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Cat eyeing steak
<p>Cat eyeing steak is like corporate meeting planner user group shows like Cvent Connect eyeing a bigger hunk of the meeting planner audience as it continues to grow.</p>

Is Cvent Out to Eat Meetings Industry Associations’ Lunch?

At the American Society of Association Executives Annual Conference and Exhibition, held in August in Detroit, I went to a great learning lab session about disruptive developments that could affect future meetings. Key among the disrupters discussed were the free webinars, webcasts, and other online offerings from organizations—notably, for-profit companies—that could chew a hole into profits for associations. I would posit that an even bigger threat, especially for meetings industry associations, is the influx of supplier organizations creating new education-packed, face-to-face meetings for planners, mostly in a hosted-buyer format.

A case in point is Cvent Connect, the annual user group conference held by the ever-growing meeting planning enterprise software company in June. While I’m a huge fan of industry events such as the Professional Convention Management Association’s annual conference, and my appreciation for the Meeting Professionals International annual meeting has grown every year I have attended, I have to say that Cvent Connect is a worthy rival. I can’t tell you how many meeiting professionals I met at this year’s Cvent conference who said it was now their go-to, can’t-miss industry event, one they would choose to attend over MPI or PCMA.

Of course, Cvent customers and potential customers do not make up the entire universe of meeting professionals—though if the company had its way, I’m sure they would. But the fact that Cvent has managed to double attendance each of the four years it has run the conference—about 2,400 folks flocked to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for Cvent Connect 2015, and the company is looking to double again for 2016—is something that I would be paying attention to if I were MPI, PCMA, or any other meetings industry association. After all, there are only so many events a professional can attend, and associations can no longer bank on loyalty being enough to make attendees cough up the bucks and take time away from their busy lives to show up. And with the addition of this year’s mini trade show, Cvent Connect also is grabbing the attention of some meetings industry association shows’ key exhibitors, who have been complaining for years that they are already stretched pretty thin.

There’s a reason these guys are a threat—they apply their “obsession with customer feedback,” as Cvent President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing Chuck Ghoorah puts it, to their meeting and their products. And it works. There’s a lot to learn from Cvent’s culture of relentless attention to detail, obsessive customer-focus, and sales and marketing savvy. (Read our report.)

Events like Cvent Connect may not actually be setting out to eat the meetings industry associations’ lunch—yet. But with the way it’s growing, it’s certainly snapping up a few appetizers. And it’s still hungry.

What do you think? And are you seeing similar competition sprouting up in your organization's professional realm from supplier user group meetings, for-profit company events, or others who want to get the attention of what has traditionally been your attendee base?

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