Having charted Reggie Aggarwal’s remarkable entrepreneurial career – we now dig a little deeper. The founder and CEO of Cvent talks to Sarah-Claire Picton about digital transformation and more.
According to a February 2018 report, entitled Economic Significance of Meetings to the US Economy, from Oxford Economics, every dollar spent on face-to-face meetings and events generates an additional $1.60 – or 160% – in benefits for the US economy. “This new research confirms that our industry plays a critical role in connecting people and bolstering crucial segments of our national economy,” says Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and co-chair of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition.
Reggie Aggarwal (pictured), Cvent’s founder and CEO, adds weight to Deventer’s observation, exploring the role of the human element against a backdrop of digital transformation, revealing that while technology acts as a tool, the hunger for the physical remains ever prevalent.
A big talking point at Cvent?
We’ve been spending a lot of time meeting with Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and they are finally starting to realise the value of face-to-face meetings – and for two reasons. First: If you don’t meet people face-to-face, they are so disengaged; you cannot be disengaged if you are talking [face-to-face]. Second: Now we can finally measure the ROI.
Share an example?
We have our app, someone comes through an event and is scanned. We can fill in the notes and they go right into Salesforce [CRM] and then we can truly track things. There’s a term called Marketing Attribution [simply defined as ‘the credit or value you assign to a given marketing touchpoint’].
The customer buys our product, and there are different ways they met us; so at least you can track it and say ‘we saw them at two trade shows’ and you might attribute 20% of the closing to the trade show. Historically they would have said: “They’re in the system already I don’t need to [track it]”.
Well, you’re starting to get very sophisticated in not only tracking the lead but attributing the lead, and in the end, when you do this, the CMO feels comfortable that he can measure the ROI.
Impact of technology on meetings
With technology meetings become more efficient, you can measure the ROI and they become, most importantly, more effective. That is going to make more meetings.
Add texture to the ‘big picture’
With virtual technology, people are arguing meetings will be reduced a lot. When we went public in 2013, we were on the New York Stock Exchange for three and a half years.
I remember when I was out there talking to investors and they were saying ‘Oh, meetings are going to be replaced by virtual technology and virtual trade shows etc’ and I was saying ‘No, no, no it is the other way.’ Meetings are realised and are justifiable and are able to be tracked.
They are part of the marketing mix. There is technology linked to meeting in person which allows meetings to be operated more easily, for example video conferencing and virtual [components]. I am not saying that hasn’t had some impact, but reports have shown that M&E is healthy and growing, and that [face-to-face] meetings are more important than ever.
People ask: “What do I want to get out of the meeting?” and that is the biggest part of digital transformation. The industry is growing and technology is going to play a big part in that growth.
Apart from measuring the ROI, how is tech benefiting meetings?
Technology doesn’t get in the way, and we’re using technology to enable engagement, and to make it more effective and easier for the human connection to happen.
How do you define leadership?
I think a leader’s job is really to empower others to do their job, and to give them a framework. And I don’t believe in a hierarchy – generally speaking, everyone here runs their own business. It’s about keeping people engaged and giving them a general sense of direction.
Something that’s shifted your perceptions?
How important innovation is – the disruption. There’s a study by IBM that asks more than 1,500 global CEOs the No.1 leadership attribute they look for. And, according to the survey, chief executives believe creativity is the most vital leadership competency. I have done this with hundreds of people; around 110 each month, and almost never does someone answer “creativity”.
Why is ‘creativity’ ranked No.1?
The reason they say “creativity” [in the study] is that so much disruption has happened. So, when defining leadership, creativity is another attribute to add. You empower people to be entrepreneurs, and if everyone is an entrepreneur they feel they can be more creative/innovative.
Creativity, in a business context, is about coming up with interesting ideas and ways to solve problems, and articulating the problem. It’s about being an entrepreneur and then also thinking like one – and that is the future of leadership.
Reggie Aggarwal wraps up by giving a nod to where it all began – with a reminder of a healthy dose of creativity demonstrated in 1999 when he founded Cvent by implementing what would become an automation evolution.
“I was working 60 hours per week as a technology lawyer, and running a non-profit on the side. And that’s where I found the ‘pain point’. I decided to create the ‘aspirin’, so you can call that creativity, entrepreneurism – whatever it may be, but what is important for an organisation is to keep that entrepreneurial spirit within the company,” Aggarwal concludes.
Cvent at present
Cvent’s most recent acquisition includes Kapow, a leading online platform that allows companies to find and instantly book unique venues and curated experiences via a credit card. Kapow offers more than 10,000 special event venues and experiences including personalised fittings at Nike stores and private screenings of new popular films at movie theatres. “Since we were founded in 1999, Cvent has embraced the philosophy that well-executed live events deliver game-changing benefits for organisations,” says Reggie Aggarwal. “Tapping into the power of the human connection to build relationships and get business done is more important than ever in our increasingly virtual world, and this central idea continues to drive our investments at Cvent,” Aggarwal adds.