Is the Cvent Sale in Jeopardy?

CventThe news squeaked out last week that the U.S. Department of Justice, for a second time, has a few questions about the planned acquisition of Cvent by Vista Partners before it is willing to give its OK to the deal.

Although nobody’s talking, it does seem as if the problem might be the strategic meeting management (SMM) software component, which allows many of the meeting organizer’s needs to be met in one nice digital package.

Prior to the April announcement of the planned acquisition, Vista had bought up a handful of players in the event planning software space and wrapped them up to create Lanyon Solutions. At this point, between the two of them, Lanyon and Cvent control about 90 percent of the strategic meeting management market. In other words, a duopoly that potentially becomes a monopoly if owned by the same corporate parent.

Or does it?

Certainly Cvent and Lanyon are the big players now, but there are other, albeit smaller, competitors like Cendyn, etouches and MeetingEvolution. Find yourself stuck in a confined space with one of their salespeople and you’ll be forced to hear why they’re just as good or better than the big players.

Of course, they don’t have the marketing machine behind them the two giants have. In fact, the SMM component of the combined company would be so large, it’s hard to imagine stripping it out and going ahead with the sale if the Justice Department decides there’s an antitrust problem.

I’m not going to lose any sleep over Cvent investors. Even if this sale doesn’t work out, there are others waiting in line to acquire it.

However, it will be interesting to see the conclusion the Justice Department comes to. If it does decide the new company’s SMM product would constitute a monopoly, it would be saying there is no more room for innovation in strategic meeting management software. That’s it.

If, on the other hand, the department allows the sale to go forward, it would be saying that there is still room for improvement and we have not reached the point where consolidation is the next logical step in the technology’s evolution.

Not to suggest that the Justice Department will know what it’s talking about, but it will be an interesting signal, regardless of which way it goes.

Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the events industry. He can be reached at michaelhrt3@gmail.com.

5 Ways an Event Organizer Can Skip the Next Delta Computer Meltdown

DeltaThe only good news following the Delta Airlines debacle that led to 650 flight cancellations was that it happened on a Monday – when tens of thousands of travelers were on their way to events, not on their way home from events.

(Because many event organizers still use the old-school post-event e-mail surveys to evaluate how they did, the trip home can have as much to do with what the attendee thought of his or her event experience as anything that happened during the two or three days they were onsite.)

In the entire scope of things, those 650 cancelled flights represent only 10 percent of Delta’s flights that day. However, on an average day, Delta figures into 3,600 social conversations on Twitter. By noon on Monday, the number was closer to 43,000 – and my guess is few of them were complimentary.

How many of the passengers on those 650 flights made a last-minute decision at the airport to cancel their plans to attend the event they were headed for and went back home instead? How many of those getting and receiving the 43,000 tweets about Delta on Monday morning let that figure into the decision they would make this week about whether to attend an event later this year?

Often the process by which a potential event attendee converts to a registered attendee is quite fragile and depends on circumstances beyond your control. A sick child, a suddenly scheduled appointment with a new client, the social media horror story about cancelled Delta flights.

What can you, the organizer, do to get people to your event in this era when anybody can safely wait until the last minute to make a decision about their attendance – and then still change their mind?

  1. Make your event content vital to the attendee.
  2. Communicate the urgency of being there to obtain that content and meet the people the attendee needs to meet.
  3. Build a community that transcends the event, but means so much to its members that they can’t wait to get there to see each other.
  4. Make the event so important to your community’s constituents that being there is worth the trouble it may take to get there.
  5. Repeat.

Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the event industry. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com.

Visit Indy CEO to Indianapolis: It’s a Small World After All

You know the events industry has started to turn a corner when the CEO of a major convention bureau says he doesn’t want a convention center expansion.

GenCon imageEarlier this week, Visit Indy CEO Leonard Hoops told the Indianapolis Business Journal the Indiana Convention Center did not need an expansion anywhere close to the one in 2011 that cost $275 million.

As it is, Hoops told the newspaper, “The south end of the convention center can be difficult to sell separately.”

His remarks were apparently inspired by suggestions at Indianapolis City Hall and in the local media that an expansion was necessary to keep Gen Con – a gaming event that drew 60,000 people to town earlier this month – coming back.

Comments left on the online version of the Indianapolis Business Journal article included nuggets like “Visit Indy needs a new CEO” and “He is completely out of touch,” proving only that old habits die hard.

This follows by less than a month the suggestion by Comic-Con International Board President John Rogers that San Diego likewise stop worrying about a convention center expansion: Comic-Con doesn’t need the extra space anyway.

Comic-Con and Gen Con fans, along with attendees at every other kind of event, no longer are satisfied with being herded like sheep into cavernous exhibit halls and ballrooms where they need a giant video screen to get a decent look at the keynote speaker.

This is the era of personalization in the events industry, in which less is indeed more. Some event organizers are starting to get it, as apparently is at least one convention bureau CEO: Leonard Hoops of Visit Indy.

Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the events industry. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com.