Event Design

Event Data Is a Goldmine, But Planners Can’t Do It Alone

An event planner analyzes event data on a computer screen.

Skift Take

With inflation rising and competition for attendee attention heating up, event organizers can't afford to miss the mark. A solid event strategy is now more necessary than ever, and the surest way to get there is by learning from event data. How do you figure out which data will deliver real value? That's where the right guidance can be vital. Here are 11 expert tips that will empower you to leverage event analytics at every stage in the planning process.

With many parts of the world experiencing the worst inflation we’ve seen in decades, events are getting more expensive to host. This makes it all that much more crucial to get the most ROI possible out of each event, and there is one key factor that can help planners hit the mark: data.

Event analytics are especially valuable because they provide real-time audience behavioral data, which marketers pay millions for. Event professionals are now sitting on this goldmine, but many still aren’t tapping into its full value.

With a carefully designed plan for data collection before, during, and after each event, planners have the ability to optimize both their content and their marketing strategy. Further, these insights are pivotal for identifying future business opportunities.

Why, then, aren’t more event planners taking full advantage of this potential? They already have enough on their plates without having to worry about becoming data analysts overnight. For this reason, event managers need help with understanding what kinds of data are now at their fingertips, and that’s where support from an event tech partner can be vital. Armed with this expert assistance, event organizers can develop a plan tailored to their event needs while also taking advantage of guidance on best practices.

11 Tips for Tapping Into the Full Value of Event Data

1. Focus on the Most Relevant Event Data

Effective data analysis begins with understanding your options — and narrowing them down. It’s crucial to know what points of comparison will yield the most valuable insights.

In the last decade marketing firms have become adept at harnessing big data and analytic tech to produce insights. But in an increasingly complex and fragmented marketing environment, there’s real value in seeing how people respond in real time to event engagement programs.

Most event platforms — especially when combined with other tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel — will provide you with a huge range of possible data points. How are you going to home in on the ones that are meaningful, especially if you haven’t done this before?

Yuvraj Saxena, director of customer experience at Hublio, offers an excellent analogy for understanding how a skilled team can assist you in developing a functioning data strategy.

Imagine sitting down for lunch at a restaurant you’ve never been at before and opening up a menu with a hundred different options to choose from. You have a limited amount of time as it is. Confronted with so many possibilities, you might freeze.

Now imagine that you’re joined by someone who has been there several times before and, because you’ve told them what you prefer, they are able to point towards a specific section of the menu. Now instead of a hundred choices, you have ten, and you can get what you came for and you can get it before your time for lunch has run out.

2. Leverage Both Strategic Guidance and Tactical Tips

Event professionals are exceptionally well placed to design engagement opportunities that will capture valuable data for presenting partners, sponsors, and exhibitors alike. Effective data capture is only one part of the process, though. For the best possible outcome, event professionals need to know how to harness these analytics to drive attendee engagement and ROI both during and after the event. In other words, it’s not just about creating opportunities for data capture, but of using that data for continual improvement.

Putting together an intentional and responsive data strategy requires expert assistance. Hubilo, for example, provides each client with both an account manager for high-level strategic guidance and a customer experience manager (CXM) to integrate more granular data capture tactics.

When selecting an event tech partner, consider how much experience in data strategies they can bring to the table. Partnering with a team that can provide expert assistance will bypass the trial and error phase of data capture and real-time assessment. A company that has experience calibrating data capture and analyzing its meaning for your specific event goals can bring game-changing advice.

3. Tailor Your Tactics to Your Event Goals

Most experienced event planners are already pros at setting their event goals, but it can be a little trickier to understand how data can serve these specific objectives. Once again, the right assistance can help steer you in the right direction.

For instance, if your event is weighted towards spotlighting sponsors to attendees, an experienced tech partner can draw from aggregate client data to suggest what kind of programming will generate connections and lead to continued engagement after the event wraps.

Something as simple as using the top sponsor’s brand name as a password for a big-ticket presentation can deliver real proof of ROI. This is just one of 37 different sponsor opportunities that CXMs can recommend to clients on the Hubilo platform. Need to convince sponsors that they’re worth the investment? CXMs can provide anonymized data from past clients to show just how effective each of these add-ons can be at raising brand awareness and fueling lead generation.

4. Use Pre-Event Analytics Strategically

Pre-event buzz, exclusive content, and networking opportunities are increasingly essential elements of a successful event. Knowing how well your outreach is working in real time is priceless — and not just because it can inform future event strategies. With the right support, you can begin to learn more about how to best reach your target audience before the event even kicks off.

When choosing an event tech partner, look out for registration support packages that offer dedicated CXM support for tracking analytics. Can they monitor what pre-event content your target audience picks up, and when? What emails have the best click-through rates? This not only gives you key information about who your most motivated attendees are before they even arrive — it also gives you insight into when to send out invitations, registration launches, and platform opening notifications to make sure that they are landing in the right inboxes at the right time.

It may also be worth setting up a process that directs data to your CRMs so that marketing teams can generate insights during and after the event. If you work with Salesforce, for example, don’t just ask your tech provider if integration is an option — ask if their CXM will be available to troubleshoot setting up a seamless two-way exchange of data between your event platform and your Salesforce database.

It’s also key to look for packages that offer integration between in-app data collection tools and third-party applications like Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel.

5. Find the Best Timing for Registration and Onboarding

Many event planners might be falling back on the same event timeline they’ve used for years, but it pays to develop best practices based on hard data. An experienced partner can help you with timing everything from your drip email campaigns to your registration launch.

Based on past client experience, Yuvraj Saxena recommends opening registration several weeks in advance of the event for the highest possible attendance numbers. Similarly, he suggests opening the platform at least a week in advance so that any glitches can be dealt with well before the event kicks off. You want your attendees to enjoy a frictionless experience from the very first moment they engage.

Advance registration also makes it possible to collect valuable insight about where your attendees are coming from and what drove them to attend.

This is also the time to fine-tune your event marketing strategy. Maybe you want to send out regular reminders, but once a week is the max you can manage without oversaturating your audience. Is Monday or Wednesday a better day? If your CXM notices that registrations are picking up on Thursdays and Fridays, but slumping on Tuesdays, they can recommend a mid-week promotion.

These trends can vary from audience to audience, so it’s always good to use your own event data rather than rely exclusively on a rule of thumb from marketing 101.

6. Learn How to Get Attendees to Volunteer Personal Details

According to Gabe Bigger, Senior Director of Account Management at Hubilo, many event organizers and exhibitors are overlooking one of the most essential elements to effective data capture: streamlining and incentivizing the sharing of personal information.

With GDPR in Europe and CCPA in California, it’s often necessary to secure attendee consent for any data collected.

Being intentional about the fields you offer attendees to complete when they fill out their profile can help you drill down to get to exactly what you most need to know — and they benefit from the added networking potential that comes with sharing key professional details for other attendees and contacts to see. An account manager and CXM team skilled with data strategy can provide valuable advice at this stage of the process.

They can also help you think through how you might incentivize advance registration and profile completion to get the best data possible even before the event starts. Does it make sense to gamify full profile completion? Would making an exclusive session available to registrants who complete their profile 48 hours before the event opens work for your target audience? Look for a provider that draws on case studies and past client data to help you sort out the most effective strategies.

These tactics are equally important for sponsors and exhibitors. To capture more leads, Bigger suggests creating a contest with a simple but eye-catching CTA: “Submit your details here for a chance to win!”

7. Use Real-Time Event Data to Track Attendee Preferences

Whenever possible, choose a platform that has a user-friendly, real-time analytics dashboard. That way you can see what is advancing your event’s purpose, as well as what is not, by monitoring what’s gaining the most traction.

It’s not just about how many attendees are making connections with other attendees and sponsors, but also about how they prefer to do so. That’s why it’s important to track and compare:

  • One-to-one messaging chats
  • One-to-one video meetings
  • Drop-ins to virtual lounges
  • In-person meetings booked

Additionally, be sure to monitor the number of follow-up contacts these interactions generate.

An event professional reviews event data from her analytics dashboard on her laptop computer.

8. Figure Out What Event Strategies Deliver the Best ROI

This level of data capture has the added benefit of maximizing future ROI. These insights can be particularly beneficial for those planning future in-person events where the financial stakes are higher — and it’s crucial to get it right the first time.

For instance, a dashboard that shows how much Q&A engagement took place during a specific session can help you decide what content is most likely to stoke audience interest.

With the Hubilo platform, you can also gauge the effectiveness of your own event team. Were 85 percent of questions left pending, 10 percent rejected, and only 5 percent answered? A CXM might suggest that you invest more staff resources towards moderating audience questions next time.

Your event analytics can also tell you whether your target audience prefers one-on-one or group interactions, which can then guide what sorts of networking activities you should incorporate into your next event agenda.

And if your analytics dashboard doesn’t provide you with the right data, ask your tech provider if they can help you out. An experienced CXM like Hubilo’s can coordinate with the back-end team to get you the information you need.

9. Pinpoint the Right Survey Strategy for Your Audience

An effective data strategy isn’t just about knowing what you need to know. You also have to get that information, and, realistically, attendees do not always show up to events as enthusiastic partners in this cause. Surveys are a tried-and-tested favorite method in the industry, but getting attendees to answer them may require some finesse.

For instance, different gamification strategies for survey completion may be appropriate depending on the demographic that you’re working to engage. According to Saxena, younger audiences tend to be particularly reluctant to complete surveys without some kind of incentive.

And depending on the length and intensity of the content, you may want to incorporate very short surveys at the end of each session rather than a longer one to wrap up the entire event. For example, Saxena has seen clients achieve better success with seven surveys of five questions each, as opposed to one extended survey of 35 questions.

For groups eager to engage in debate, a moderated feedback session after the presentation — where real-time polls are administered and discussed — can be a great way to keep the experience interactive and conversational.

10. Attract Sponsors and Stakeholders With Winning Data Tools

Be explicit with sponsors and exhibitors early on in the planning process about how data capture tools can work for them. For starters, this proactive guidance will help them use their event data effectively before, during, and after the event. But just as importantly, it may convince stakeholders that your event is the right place to invest their promotional budgets.

As Gabe Bigger points out, however, “Event planners don’t have the time, effort, and energy to educate exhibitors on how to be strategic in generating more leads, and that’s where we [account managers] could come in.”

An event platform with the capacity to track interactions at specific virtual booths — including collateral downloads, meetings with exhibitors, and the connections attendees make while they are there — presents a considerable value-add that will attract sponsors and exhibitors to your event.

Ideally, your platform should empower sponsors and exhibitors with user-friendly data through their own dashboard. On the Hubilo platform, for example, attendees can automatically be sorted into hot, medium, or cold leads based on an engagement scoring system. Visiting a sponsor booth might be worth 10 points, whereas a one-on-one meeting with a product rep might be worth 100 — with the latter automatically pushing an attendee into the “hot” category. (And if this information is automatically synced with your CRM, your sales team will know exactly who to follow up with first.)

Want to upsell sponsors with virtual booths that they can self-edit on the fly based on all these analytics? Your CXM can point to past client data in order to show just how much of a difference these tweaks can make for maximizing lead generation.

In an increasingly complex and tight market, being able to assure sponsors and exhibitors of an optimized data strategy will give your event an edge that will justify their investment.

11. Use Post-Event Analytics for Continual Improvements

Building a refined post-event tracking strategy guarantees an informed approach towards creating purpose-oriented communities. Start by tracking how attendees engage with on-demand content after the event. This information will provide key insights into the topics that resonate most, in turn ensuring better, more significant, and more meaningful events for attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors.

As margins for event production continue to tighten, sponsors and exhibitors are demanding measurable proof that their participation in events is leading to meaningful ROI. Without robust and strategic data capture and analytical tools, these can be very difficult to provide — but make no mistake, being able to do so will increasingly affect every aspect of event planning.

If you’ve crafted and deployed an intelligent data strategy, you’ll have a wealth of insights to pull from in order to refine future event design. Knowing how attendees respond to the range of engagement strategies you present will help you move forward to create even better events — and be able to make a convincing case about how stakeholders can anticipate meaningful ROI in the future.

This content was created collaboratively by Hubilo and SkiftX, Skift Meetings’ branded content studio.