-collaborative virtual room with language interpretation,” she explains. With over 120 presenters in different regions all presenting live across sessions, it could easily have been a logistical nightmare.
Optimising the User Experience with the Virtual Attendee Hub
The opening General Session, awards programme, and a majority of breakout session were therefore managed live via Cvent’s Advanced Production services. The opening General Session offered a mixture of live and pre-recorded content that needed to appear entirely live for the audience. Cvent producers worked closely with Brenda’s team to configure the event from strategy to event build, coordinating session creation, speaker training, and livestream execution. Full webcast support ensured a smooth digital experience for all attendees with dedicated session producers creating a polished production strategy featuring custom graphics and overlays, video layout configuration, and content capture and casting. “We were able to stream that compilation of live and pre-recorded content to our attendees and the keynote was one of the highest-attended sessions, with more than 500 attendees,” Brenda says.
For the 25 dedicated breakout sessions, Siemens used the Cvent Video Player live with a Brightcove backend. These sessions offered 30 minutes of interactive content with 15 minutes for dedicated Q&A. As part of the professionals services, Cvent’s team managed dedicated speaker training for all presenters, with the number of planned speakers doubling in the final two weeks before the event. Brenda knew the session configuration would require more than a simple Zoom integration. “When comparing a full collaborative Zoom session with Cvent Video Player live, we could only imagine the logistical difficulties for our presenters. It would be a nightmare with hundreds of people registered for each session,” she explains. By using the Cvent Video Player, presenters could manage the interactive sessions with ease while presenting live. Brenda’s team could also seed questions in the live Q&A and view upvoted favourites to guide the interactive discussion. This ensured a smooth and engaging experience for all attendees while offering the team the ability to help manage session flow for high engagement. They were also able to showcase speaker profiles for all 120 presenters within the hub to garner more visibility for presenters. Content was instantly recorded and stored in the Cvent backend for post-event campaigns and follow-up, and remained open to attendees for 90 days as a means of fostering continued engagement. "What a relief it was that with the push of one button we could stream the content to the Virtual Attendee Hub and the sessions were recorded and automatically posted," she says.
During the event, interactive workshop sessions used full Zoom collaborative instances within the Virtual Attendee Hub. As workshops were highly participatory and lasted up to three hours, session managers could create sub-breakouts using Cvent Video Conferencing solution and a Zoom integration. Without having to manually manage and populate meeting links for hundreds of attendees across various breakout configurations, Brenda’s team could ensure a frictionless user experience for all. She adds, "These were absolutely loved by everyone who experienced them. Our business leaders from our Partner community were very happy to have their sessions by and large fully collaborative."
Managing Real-Time Translation through Technology
There were also unique language requirements for certain session types, including the opening general session and networking sessions. While most of the networking sessions used Cvent Video Conferencing with a Zoom integration within the hub, certain sessions required a third party translation service for Portuguese or Spanish speakers with their own Zoom instance. As a solution, Brenda used the Cvent Event Management session management feature to integrate the third party Zoom link into the session description. She also used an internal info field to indicate “yes” for translation needs if the country location was in Central or South America. With segmented attendee lists housed directly within Cvent, she could then target those specific invitees with a tailored invitation in their native language. This offered clear instructions for accessing the third party Zoom instance where they could view content in real-time with a live audio translation. Five breakout sessions in all were translated, including high-level business leader presentations. To ensure navigability to the correct Zoom instance, Brenda also hyperlinked the Zoom URL within the session description for all relevant sessions, including the opening General Session. This ensured attendees could view the content through the correct Zoom instance for simultaneous Spanish or Portuguese translation.
At the close of the virtual conference, Brenda’s team managed a live awards ceremony honoring key partners. She worked closely with Cvent’s Advanced Production team to foster an engaging digital experience for attendees. Using a Brightcove integration, the Advanced Production team collaborated with Siemens’ Vice President of the Americas Channel and other stakeholders to coordinate programme logistics, graphics, video layouts, and other elements. In addition to leveraging offline engagement tactics like swag boxes stuffed with gifts and snacks, Brenda’s team relied on engagement scoring to track attendee behaviour across the conference. They were able to incentivise engagement with exciting prizes for the attendees who were most engaged across the event.
Leveraging Event Insights to Prove ROI
Capturing engagement scores, session attendance, and other key data points helped showcase event success through on-demand reporting directly within Cvent. A partner-specific event survey also offered key insights into highly positive feedback, with an overall satisfaction rating of 88%. Specifically, they measured an averaged 91% satisfaction rating for ease of access and navigability of the Virtual Attendee Hub. Siemens more than doubled registrations and tracked an 83% attendance rate, easily surpassing industry benchmarks. Brenda sees the successful execution of the virtual event as a huge win for the business and for her team. Moreover, the centralised data flow helps enable sales and marketing leaders with valuable insights for their post-event follow-up. With integrated tools at her fingertips, Brenda was able to keep registration open after the event to generate additional registrations. She adds, “The beauty of using Cvent’s Virtual Attendee Hub is that it’s integrated with your registration website, your conference app, your appointments module, and all the reporting flows back to one place.”
Brenda is looking forward to the future of virtual events as technologies become even more advanced. “I’m super excited about what’s coming next with the Virtual Attendee Hub,” she says. “Cvent was already the number one platform when it came to event technology. With the pandemic, Cvent delivered a great virtual platform that delivers content in many different ways, gives a lot of ways to engage, and all the reporting feeds automatically back into the database.” Not only is the virtual arena helping to drive digital innovation, but it is also providing important cost savings over in-person events. In fact, Siemens tracked $100,00 in cost savings for AV and up to $300,000 in savings for Food & Beverage when compared to the previous in-person event. By harnessing technology and the power of data to prove event ROI, Brenda feels the case for virtual events as a business driver becomes even more clear. “It’s all about the data that you can show your stakeholders to prove your ROI. With Cvent, you can pull insightful reports, manage dashboards, and create portals for your stakeholders,” she explains. Impressively, they broadened their reach to more than double the number of solution partners who attended. They even added special sessions for those Partner staff who don't traditionally attend onsite due to cost but are essential to the success of the partner. These new Operations sessions were well attended. “We more than doubled attendance, spent only 20% of what we’d normally spend on an event at a hotel with conference facilities, and executed a high quality, highly engaged event that our attendees loved," Brenda explains. "All the reporting and ROI, from budgeting to session attendance and engagement info, is in the Cvent Event Management platform. One-stop shopping for all my event needs and reporting.”
The Future Value of Virtual and Hybrid Events
With virtual taking center stage within the industry, Brenda stresses the importance of ensuring event managers are equipped with the tools they need to be successful. “Make sure you have a detailed plan for presenters, a plan for your sessions, and I recommend you get certified in virtual and hybrid events from Cvent,” she says. She emphasizes lead time to integrate multiple virtual engagement tools like the Cvent mobile event app or Appointments module, if possible, as a way to garner even more valuable data. Brenda also says peer insights are invaluable when creating your virtual event strategy. “Hop into the Cvent Community because there are people in your industry hosting events of your size right now,” she says. “You can get amazing pro-tips and secrets to success from your peers who want to share what works best for your events and your stakeholders as well.”
As she looks towards the eventual return of in-person experiences, Brenda knows the virtual component will remain an important part of the event landscape in the near future. Specifically, she looks forward to the opportunities for sponsors and exhibitors to increase their visibility with attendees. "The Exhibitor function, combined with the Appointments module, means Exhibitors can make real connections even in a virtual setting and enjoy ROI," she explains. With the broader set of options for attendees based on safety, feasibility, and cost considerations, virtual will remain a key component of future hybrid events. "Virtual and hybrid broaden your audience and the virtual component can seriously cut costs. Virtual and hybrid are here to stay!" she says.
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