For the first time, Cvent Connect, the annual conference from one of the industry's largest event-technology providers, was held online this year. But the two-day digital event drew an attendance nearly eight times that of last year's in-person gathering, proving a prime example of the untapped power of virtual meetings.
According to Cvent, more than 35,000 people attended the online conference, which was hosted on the company's new Virtual Attendee Hub platform. This number represents a significant increase from the 4,500 people who attended the 2019 event in Las Vegas. At least 25,000 of the participants were planners, plus more than 7,000 hoteliers and destination marketing executives and staff representing more than 100 countries.
"Never would I have imagined that I would be delivering my keynote from a remote studio rather than in-person, but I also could have never imagined that we'd virtually bring together so many people in the midst of this pandemic," said Cvent founder and CEO Reggie Aggarwal during his opening keynote address. "This moment shows the power of our industry. Even with our backs against the wall, we have found a way to meet in record numbers."
According to Aggarwal, Cvent is already planning for its 2021 CONNECT conference to be a hybrid affair that he hopes will draw close to 40,000 attendees, of which 35,000 would be tuning in from a digital screen.
The company has also helped thousands of its customers move their meetings online amidst the pandemic. According to Aggarwal, Cvent has managed more than 70,000 digital events since March 1, up from 20,000 virtual gatherings in 2019. Over the next 18 months, the company is expecting to manage more than 500,000 virtual events, and many of these meetings are seeing registration numbers that are double, triple or even 10 times as high as what their in-person counterparts would draw, he said.
For event professionals who have seen the Covid-19 pandemic cripple the live events industry for months and have worried what the future holds, Aggarwal delivered a message of hope.
"Our industry is forged through fire," he said. "We're adapting and evolving. We will emerge [from this] stronger, more connected and better equipped to harness the power of events… The future is not only bright, but we're on the cusp of entering the golden age of events."
To reach this golden age of events, Aggarwal said meeting professionals must dive fully into virtual meeting technology and embrace their new role as digital event producers.
"Technology is here. It is accelerating and it is now pervasive across the entire event lifecycle," he continued. "Technology simply needs to become one of your core competencies. We must embrace it or face the risk of falling behind."
The Cvent conference was hosted on the company's new Virtual Attendee Hub, allowing the brand to show off the event platform that was launched in early August. Click here to read more from Cvent's cofounder, Chuck Ghoorah, on the company's new technology and other developments in the works.
To help planners prepare for in-person meetings, Cvent has released a Source Safely Resource Hub, which includes a database of Covid-19 safety information from more than 40,000 event venues around the world. The Resource Hub allows planners to search through potential venues and view their updated safety protocols and socially distanced layouts. Contactless check-in options have been added to Cvent's platform to make in-person meetings as safe as possible.
"Challenging times like this are a great breeding ground for innovation," said McNeel Keenan, vice president of product management for Cvent, during a product roadmap session at the conference. "The Cvent Virtual Attendee Hub is here now and we're excited to continue to innovate on the solution throughout Q4 and beyond. While we built the Virtual Attendee Hub for virtual events, it's ready for anything. Once hybrid and in-person events come back, you'll have the tools you need to engage remote audiences and keep your in-person attendees safe."
This is an abridged version of an original article that first appeared in Northstar Meetings Group.