Event Management

5 Ways Event Data Can Give You a Competitive Advantage

Skift Take

Virtual and hybrid event data has been in the spotlight for the last two years, and in some ways, we are only just beginning to understand its power. For most event planners, data usage is limited to reporting basic engagement stats back to sponsors and other stakeholders. 

With attendees now accustomed to the convenience of online events, more and more will reconsider what types of experiences are worth being away from home for two to four days. In this climate, it’s no longer enough to collect and analyze data purely for a post-event report. It’s the fuel for turning an event into a must-attend experience.

The value and benefits of data extend beyond measuring the success of an event and can give event planners a competitive advantage. With data, event planners can ask and answer questions like: Why did the session you thought would have low attendance turn out to be one of the most popular? And how can you use this insight to replicate the winning formula? Essentially, data provides you with information about what is happening in the world — or at an event. It becomes useful when you learn how to organize and interpret it. If you master this skill, it can be the secret to outperforming your competitors time after time.

For example, we can use data to structure on-demand content based on popularity instead of the order it appeared at an event. Or identify surprising topic trends and interests. Data can even help planners create elevated in-person event experiences based on insights they gather from virtual events and open the door to experimentation with new formats and delivery modes. It’s not just about reporting on how many attendees registered or watched a given session; it’s about identifying trends and patterns throughout the event journey. Once you understand the “why” behind event successes or challenges, you can master the “what” that drives people to come back.

Make On-the-Go Improvements With Mid-Event Reporting

For many event organizers, the foundation of data has historically been the post-event survey. While these do play an important role in collecting insights about overall attendee and exhibitor satisfaction, the reality is that post-event surveys have a serious shortcoming: They come too late to make the adjustments that will reassure a participant about the decision to come in the first place.

Rather than waiting until the lights have gone out and attendees have returned home, take stock of what’s working and what’s missing the mark while everyone is still onsite or online. Hopin’s Mid-Event Attendee Scoring tool offers a chance to check in with everyone at the halfway point with a simple Net Promoter Score survey. By knowing how likely attendees are to recommend the experience to a friend at that point in their event journey, you’ll be better equipped to identify and respond to issues in real time.

In the post-pandemic events landscape, this in-the-moment understanding can play a crucial role in making sure that your event has ample time to make up for shortcomings. Think of it like staying in a hotel: If the property can remedy your complaints while you’re still there, you’ll be more likely to come back again.

When you make adjustments before attendees go home, they’re more likely to enjoy now — and return next year.

Additionally, mid-event scoring can do more than help you make changes for attendees. It’s an opportunity to offer congratulations to the most valuable members of your team while they’re in the thick of event execution.

Crowdsource Insights From Live Chat and Discussions

An effective data strategy isn’t all about percentages, completion rates, and other numbers. The digital portion of your event offers an honest look into what’s buzzing, what’s worth complaining about, and what’s on everyone’s mind. Consider the online chatter as a way to get a sense of the questions your attendees care about and the top-of-mind issues that keep them up at night. The public forum is the same as the live conversation in a physical breakout room — a town hall where new ideas can be discussed.

If you can monitor the chat, you’ll have a real feel of the pulse of your event.

As you prepare for your event, appoint specific team members to be Masters of the Chat. The benefits are two-fold. First, you’ll get a better sense of how the event is resonating with your audience while the conversations are happening — another opportunity to address any negative feedback before it’s too late. Second, you can leverage the chat as an unofficial focus group to fuel your event’s future direction.

Consider how Coda, a document editing software company, used the online chatter at its official company conference as an opportunity for crowdsourcing ideas. After the event was over, the company reviewed chat transcripts to help shape both product development and their event strategy. It’s an important reminder that taking extra time to review data can yield an incredible benefit: the ability to give your attendees exactly what they’re asking for.

Use Engagement Data to Upsell Sponsors

Attracting sponsors has always been a challenge – 50 percent of organizers struggled to find sponsors before the pandemic – and those challenges will likely be even tougher in the near future. The post-pandemic, inflation-driven business landscape will be marked by financial uncertainties that may lead some marketers to keep belts tightened.

However, data can be the key ingredient in helping demonstrate ROI to sponsors and give them a reason to sign on the dotted line. It’s not about sharing numbers of large buckets of data – minutes watched or the total number of viewers, for example. Instead, you can use data to tell a story about where attendees spend their time and what matters to them during the experience.

You can also use that data to determine a better pricing model for different sponsorship areas. For example, if a participation duration report reveals that attendees collectively spent one-third of their time in a certain area during the event, that particular section of the platform offers a piece of outsized – and higher value – attention for a premier sponsor.

With a better understanding of attendee engagement, you’ll know where sponsors will invest their money.

In addition to using engagement metrics to set competitive pricing tiers for individual sponsorship offerings, you can also use attendee participation data to refine event design for the future. If the data shows that a majority of attendees exited a certain area of the experience shortly after entering, it’s time to think about how to improve that part of the event or abandon it altogether. In the long run, these kinds of refinements will not only benefit attendees, but sponsors as well.

Identify the Best Content for On-Demand Access

The event may be three days long, but the content can last all year long. With data, you can do more than extend the life of the content, though. You can use it to create an on-demand educational library that will help you attract a new audience after the event is over.

Rather than simply putting all of your recorded breakout sessions online for anyone to register and watch, robust event data allows you to better curate the most engaging sessions. Think of it as an opportunity to put the editors’ picks and bestsellers in the window of a bookstore – you can put the best pieces of content front and center to bring a bigger audience in the door and keep them coming back.

If you understand what mattered during the event, you can refine your post-event content strategy.

Comb through your live viewership statistics for a chance to pinpoint when a session might have hit a rough patch. Did a large number of online attendees leave at a similar time? If so, take a look at the session to identify what might have triggered that massive dropoff in attention. These insights can help with editing or reframing content before you post it online for on-demand access.

However, it’s also important that you don’t rush to judgment – the session may just have been a bit too forward-thinking. If your program is working to be leading-edge with next-generation content, some topics may simply take time to reach the tipping point into buzz-worthy status. By the time the topic or trend is on everyone’s radar, your audience will recognize that your program was well ahead of the curve.

Prepare for the Future of Events – in The Universe of Today and the Metaverse of Tomorrow

Some event organizers are looking for things to feel “normal” again, but there is no turning back the clock to a physical-first, digital-second approach to engagement. Data from a recent Encore Planner Pulse Survey shows that 90 percent of event professionals expect to use a digital event strategy even after in-person events fully recover. Data serves as the foundation of that strategy, helping to guide every decision for an experience that engages, educates, and inspires at every turn.

Are you facilitating the kind of connections that are essential to a successful event? What are attendees doing in exhibit booths at your show? Is the audience talking to each other in chat or passively watching a screen? Event organizers who get serious about answering these questions will lead the way with the hybrid events on the calendar in 2022 and 2023, and more importantly, they’ll be able to maintain that edge as events continue to evolve. Consider Bill Gates’ take on where events are heading.

“Within the next two or three years, I predict most virtual meetings will move from 2D camera image grids — which I call the Hollywood Squares model, although I know that probably dates me — to the metaverse, a 3D space with digital avatars,” he wrote in his closing notes on 2021.

So, focus on the data you can collect now in that 2D world to get an understanding of what leads to interaction among attendees. With that knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to understand how to create full-scale immersion in the 3D world. And ultimately, that’s the biggest business advantage anyone can ask for – not just being a step ahead of the competition, but being a step ahead of the future.