has been busy. This year alone, the publicly traded cloud-based enterprise event management company has debuted at least five new event tech tools and programs, as well as acquiring Elite Meetings International and SignUp4 - and it's not stopping there.
We recently spoke with Chuck Ghoorah, Cvent co-founder and president of worldwide sales and marketing, to ask him about Cvent's continuing evolution, and what it means for the meetings and events industry.
"Our goal at Cvent is to provide world-class technology to both sides of the ecosystem - the planner side and the hotelier/supplier side," Ghoorah said. "Our job is to provide a lively marketplace that connects the two. For planners, we have the Event Cloud: tools that are there for planners to be able to organize, market, and measure meetings and events. For suppliers, we now have the Hospitality Cloud, and we connect the two clouds. Our mission is to become the platform that handles the entire meeting planning process from start to finish with a simple end-to-end integrated platform."
In its effort to be an all-in-one resource for the meetings and events industry, Cvent has rolled out a number of new initiatives, tools, and platforms in the past year. Here's a closer look:"We want to create technology that addresses pain points."
When Cvent debuted the Cvent Supplier Network back in 2008, it transformed the meetings and events industry with its electronic request for proposal (eRFP) tool - and it also ushered in an era of "eRFP overload," much to the dismay of hoteliers and meeting and event venues.
Back in 2008, Cvent was handling $50 million in meetings business. Today, Cvent estimates it will be approaching $10 billion in sourcing through its Hospitality Cloud by the end of 2015. Ghoorah estimates that a total of 15 million eRFPS will be sent to hotels this year alone worldwide. Now, the company is working hard to smooth out the eRFP process, and make it easier than ever for meeting and event planners to connect with suppliers. "That number is only going to increase," Ghoorah said. "What we wanted to do was give tools to hoteliers to help them manage that demand."
Easing the pain associated with too many eRFPs is something Cvent hopes to achieve with its brand-new Cvent Hospitality Cloud. Designed for destination marketing organizations, convention and visitors bureaus, hotels, and other event venues, it delivers targeted marketing, group demand management, and analytical tools.
Ghoorah explained, "With the Hospitality Cloud, we've built a platform where our goal is to handle, from a technology point of view, the entire life cycle of an eRFP or group business lead going through a hotel or venue."
To that end, Cvent has added new features to the process that make it easier for suppliers to receive the right leads. These include lead scoring capabilities that let suppliers know whether or not a certain lead is high value or not, proper routing to the right contact at that particular supplier, and seamless information sharing with the hotel's own back-end system. The company also debuted a white-label version of its eRFP system that hotels can utilize on their own websites to generate and capture leads.
"The eRFP ties into the hotel's back-end system so the hotelier doesn't always have to log into Cvent to respond to the lead," explains Ghoorah. "They just log into their own system so there's a quicker response to the planner. Ultimately, it results in analytics - the ability for hoteliers to see how they're doing via their competitive sets, response times, and percentage of market share." He added, "There's all this work happening underneath the surface to make sure this is the perfect lead. It's better because it gets scored, routed more quickly, and responded to more quickly.""If you step into the shoes of a planner … "
When it comes to creating solutions for meeting planners, Cvent is focused on helping planners more effectively plan and manage their meetings from start to finish, all through technology. "We're enabling the meeting planners," explained Ghoorah. "If they can use all that technology that we provide, they can be more strategic and they don't have to worry about all the tactical details."
Some of those tech tools that Ghoorah noted include using the Cvent Supplier Network to source a meeting and send out eRFPs; using Cvent's email marketing system to market an event; and employing Cvent's mobile apps.
And while Cvent has traditionally worked primarily with planners who plan annual or regional conferences, the company now wants to reach planners who also plan simpler, higher frequency meetings and events with its new Cvent Express platform. "These types of meetings or events might be a planned by someone who doesn't even view themselves as a planner, but they do this all the time," said Ghoorah. "Cvent Express is a much more simple, run-and-done type of platform. It's for accidental meeting planners. It's a lot easier to use. Our goal is to capture more meetings throughout the enterprise."
Cvent is also going after larger, more complex events involving events that include thousands of attendees, multiple days, and both exhibitor and appointment management systems with its new Cvent Abstract Management platform. "These events require a large amount of on-site technology," noted Ghoorah.
Additionally, Cvent is focusing on its mobile apps for both planners and for meeting attendees. "We productized [the mobile app]," he explained. "Each app can be unique to the event and has the look and feel of the organization but that's Cvent's technology behind it. The mobile app is integrated into the platform; everything talks to one another.""Tech companies like Cvent and our competitors? It's good for the meetings industry."
As Cvent continues to refine its platform and technologies, Ghoorah says it's all a part of the meeting industry's own evolution, too.
"The No. 1 megatrend that we see in the meetings industry is moving from manual processes to online automation," he said. "Things are moving online."
"The second," Ghoorah said, "is mobile." He said, "Attendees are demanding mobile apps more and more. Right now, it's nice to have but I think in the next couple of years, it'll be a must have." He believes mobile apps can create higher engagement at meetings and events, assist with networking, and use feedback to help planners make necessary real-time adjustments to their meetings.
Social media is another major trend, Ghoorah said. "It can enhance the engagement experience and make it last longer. That's why we created Social Wall. It's like a photo booth at events. Now, ever attendee with a smartphone is a roving photographer for your event, and you can project that onto the wall and connect it to the app and website. It takes the fun and excitement from a photo booth and shares it with the entire conference."
Most of all, Ghoorah emphasized, meeting planners and suppliers should learn to embrace technology. "Sometimes with technology, people think it's another thing to learn," said Ghoorah. "But technology is empowering, and it allows the meeting planner to take his or her rightful seat at the corporate global table to now be able to prove and show the ROI of a meeting and event."
So, what's the ultimate goal of meeting technology developed by Cvent? "To not just increase efficiency, but move the enterprise forward. If the planner can demonstrate, with the click of a button, the impact they had on sales on that pipeline, or the economic impact overall of their vent, they can increase their budgets. That's really the game changer."