Robert Edwards is manager of Software Services, SmartSource Computer & Audio Visual Rentals, one of the nation’s leading providers of computer, audio-visual (AV) and technology solutions for businesses and events. www.smartsourcerentals.com
Talk about big data is everywhere. It’s the new gold that everyone wants to mine, including meeting planners. Event planners have been able to collect tangible data; however, the challenge is how to convert this data into useful, actionable items. According to statistics collected in a July/August 2017 survey of 600-plus event producers, meeting planners and corporate event marketers conducted by Cvent, in partnership with Event Marketer:
Clearly, we’re not just talking about attendee demographics. There are many data points associated with events, including those that reveal what matters most to exhibitors, sponsors and attendees: what they like/dislike; what motivates their decision to participate in an event; and what criteria help them justify their event investments. Having this market intelligence and associated analytics is extremely empowering for event planners. It helps them achieve key goals, including:
These different categories of data are attainable with the application of leading-edge event technologies. Understanding these technologies and their functionality can help event planners develop and implement a sound data strategy for their events.
Many event planners are familiar with the application of event technology to help automate registration and marketing processes, support sustainability practices and help enhance the overall event experience. What they may not be considering is the broader role these technologies play related to data. For instance, the data captured can be applied to: improve future events, drive increased revenue and validate an event’s ROI for future exhibitors, sponsors and attendees. In addition, data captured through registration software can be imported into Excel spreadsheets and integrated with CRM and lead retrieval systems. Other technologies also have multiple functions including data capture.
Mobile event application software, for example, is extremely effective in driving attendee engagement in online surveys, program agendas and push notifications to drive attendees to breakout sessions, sponsors’ and exhibitors’ booths or other marketing elements and interactive games while also capturing demographic and behavioral data. The software also provides back-end reporting and analytics that can be seamlessly integrated into an organization’s CRM and/or marketing automation system. This functionality enables event planners to further cultivate and transition a ‘contact’ into a relationship. By using mobile event application software, personalized and customized content can be delivered and social media integration can be achieved.
Beacon technology, which scans items like technologically enabled registration badges, can help event planners collect real-time, broad analytics data intelligence from the convention or trade show floor. Beacon solutions can track what exhibits, sessions or facilities are drawing attendee traffic. With this insight and predictive analytics, event planners can then take action. In concert with mobile event application software, planners can send communications to drive attendees to areas that may not be gaining as much traction through the use of a mobile push notification. Data capture and analytics can arm event planners with the insight they need to optimize the overall experience and ROI for exhibitors, sponsors and attendees. The event performance metrics captured through beacon technology can help event planners improve on various factors for future events, from the quality of attendees to the quality of the program and even the venue. Beacon software can be used for any size event and doesn’t require that attendees have a mobile app. The software is intuitive, with web-based dashboards that provide detailed information to help attendees justify their financial and time investment in the event.
Interactive touch screen displays, kiosks and digital signage also can be used to engage attendees with a variety of content (such as surveys, games, social media feeds and applications) through which data can be collected, both from their behavior and direct input.
There is a lot of crossover in the application of data for conventions, trade shows, user conferences, annual sales meetings and educational conferences. All stakeholders want data for the purpose of building and strengthening relationships and to gain insight to improve future events. Some, like conventions and trade shows, also want to capture data to identify new opportunities and drive higher revenue. User conferences, however, may be more inclined to capture data for the purpose of identifying new challenges facing users or topics that are trending among their users. For educational conferences, the data capture is often tied directly to how attendees participated in the program and scored on any related testing. In all instances, capturing relevant data using leading-edge event technologies helps transform data into action.
To effectively leverage event technologies to meet their data-related goals, event planners must ensure that their stakeholders — the exhibitors, sponsors and attendees — understand the technologies they are deploying and how to use them. Focus groups, webinars and educational materials on how to use and benefit from event technologies are some of the ways event planners are providing this education. Some also are offering free access to attendee behavioral tools for exhibitors who purchase their events’ lead retrieval packages. Other event planners are also offering to share some of the data they have collected with their exhibitors.
Event technology clearly has an important role in the mission to collect and leverage data. Event planners should make certain that this is a line item for all of their events. Additional due diligence may be necessary to convince those holding the purse strings within an association or organization, that mobile event software, beacon software or other event technologies are critical to an event’s ROI. As evidence of event technologies’ value becomes more apparent, accounting for its use will become easier. AC&F