Key Takeaways From Cvent CONNECT 2023

Posted By Tallen | September 13, 2023
(Photo by CVENT Connect)

Every year, the Cvent CONNECT conference brings together engagement experts, experience makers, and production pros to share their knowledge with other event professionals. Tallen exhibited for this year’s conference at Caesar Forum in Las Vegas and had a great time soaking up new ideas and networking. Here’s what we learned from two separate panel discussions on sustainability and Diversity, Equality & Inclusion at Cvent CONNECT 2023.

Cvent CONNECT Shines a Light on Sustainability

It’s no secret that live events naturally produce a ton of waste. Whether it’s carbon emissions, food waste, transportation, trash, or venue practices, the event industry is experiencing a serious reckoning. With climate change being a primary global concern and time running out, large companies are responsible for reducing their impact as much as possible. 

Cvent addressed this head-on with their panel discussion, “From Thinking to Doing: Tackling Sustainability Goals Within Your Meetings & Events,” moderated by Cvent’s Client Success Manager, Michelle Furnas. Michelle spoke with three heavy hitters: Eric Dominguez, Vice President of Facilities, Engineering & Sustainable Operations at Caesars Entertainment; Stacy Iffrig, Director of Meeting & Travel Services at Mastercard; and Linda McNairy, Global Vice President of Strategic Meetings & Travel for Meetings at American Express Global Business Travel.

The Ripple of Change

Furnas kicked off the talk by stating, “Sustainability is not just an ecological imperative; it is also a competitive differentiator.” This sentiment proved true when McNairy and Iffrig shared how they kicked off their company’s environmental initiatives with research. Understanding the data of their impact and successful reduction techniques allowed them to create yearly benchmarks for success. For Mastercard, this meant basing its sustainability model on existing science-based solutions and assisting the decarbonization of its supply chain. 

American Express GBT similarly used data to design its proprietary platforms Neo™ and Egencia, which categorize venues based on their sustainability practices. Hotels that earn their green badge are given priority when influencing the choice of their customers. Identifying green hotels and a suite of large-scale efforts earned them the top 1% of EcoVadis ratings, a certification indicating the potency of a business’s environmental management system. 

To illustrate the significance of select vendor procurement and the power of environmental management as a competitive edge, Dominguez shared Ceasars Entertainments’ current sustainability methods. For example, the corporation diverts 50% of its waste from landfills, automates energy systems while integrating renewable energy sources, and works with non-profits to recycle supplies and donate uneaten food. A key element of Ceasar’s initiatives was analyzing data to identify their largest environmental saboteurs and creating actionable steps to meet their net-zero goals by 2050

Simple Steps Driving Action

McNairy and Iffrig both emphasized the importance of eco-friendly pivots that seem small but make a big difference. For example, making your event paperless, asking attendees if they want swag rather than automatically providing it, choosing leisure events that don’t require cars, emphasizing vegan catering choices, using biodegradable name tags embedded with flower or herb seeds, and re-using products when possible. The environmental departments of companies often find that getting started is the most overwhelming part. These choices allow them to begin and maintain what can seem like an impossible goal. Measuring the results motivates momentum and makes high-level goals like becoming LEED-certified or reducing greenhouse gas output more obtainable. 

It was encouraging to hear that large corporations like Ceasar’s, Mastercard, and American Express are actively working to raise the sustainability standard of hotels and taking real steps to decrease their footprint. In fact, Tallen is already active in sustainability management by earning our own EcoVadis certification. But the work doesn’t stop there; we’re always looking for ways to conserve and be more eco-friendly. We anticipate other elements of the event and the AV industry will follow suit and create a better future for generations to come. 

Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion in the Events Industry

Another discussion that aligned with the progressive theme was “Creating Inclusive Events: How to Incorporate DEI Into Your Meetings Program,” featuring thought leaders Jason Dunn,

Executive Director of NCBMP, David Kliman, Owner & Co-Founder of Kliman Group & ELX, and event expert Liz Whittaker, VP of Creative Services at Encore. 

Funding, Empathy, and Embedded Design Guide DEI

When asked what advice they had for those getting started on DEI strategies for their organizations, panel members each offered unique perspectives. Jason Dunn emphasized the importance of investment in DEI from corporate leadership, being specific about the demographics they serve, and hiring someone knowledgeable in the field and with a proven track record of success. 

Kliman echoed this sentiment, adding that market research, science-back strategies, and consulting subject experts will help organizations understand the targets they need to reach. Additionally, he shared the brainchild of Google’s Neu Project community—a handbook titled “An Event Professional’s Guide to NeuroInclusion” that planners can use to embed neurodivergent inclusion into their events. 

Whittaker’s answer focused on empathy, explaining that by imagining the event attendee’s experience from start to finish, you create a meeting or conference with DEI built into its DNA. She noted this strategy was key for designing an event where inclusion is continuous rather than something the organizers superficially tack on to check the DEI box. 

Disrupting Performative DEI

One of the subjects broached was the authenticity behind an organization’s DEI efforts and how it’s often the first department lost to budget cuts. Dunn didn’t beat around the bush as he tackled the reality of corporate Diversity-Washing. He related that it wasn’t unusual for people of color to be promoted, only to find that it was a PR strategy rather than a choice motivated by real intent to improve. Dunn urged those confronted with similar situations not to let the dialogue around race become diluted once they are in the boardroom. “The conversations had there should be uncomfortable,” He stated, “But also based on the premise of ‘Are we preparing ourselves for the future? Are we afraid to share power?’”

Inclusion on the Frontline of Corporate Fate

Dunn’s idea of disrupting the status quo and challenging executives may sound risky, but as he pointed out, it’s risky for businesses not to take diversity seriously. “This is the future. You must have a more diverse organization to remain relevant to your consumer base.” 

Kliman supported the notion that DEI is a business power by using JP Morgan Chase’s recent allocation of $30 billion to fund DEI over five years as further evidence that diversity, equality, and inclusion are priorities for the most successful companies. Dunn encouraged diversity leaders to use examples like this when decision-makers resist real change. 

As the talk ended, Dunn encouraged people to seek other employment opportunities if their organization’s DEI commitment was solely for optics and lacked empowerment. The importance of lending your weight and integrity to a company that honors marginalized perspectives couldn’t be more relevant. At Tallen, DEI was built into the foundation of our business before there was an industry term, and we hope inclusion becomes the rule rather than the exception.

Cvent CONNECT 2023: Event Industry Weather Vane

What happens at Cvent doesn’t stay at Cvent, and that’s a good thing. If this year’s conference indicates the industry’s future, then event professionals should embrace the opportunity to adapt. Market demand for transparency and substantive steps surrounding corporate climate action and DEI responsibility reverberates across all industries. 

The growth of our businesses and the ability to successfully serve our clients depends on agility and acceptance in the face of transforming paradigms.

For Innovation Events, Choose Tallen As Your AV Provider

Knowledge is power, and attending Cvent CONNECT is just one of the ways Tallen keeps your event engaging and aligned with attendee expectations. Our commitment to staying ahead of industry trends and advanced AV tech supports the success of your event. Contact us today to ensure your attendees have an unforgettable experience!