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INTERVIEW


WORDS MOLLY DYSON


THE HUMAN TOUCH


As Cvent celebrates its 20th anniversary, chief executive Reggie Aggarwal talks about the changes he’s seen in the meetings industry, and what’s next for event technology


WHAT WAS THE IDEA BEHIND STARTING THE COMPANY? I started an association in the early 1990s for technology chief executives in Washington DC. I was a corporate lawyer by day, and the non-profit was a great way for me to connect with like-minded professionals in the tech industry. In just a few years there were 2,500 members. Before long, I found myself planning and managing nearly 50 events a year. In addition to working 50 hours a week as a lawyer, I was spending 40 hours a week cutting and pasting thousands of names from Excel into personalised emails for event invitations. The manual process was incredibly time intensive. My tools were Excel, Outlook and yellow sticky notes. The pain point was obvious to me, so I set out to create the Aspirin. That’s how the idea for Cvent all started.


WE HAVE AN INNATE DESIRE TO


CONNECT – NOTHING BEATS THE POWER OF A HANDSHAKE


WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN THE EVENTS INDUSTRY IN THE LAST 20 YEARS? I knew 20 years ago that events were one of the largest industries that no one was talking about. Now, people are talking about them. Business events add US$1.5 trillion to the global GDP. That’s an incredible economic impact. And even in this digital age, more events are held every year. We have an innate desire to connect – nothing beats the power of a handshake. On the technology side, lead capture solutions have nearly replaced the need to swap business cards at trade shows.


WHAT CHALLENGES ARE EVENT ORGANISERS FACING THIS YEAR? Rising hotel costs and value for spend. There is also a call to action for the hospitality industry to provide more transparency about pricing and hidden costs, and improve communication during the RFP process.


WHAT TRENDS ARE COMING TO THE FORE THIS YEAR? Holograms and other immersive experiences – a well-executed hologram can blow the minds of an audience. Looking ahead, a likely area of focus will be enhancing the telepresence and remote attendance experience. A remote attendee will still be a part of the live event by “walking” through it and interacting with other live attendees via a mobile robotic kiosk.


ANY ADVICE FOR TRAVEL MANAGERS OR EVENT ORGANISERS? Find a mentor who can help guide you through the event landscape. Many of my early mentors are still close colleagues and it was through their support that I was able to ultimately find success with Cvent.


46 MAY/JUNE 2019 buyingbusinesstravel.com


PROFILE Reggie Aggarwal founded


Cvent in 1999. Prior to that he was an attorney at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, and previously a senior associate at Coopers & Lybrand. In 1997 he co-founded Indian CEO Tech Council.


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