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Conversations: Rodney Hart Reflects on INSIGHT 2024 and Innovative Event Strategies

25 Mar 2024 | Jessica F. Lillian | 5 minutes

When an event technology company hosts its own big annual event, the stakes are high, and everyone is eager to find real-life inspiration on best practices. RainFocus INSIGHT 2024, which wrapped earlier this year, gave attendees a rich blend of thought leadership, RainFocus platform updates, and networking opportunities.

We sat down with Rodney Hart, RainFocus’ VP of events, to get the full behind-the-scenes story on this successful event. He discussed the importance of in-person networking, his approach to analyzing attendee feedback and ensuring continuous improvement, a buzzworthy new technology that attendees couldn’t get enough of at INSIGHT this year, and much more. Read on for our candid conversation: 

Which features at INSIGHT this year stood out as things attendees especially liked? 

Networking was a big hit — attendees benefit from being in the room with their peers. This year, we brought people together even more. We held the client advisory board meeting at the beginning and added more small workshops to kick off the main event. 

We saw not just a lot of networking between RainFocus and our clients and prospects but also those clients and prospects connecting with each other. We built in more sessions this year for people to share their ideas with their peers, and it was well-received. Attendee feedback often mentioned the ability to connect in person.

We also saw a year-over-year increase of about 20% in attendee-to-attendee messages sent through the mobile app, which we might attribute to making people aware of these features a bit earlier on in the cycle. 

Virtual-only attendees liked the ability to chat with other users. Another area of positive feedback from virtual attendees was the ability to explore the platform and watch sessions for free. They especially liked the behind-the-scenes sessions. 

Anything you decided to do differently at the event this year? How did it work out? 

Instead of having a half-day at the end, we changed the schedule to start with a half-day of content. We included more interactive sessions on this day, followed by a happy hour and opportunities for people to get together before the first full day. 

The traditional “last half-day challenge” is notorious in events. It’s always tricky to decide what to offer because you want to make it worthwhile for those who stick around but don’t want to present your most valuable content when some attendees have already departed. 

In the past, we would see dropoff for that last half day. Many people would opt to take an earlier flight instead of sticking around. But this year, we saw a lot of people arriving for the first half-day and didn’t see any dropoff on the last full day. Attendees stuck around, so the shift worked really well. 

We also introduced and expanded non-traditional session formats, such as roundtables. A trending approach in the events industry is incorporating more content that is not in the “person speaking on stage” format. We sought to give audiences opportunities for more engagement and build an environment where they could learn from each other. 

Of course, these new approaches are always about iterating and improving. We saw from attendee feedback that the roundtable setting was a bit too noisy for some attendees to hear others clearly. But those elements are easy to fix — the important takeaway was that the concept itself was considered very valuable. 

Finally, we restructured the conference game to reward attendees with points on their own conference journey instead of competing directly with others. Specific areas we incentivized saw huge gains. For example, the number of session and conference survey responses increased by more than 200%.

AI has been a popular topic in the events industry and beyond. How did you incorporate AI into INSIGHT planning and execution?

For INSIGHT Encore, which follows the main event, we used generative AI to analyze all attendee feedback — more than 12,000 words. That voice of the customer is so beneficial for providing information on what we did well and what we can do differently. 

This year, we also piloted a new AI-driven recommendations engine from the RainFocus content team. The engine looked at last year’s attendee behavior and patterns, such as sessions favoriting and scheduling, and mapped findings for this year to make even better recommendations. The AI-driven recommendations engine improved content recommendations, driving a 38% increase in engagement. 

This year’s INSIGHT theme was “Amplifying Impact” — what has been the internal impact of INSIGHT so far? 

INSIGHT serves as a tremendous catalyst for the organization. We’re currently looking at the total number of deals associated with the event. We know we had a significant percentage of our clients in attendance, and they were all learning and engaging with us. This is one of our key metrics for INSIGHT’s business impact. 

We also had a great prospect pipeline, with many attendees looking to learn about the platform and speak directly with product experts. We know that B2B buying cycles, which tend to be long, are often accelerated by an event. 

For longer-term impact, we’ve begun planning and executing the reuse of that valuable event content in different formats. We’ll have videos, interviews, recaps, and other opportunities for a larger audience to interact with the content. 

Finally, what was the biggest “buzz” at INSIGHT? Any interesting conversations with attendees that highlighted interesting trends?

Our attendees always come to INSIGHT to see what’s new and interesting in the event space. One of the big stars of the show was Wicket’s facial authentication technology. During our “Pitch Tank” session, where five different companies gave presentations, all of the technology was well-received, but people were very excited about the benefits of the facial authentication technology. Wicket received a nearly perfect score from the audience. 

There were also a lot of conversations about how we can leverage AI in various ways to improve and optimize events. Finally, attendees are always excited to see where the RainFocus product roadmap is headed! 

Check out INSIGHT 2024 content on demand here!