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Connecting faces with interfaces

By Luke Flett


Earlier this week I attended Cvent CONNECT Europe at the Pullman St Pancras in London. It was the inaugural European user conference for the event and travel technology provider and was billed as a platform to gain industry insight, connect, collaborate and experience Cvent’s new technologies first hand. It attracted over 490 attendees eager to connect with new faces as well as interfaces.

The agenda featured a mixture of keynote speakers, exhibition stands and specialist breakout sessions. I created my own agenda focusing on the content most relevant to our agency and the issues currently affecting our clients. This included strategic meetings management (SMM) strategies, GDPR implications, venue sourcing trends and innovative app usage. The SMM panel was particularly interesting, highlighting how different corporate cultures and attitudes can drive very different critical success factors and create diverse barriers to adoption and ultimate programme success.

Moving between the sessions I couldn’t help but feel Cvent must have been very happy with the attendee turnout. It was a new venture, presumably testing the water for the European market's appetite for an event of this nature, and is certainly something I foresee them diving into more deeply next year. For me, the most encouraging element was that the healthcare sector had such a heavy presence. Companies such as Bayer, GSK, Medtronic, MSD, Pfizer, Roche and Teva (to name just a few) were all very active at the event. Their presence, and active involvement in the discussions, will help ensure Cvent continue to build relevant healthcare functionality into their development road-map that factors in regulatory delivery and reporting requirements. Cvent certainly understand the healthcare sector and the landscape in which their events operate.

Likewise, Ashfield also understand the event technology sector. As an agency we need to be aware of the micro and macro environment surrounding event technology. We work with over 75 different clients and this brings a number of technology challenges. Firstly, we need to have trained staff on numerous different client-led solutions. If different clients do use the same systems (and many do use Cvent) the differentiation in how it has been implemented can vary enormously. If the initial implementation project wasn’t scoped to factor in every eventuality it can often suffer from low adoption. Instead of enhancing the event experience and providing increased reporting capabilities it can negatively impact the event. In these scenarios we often consult with our clients on how better to leverage the power of their technology solution by adapting it to better suit the needs of their business and operating models.

The best way for us to achieve this - and ensure the platform is robust - is by being involved at the outset. We find we can add incredible value to our healthcare clients by ensuring the technology is fit-for-purpose, particularly in driving successful SMM programmes. We have successfully delivered various client projects working alongside Cvent, connecting our specialist healthcare knowledge and understanding with their technology solutions and expertise. As more and more clients look to us to support the initial development or enhancement of their existing SMM programmes, user conferences such as Cvent CONNECT will become more critical. It is a means for us to maintain our knowledge on the solutions available in the market place, to hear best practice from peers and be involved in discussions that can help shape future innovation.

It terms of imminent innovation it was exciting to learn about the launch of Cvent Flex, a new product that promises to simplify the website creation process for users and provide more dynamic, engaging and visually aesthetic end solutions. The innovation pavilion allowed users to experience this (and other new technologies), first-hand and explore new ways to use the software to create actionable strategies.

One of my favourite sessions was the futurist keynote speaker David Rowan, Editor-At-Large at Wired UK. David looked at evolving technology and the top trends coming in the next decade, what we should be doing now to prepare and what this means to the event industry. Cvent, who were also represented by their app company CrowdCompass, may not have been so appreciative of his comment on event apps though; from the 150+ events he attends a year, David said he had never seen an app that improved the event experience. For him the event is about being in the moment and views event apps as detracting from this. I can understand David’s view as many events still use an app purely for the sake of having an app and they do not consider the event objectives or added value it can create. As an agency we always look to build the app as an integral part of the experience, ensuring it enhances the communication and reinforces the core message delivery (we delivered a fantastic example of this recently through our SPARK THINKING brand for Jaguar Land Rover). On the day, the Cvent CONNECT app was downloaded by 98% of attendees. For me it was certainly a useful tool and allowed me to plan my time to maximise my productivity.

It certainly was a productive couple of days learning, networking and exchanging ideas and best practice. Given the achievements of Cvent CONNECT in America (held in Las Vegas annually and grown from 150 attendees in 2012 to over 3,400 in 2017) they seem to have successfully replicated the model in Europe. It would be no surprise if in several year’s time we see over 1,000 European attendees connecting to seek new and innovative ways to maximise the impact of their events. I look forward to attending again next year.

Photos by Simon Callaghan.

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