What You Need to Know About Session Tracking at Events

This is a sponsored post written by Brian Friedman, Vice President of Digital Innovations at etouches. More information about Event Manager Blog’s sponsored posts.

Sessions are the building blocks that create a successful and engaging event. They help you attract the best attendees, speakers and sponsors, as well as bring excitement and credibility to your brand.

However, event organizers often struggle to understand the performance and value of their live sessions. While there are many tools on the market, some are overly complex, too expensive, or so inefficient that they aren’t worth the investment (or the headache!). But without session tracking, understanding how your attendees respond to different sessions and presenters is, at best, wishful thinking. With the right session tracking solution, you can at last understand how many attendees are going to each session and for how long, and reap the benefits from having access to this data.

Digital badges and Bluetooth technology, can help event planners to understand real ROI and session value based on actual attendee behavior. It shows how attendees respond through their physical attendance and dwell time at different sessions and enables accurate predictions about their interests and preferences.

This technology may sound like a no brainer for event planners, but there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. Read on if you want a rundown of why session tracking is important, what currently technology can do to help and how to get attendee buy-in to make your session tracking program a success.


5 Reasons Why You Should Track Session Attendance

Your sessions are at the heart of your event, so once you start tracking attendance, you’ll gain a lot more insights than you may think. Here’s why sessions have so much to offer in terms of data collection:  

  • They’re the reason attendees come to your event: Attendees crave interesting, innovative and relevant content. Regardless of the topic, by capturing the top interests and respect of your attendees, you will have captured the holy grail of event success.
  • They go viral: Sessions that deliver interesting and insightful content are the sessions that get shared online, live Tweeted, talked about during the event, and get referenced back to coworkers and friends after you event has concluded. Think of them like fertilizer that jumpstarts the growth of your influencer communities.
  • They help measure your investment: Attendee investment of time and attention also reveals what they actually value. Session tracking quantifies this investment. It shows what topics, speakers, and overall sessions are trending.
  • They help with your budget: By unearthing what is popular, event organizers can plan better for future events. They can relay this key data within the company and to outside sponsors as a gauge for making decisions with sales, marketing, and operations, whether it’s attracting the right sponsors or even deciding what to not spend your money on.
  • They can help build better event programs: The information pulled from session tracking can also be a useful indicator for agenda planning and help answer key questions for assembling future programs:
    • What session topics deserve a larger room or popular time slot?
    • What speaker could be considered as a potential future keynote or featured speaker?
    • What topic could be next year’s event theme?
    • What sessions deserve an encore performance next year?
    • Which ones need a finale, and fast?

The bottom line is, session tracking makes these decisions easy. It shows what session time slots fill fastest and allows organizers to look at this information in real time and pivot before it’s too late and attendees lose interest.

A Brief History of Session Tracking Technology

In the past, session tracking was clunky, expensive, and the opposite of user-friendly. It was tedious work for event planners and unattractive for attendees, so much so that they didn’t want to use it and as a result, didn’t use it, making any and all session tracking efforts a failure (after all, session tracking is only as good as your participation rate among your attendees).

Before technology, event planners and their staff would being taking role at the door on clipboards or posting sign-in sheets, which were unreliable and left room for error.

Then, many of the early tools like RFID (radio-frequency identification) were expensive eyesores that could indeed collect data, but interfered too much with the user experience to gain universal adoption. For example, with badge scanning, attendees still had to wait in line to be scanned and event planners had to carry around devices to do so. This technology was also often incompatible with mobile devices.

Unlike these problematic “solutions,” newer technology captures key data like dwell time and user journey in an intuitive and unobtrusive way, without the need to stand in line to sign in or be scanned. Powered by Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), today’s digital badges can send relevant information to each attendee’s corresponding mobile app. It seamlessly integrates and communicates important data and is a tool that attendees actually want to use.

How Digital Badge Technology Works

It works like this: physical digital badges are given to attendees to wear alongside event credentials at the beginning of the event and Bluetooth beacon devices are positioned throughout the venue, such as at exhibit hall booths, as well as in session rooms. You want these beacons to be small enough to blend into the background, but powerful enough to passively execute event-wide session tracking. The smart badges share a unique signal every millisecond, and with proprietary BLE technology, allowing it to both send and receive attendee information continuously.

Event Planner Tip:

To get the right amount of beacons for your event size and needs, it’s important to work with your smart badge provider to ensure that each beacon is installed at the perfect distance and direction to capture the right information. This could vary from event to event, so make sure your provider is able to customize and scale a package right for your, instead of having a one-size-fits-all approach.

2 Ways to Improve Your Event Through Real-time Session Tracking Data

Event analytics are a need, not a luxury. A recent report by Freeman delivered convincing predictions about this necessity stating: “Expect to see more event organizers use data analytics going forward to find concrete evidence of what motivates their attendees, what motivates those who don’t attend, and how the organizer can personalize the messaging and programming to customize the event for the attendee.”

With that being said, when investing in digital badge technology, you want something that’s a truly a complete system and that integrates with other tools, like reporting and analytics, to get the most out of your session tracking efforts. While attendees use smart badges from session to session and at other places throughout an event, something like a real-time analytics dashboard is immediately useful and also critical for future planning.

There are many things you can get out of real-time data specifically, for example:

  • Metrics that reveal what sessions are the most popular, along with rich details such as number of unique visits, returns, and average dwell times. This contextual information transparently shows the level of attendee interest at each session. With better data, you can plan more efficiently, reduce lines and wait times, and optimize the overall flow of attendee traffic.
  • This intelligence can also help you decipher session value, separating the star performers from the sessions without a pulse. You can swap the losers for the winners and promote sessions with upside potential both during and after your event. Most importantly, year after year, you’ll be able to build the most captivating and engaging event program uniquely tailored to your audience that will also ensure that your attendees don’t have their sights set on the nearest exit during your sessions.

By identifying the performance of your sessions, you can also reduce event spend in a variety of areas, such as food and beverage costs, off-site events, and overall event length. Enlisting a technology partner ensures more mileage for your money and more bang for your budgeting buck.

3 Benefits of Event Session Tracking For Attendees

On an attendee level, session tracking shows who the real power players are. It can help identify main influencers based on session attendance and quantify the value of their purchasing power. But what do attendees get out of it? Especially since the idea of “being tracked” and “collecting their data” isn’t the easiest thing to sell to get them on board.

  • Acquiring CPE credits: For one thing, session tracking is a critical component for continuing professional education (CPE) credits. Organizations like the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) require continuing education and mandate that an individual verify his/her attendance beyond personal account. CPE providers must employ additional attendance monitoring procedures, and this is the perfect arena for session tracking with tools like digital smart badges. This formerly tedious requirement is now a breeze; attendees no longer need to worry that attendance recording and reporting will be lost amid other event details.
  • Easy check-in/check-out: Attendees also value onsite event technology that makes session check-in and check-out smooth and painless, and event organizers enjoy the added ease and accuracy. When event technology replaces manual methods of headcounts and paper sign-in sheets, meeting organizers can ensure that every attendee earns the CPE credit he/she deserves, every time.
  • Tracking the attendee journey: Often, at the end of an event, the data collected by digital badges can be given to attendees in one, easy to read report, which gives a visual record of the sessions they attended and contacts they made. Not only does this mean they can review what they learned from your event, but they can also show it to their colleagues and stakeholders who can see why this event was a valuable experience and why it’s worth attending again in the future.

3 Surprising Ways Digital Badges Can Enhance the Event Experience

Don’t forget that alongside session tracking, digital badges can do so much to benefit the attendees’ event journey. Taking advantage of, as well as advertising these benefits can also help make participation attractive and the idea of being “tracked” less intimidating. Here’s just a few things today’s digital badges can do to enhance the attendee experience:

  • Networking: Digital badges can enhance face-to-face networking experiences by allowing for the easy exchanging of contact information with the connections made at your event with just a push of a button. Gone are the times of collecting hundreds of business cards, running out of them or losing them. All contact information collected can be instantly viewed on their smartphones on a corresponding mobile app.
  • Going Paperless: Speaking of physical business cards, using digital badges can also further reduce paper waste by collecting other digital files, such as presentations from sessions or brochures and marketing materials from exhibit hall booths. Not only is it good for the environment and for your paper/printing budget, but attendees have less to carry around the event and can easily review all of their collected content online or on their mobile app.
  • Gamification: Finally, today’s digital badges also offer lots of gamification options to increase attendee engagement. A popular example is with exhibit hall or session scavenger hunts, with points earned as attendees visit or check into a specific place. A digital leaderboard can be displayed in your mobile app or on digital signage, and prizes can be given to those with the highest participation marks. Attendees love a little friendly competition, and it can help increase traffic to special sessions, events or exhibit booths.

In Conclusion

Overall, if you’re not tracking session performance and value, you’re missing out on ample vital data to help improve your event, as well as its content. What you need is a system that can do it all, from providing the physical digital badges and beacons themselves, to delivering the mobile app for attendees and the analytics platform for event planners. When working seamlessly together, you’ll find success in your session tracking efforts.

Compared to previous solutions, this technology is making session tracking easy and unobtrusive, as well as attractive to use from an attendee’s perspective, so it’s an investment worth making to better enhance your event experience and to understand your event even better than before.