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Cvent flex competition
MeetingsNet's Hannah Kinnersley (left) creates her first website in a competition at Cvent Connect that showed off the new drag-and-drop site-building tool.

Cvent’s Newest Products Demonstrate a Commitment to Planners

The new products give meeting professionals a new task, but at least they’ll get help herding cats.

On June 15th, Chief Technology Officer David Quattrone and Senior Director, Product Management Brett Fitzgerald took the stage at Cvent Connect to highlight four new or upgraded products for Cvent users to take advantage of as they roll out this year.

In Cvent user surveys, planners have been known to describe the experience of making speakers and exhibitors build profiles, complete forms, and provide documents, as “herding cats.” Cvent responded with an amusing video of cowboys herding cats across the plains and, more usefully, it built XRC, a self-service portal where speakers and exhibitors can see tasks and required completion dates, and receive automated prompts to fulfill list items. The tool, which will be available for general users by the end of the year, can also be used to schedule and manage appointments.

Fans of Passkey were reassured to hear that Cvent has invested in the room-block management tool to integrate it more closely with registration. Customers now move seamlessly from signing up for an event to booking accommodations. Passkey has also been optimized for mobile, as has the Cvent Supplier Network. The CSN interface has been simplified, and Cvent has introduced a “Quick View” for venues that speeds up the experience on mobile. They have also integrated the product with Google Maps to improve the mapping experience and added a feature that suggests alternate venues based on previous search criteria.

Quattrone introduced the highlight of the presentation by asking the audience to picture the perfect event website, complete with brand-specific images and colors; customized ordering of steps in the registration process; and total planner control over data collection and reporting. Quattrone went on to say that the best part of Flex, the new website and registration management tool, is that its drag-and-drop interface is so intuitive that it can be used by anyone and does not require any knowledge of HTML or Web technologies.

The process is widget-based. Users choose each element and drag it into place and the customer view is available immediately. The process is so simple that Cvent hosted Flex “speed trials” in the Innovation Pavilion, where up to four planners at a time competed to build a customized site with specific, required components in the least amount of time.  (Confession: I built a website in just over 14 minutes but the lady working next to me finished hers in under seven.) Flex is Cvent’s largest technology investment to date, and although one audience member was heard to mutter, “Oh great, now I’m the company Web designer, too?” after the initial announcement, it was clear from the planners test-driving the product afterwards that the tool will be a benefit rather than a burden. Once one event registration site has been built, the same template can be used for others, an obvious time saving. And rather than passing information to another department to make updates, planners can change event information such as dates and venues for each new site, and customize the content for a particular attendee list or location, all by themselves. Having total control over the public face of an event can be daunting, but Fitzgerald says, “Our safeguards prevent users from forgetting critical components. For example, the tool will warn you if you try to save without a ticketing widget.” There are also Flex widgets that can be integrated into existing customer websites, and Fitzgerald anticipates that, in the long-term, customers will add their own widgets to expand the Flex widget library.

Another Flex innovation is version control, so planners can tinker with a registration page but return to an earlier version if attendees are finding the process too long or are opting out of optional information fields.

Flex won’t officially be part of the Cvent suite of tools for another couple of months, but planners can join the early adopter program in exchange for providing feedback.

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