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4 Ways Data is Transforming Live Events

Meetings and events are unique in their ability to deliver truly personal experiences built upon the bedrock of direct interaction. Yet my colleagues in the event industry appreciate that producing a vibrant experience does not come easy. Notable among the challenges are the relative complexity of event execution, and the difficulty assessing an event’s value. Thankfully that status quo is changing for the better – at least for those who harness the power of Big Data.

Big Data is quickly becoming a very big deal within the meetings and events industry. To thrive, even survive, anyone involved in managing events must carefully consider the impact and implications of these four data-driven business trends.

Big Data is getting bigger, so too are the opportunities to put it to use

Already awash in event-related data, we will continue to encounter more. Much, much more. And that is a good thing – as long as you are prepared to take advantage of it. First, consider that our event ecosystem is becoming smarter and more robust. Marketing automation, event management software, and customer relationship management platforms continue to mature and help us profile, segment, and interact with specific communities of interest. The outcomes of our digital outreach campaigns – email opens, click-throughs, even opt-outs – provide us additional opportunities to better understand our customers and markets.

Second, event technology has significantly improved our ability to monitor and capture the activity that occurs during our events. Wearables, iBeacons, RFID, and event mobile apps act as our eyes and ears – at a scale and level of precision we could not possibly achieve otherwise. The combined result is a massive pool of data that harbors potent insights: the session topics that are drawing the most attention; the campaigns that delivered the highest on-site conversion; the keynotes that best earned their speaking fees; the delegates who visited competitors’ booths over yours; the shared characteristics of the most (and least) engaged attendees. Consider the positive impact such insights could have on your next event.

Event data adds value

“Personalization” is one of the most powerful ways to use data to increase an event’s value for all participants. Allow me to explain.

At various times we have all experienced moments when we were made to feel special, when everything just seemed to go right. We bump into an old colleague, share an insightful conversation with a new acquaintance, learn something that is both timely and useful. When planning and executing our meetings and events, we need not leave such powerful experiences to chance. Rather, we can encourage and even instigate such experiences by using our event data in smart ways.data-3

An upcoming article will cover the details of personalization. For now, it is important to note that we can increase the value of our events by tapping into what we already know about each meeting participant, e.g. their interests, behaviors, role/title, region, scheduled sessions. Often that data comes to us via our event registration forms. Based on the nature of your event, other useful data likely exists in your marketing databases and, for internal meetings, your human resource systems. By connecting the dots among both meeting participants and its programming, we can alert attendees to highly-relevant conference sessions, special events, even a suggested list of fellow delegates to meet based on shared interests.

Event data is a force-multiplier

The command to “do more with less” has remained a favored refrain of bosses everywhere – especially during annual planning cycles and the more frequent budget reviews. By “less” they of course mean less budget, fewer resources. While this can be an unsustainable demand, I have seen several examples in which data has been used to fulfill that directive; in essence, using more data to get more done with less resources.

data-2A customer recently approached us for help with their biggest event. Their challenge was the ever-increasing time it was taking to generate an accurate view of event status, notably pre-registration, revenue and conference session programming. By the time all the information was collected and compiled, it was already one, or often two, weeks out of date, frustrating efforts to manage issues (as well as frustrating all involved). The solution was to utilize our event ROI toolset to create a dashboard that monitored, in real-time, both the big picture and the details of their event’s key event performance metrics. By tapping into their event’s data, they were able to identify and proactively manage emerging issues – as well as shift internal resources on much more valuable work activities.

Event data proves impact

Event budgets typically compete for funding with other marketing options and channels. Similarly, budgets for internal meetings can also be redirected to alternatives. In allocating budget, executives often review and compare performance metrics. Providing those metrics is relatively easy for digital channels such as email, web, online advertising and social. Yet for live meetings and events, providing such metrics has been a challenge.

Thankfully, that is changing due in large part to the maturation of the event technology ecosystem noted above. The increased adoption of digital marketing techniques by event teams is also having a positive impact, increasing both awareness and comfort levels in working with data. By way of example, a number of our clients are consistently acting upon insights gained from benchmarking their event’s key activity metrics. In short, we create dashboards that compare their events’ performance metrics over the past several years. So while these clients continue to conduct post-event surveys and calculate Net Promoter Scores, they increasingly benefit from utilizing their event data in real-time.

How to get started

data-1The decision to work more closely with your event data can be exhilarating. But it can also generate some anxiety. A scene from the 1989 hit movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” comes to mind. The hero’s final challenge is to choose one cup from among many possible choices, with a mistake costing his life. While these stakes are not life-and-death, the advice Indiana received is nevertheless highly appropriate: “choose wisely.” Identify one or two key metrics you want (or need) to improve and start there.

Data can be intimidating. More importantly, not all data is created equal. If you are new to the world of Big Data I suggest reaching out to a colleague in your company’s business intelligence or technology team – or call us here at etouches. But whatever you do – take the plunge and start putting your event data to work, for you!

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