Designing Digital and Hybrid Events
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Meetings-technology giant Cvent has wrapped up the first hybrid version of Cvent Connect, the company's annual user conference. The event took place Aug. 1-4, with the in-person component at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas. As of the morning of the final day, the company counted more than 13,500 registrants in total, with about 1,500 of those registering for the in-person experience. That's in line with what the company was expecting, according to a spokesperson. About 83 percent of the 1,500 in-person registrants attended, even though a last-minute mask mandate had taken effect in Las Vegas to counter the surge in Covid cases caused by the Delta variant.
"We're really happy with the turnout, both in-person and online," added the spokesperson. "The industry is ready — and willing — to meet."
A year ago, Cvent welcomed about 30,000 remote attendees to its first-ever online-only Connect, by way of its then brand-new Virtual Attendee Hub. That participation represented a giant leap from the 4,500 who attended the July 2019 Connect in-person in Las Vegas.
Without a doubt, the competition for planner time and attendance is stiffer now than it was a year ago, with other face-to-face industry meetings back on the docket and planners busy booking future events. Plus, Cvent now faces a great deal of competition for planner attention from a host of event-tech platforms that have skyrocketed in popularity and raised millions in funding over the past year — Hopin, Swapcard and Hubilo among them — all of which have held their own virtual user conferences over the past several months.
Event technology remains a red-hot topic, even if Cvent now shares the spotlight.
"I remember when I used to talk to Wall Street and tell them that the meetings and events industry was the biggest industry you've never heard of," Cvent cofounder and CEO Reggie Aggarwal said in his opening keynote. "Now, because of this transformation of the past 18 months, it's all that people are talking about. We believe the interest in our space has never been higher."
This marketplace factors into Cvent's recent announcement that the company will again go public, this time by merging with a special-purpose acquisition company called Dragoneer Growth Opportunities. Cvent anticipates closing in the fourth quarter of this year, at which time they'll begin trading on Nasdaq.
"We're extremely excited about this, and the next chapter for Cvent," Aggarwal said at the outset of this year's conference. "And we're excited for what this means for the meetings and events industry. We're expecting to raise $800 million, which will help us further invest in delivering exceptional products and exceptional support."
Cvent Acquires Shoflo, Debuts Studio Product
The development of Cvent's most significant new tool, Cvent Studio, followed the company's acquisition of Shoflo, a production-software company, and merging its existing Studio product into Cvent's platform. The entire Shoflo team is now part of Cvent, including Shoflo founder and CEO Stephen Bowles, now Cvent's director of product management.
Cvent Studio is designed to help add broadcast-quality video-production capabilities to virtual events. The new platform allows planners to prebuild each segment of their event before going live, creating a more professional-looking production in the process. It's currently available through Cvent Professional Services, but will be built into the Cvent Attendee Hub later this year — meaning any customer using the Cvent Attendee Hub will be able to access a do-it-yourself version of Cvent Studio, at no additional cost.
Key features of the new product include:
- Director view, through which the organizer can control, in real time, who and what is seen onscreen. Planners can mix presenters, media and screen shares; prerecord sessions; edit backgrounds, overlays and lower thirds; and stream video directly through the Cvent Attendee Hub.
- Simple scene editing, which allows the creation of fully branded, high-quality video transitions. Planners can map the show in advance using this functionality, and create preferred looks or templates.
- Presenter view, though which presenters can access a separate virtual preparation space, allowing them to chat with the director and edit settings.
- Branding tools, allowing users to customize their event with simple image uploads and logo placements, and access a Cvent library of assets, as well.
Shoflo, which was recognized for its innovative software in 2016 by the IBTM World Technology and Innovation Watch, also offers tools for in-person events, such as creating a real-time, collaborative production agenda, and integrating a teleprompter into the run of show. Cvent's acquisition of Shoflo won't be formally announced, according to someone familiar with the matter.
What Else Is New in Cvent's Product Roadmap
The company detailed a wealth of features and updates, either available or coming later this year to Cvent's product suite. But perhaps most important is the overarching structure of the platform, which is meant to integrate the virtual and in-person audiences and content.
The Attendee Hub now combines the virtual-event experience, attendee website and event app. The attendee website and app will become central reference points for all attendees, whether in-person or online, and it will be where all congregate online to find content and networking related to the event. From the planner perspective, real-time reporting will reflect this structure and be a window into the full audience, with combined engagement and attendance figures for in-person and virtual, as well as the ability to filter by one or the other. It's all built around creating a "single source of truth," as Cvent calls it, to get a clear picture of overall engagement with the entire audience.
Many of the new and upcoming features touted by Cvent involve additional functionality to the virtual-event platform, in the form of engagement tools such as video or text discussions, audience-response options like quizzes and hand-raising, and sponsor services such as easily accessed, shareable virtual booth engagements. The company continues to pilot its Instant Book technology, as well, now offering integration with the Amadeus instant book API and the ability to book meeting space. Sleeping rooms will be added to the Intant Book tool next year.