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Events are essential to any marketing strategy. Because they have the power to bring people together, events provide a unique opportunity to engage and deeply connect with a target audience, all while enriching a sales pipeline for the company.
During the pandemic, events underwent a transformation. In addition to navigating drastic changes in how and where we met, event experience leaders used new technologies to facilitate connections. They learned more about improving event experiences for all attendees, speakers and sponsors. The key change for events: Advancements in technology enable event organizers to act on data insights before, during and after an event to optimize outcomes.
As we enter a new era of events, it’s more important than ever to know how to capture the right data — and use it meaningfully. According to an recent questionnaire of more than 200 event organizers, 85% plan to host at least three in-person events in 2023, and 35% plan to host at least 10. The opportunity is ripe to unleash the power of event data to maximize business impact.
- 1 In-person events, reimagined with better data
- 2 Use data to accelerate the pipeline
- 3 Using data-enabled technology to refine experiences
- 4 Data maturity provides advanced insights
In-person events, reimagined with better data
As event professionals return to producing in-person events, they bring the lessons learned from more than two years of ongoing turmoil and technological transformation. Event experience leaders at all organizations are addressing the “event impact gap”: the disparity between event organizers’ aspirations to produce impactful experiences and their ability to meet those goals with available technology.
While the event organizer role has been evolving for many years, the pandemic has quickly accelerated the change. In addition to expertise in planning and logistics, event organizers now bring a host of other skills: data analytics, marketing operations, and digital production. But even with their improved skills, organizers continue to struggle with outdated event software that prevents them from accessing and activating their data. That obstacle hinders organizers’ ability to design and deliver personalized experiences and truly connect with their audiences.
Better data activation enables marketers to personalize outreach and drive engagement at scale by embedding events deeper into their demand generation strategies. This promotes participant engagement, leading to increased revenue and ROI.
Use data to accelerate the pipeline
In-person events have huge data potential waiting to be unlocked. Events stand out as an excellent opportunity to understand how your target audience behaves, where their interests lie and what deeply concerns them. When you’re on site, you’ll have unparalleled insight into the content, peers and exhibitors that engage your audience, and how audiences are connecting with your brand. These insights inform both your future event strategy and your broader marketing strategy.
Use data to engage participants
It’s one thing to decide what data to collect and another to be strategic about what you’re going to do with the data. Event organizers’ experience of running virtual events has shown that accessing data is half the battle. The real value of your data lies in your ability to make something useful out of it and use it to your advantage. How do you bring the behavioral and engagement data you collect into the comprehensive marketing folder? You need technology that allows your teams to instantly and easily use your data to personalize post-event content and communications.
Knowing who a participant interacted with, the sessions they enjoyed, and the type of content they downloaded will help you outreach more effectively. This increases the value of your event for your visitors and your efforts to generate demand. Instead of sending the same message to every participant, with their name appended to the beginning of an email, you can use data to pique your visitors’ interest and keep them meaningfully engaged.
Understand how engagement translates into leads
The same data you use to customize an attendee’s event experience can enrich and accelerate your sales pipeline. By understanding attendee activity — the polls attendees participated in, the sessions they checked in, and the exhibitors they spent time with — you can use robust event experience technology to assign engagement scores to each attendee. From there, you can segment attendees based on their level of engagement and personalize post-event follow-up.
In addition, equipping sales teams with the data needed to prioritize the most engaged leads allows them to focus their time and efforts on maximizing conversion success. And thanks to the rich data you’ve collected on each participant, sales teams can discern whether there’s a correlation between a participant’s high engagement levels and their likelihood of becoming an opportunity, enabling better future strategies.
Using data-enabled technology to refine experiences
Data-enhanced experiments aren’t limited to your sales force. Events of all sizes provide ample opportunities to experiment, iterate and improve experiences and business results — before, during and after an event.
Be sure to collect data that matches your event format. For example, an in-person event with a virtual component requires data collection strategies for both audiences. Customize questions to address the different experiences of virtual and in-person attendees. And use event software that supports audience engagement measurement, both on the floor and through the screen.
Maximize the value of behavioral data
Use registrant behavioral data to build personalized session tracks and networking opportunities. Collecting behavioral data at in-person events can feel daunting compared to virtual events, but it doesn’t have to be. Event experience leaders are leveraging new solutions like wearable technology to gain insights.
Today’s wearable event technology has the power to provide attendees with more personalized networking and session experiences, while also giving organizers unparalleled data collection. Your budget may not allow for wristbands, high-tech badges, and other wearables to be indispensable for any event, but they act as a powerful data source. When attendees wear these devices, they automatically provide information to help you optimize future events. Depending on the technology you use, you get:
- Advanced analytics, such as residence time.
- Records of contactless contact exchanges.
- Event gamification for attendees.
- Lead collection for sponsors.
- Integrated tracking and session check-in reminders.
The behavioral data you collect, combined with pre- and post-event surveys, deepens insights into the event and enables more personalized opportunities for attendees, speakers, and sponsors.
Experiment and track the data
Data enables event experience leaders to test new ideas and follow where the data leads.
Experimentation can apply to everything from registration forms and email marketing subject lines to in-session polling strategies and other event messaging. Start small and choose three to five key metrics to test based on previous event data. Once you have launched an experiment, evaluate the results. Then plan your next experiment based on what you’ve learned and adjust your event strategies as needed to continue to refine your efforts.
Data maturity provides advanced insights
Not only does actionable data enable better event experiences, it also empowers CMOs and marketing leaders to demonstrate the impact of events. Prioritizing a data maturity model ensures that you can effectively communicate the value of your event experience program to all stakeholders, especially as organizations navigate economic uncertainty. Rather than evaluating data in a vacuum, a data maturity model connects every event touchpoint and provides insights that help you align event strategy with key success metrics.
Four steps comprise data maturity:
- Data capture: accessing your data is the first tactic. Your organization needs the ability to collect data in a holistic manner, including detailed information such as session attendance and demographics.
- Data Integration: By connecting the data you capture to your business systems, you can take action in the future.
- Data Usage: Use the integrated data to provide audiences with more valuable event experiences. Identify and manage precise data points to help achieve personalized experience goals, such as customized communications, to help increase conversion and attendance rates.
- Data Translation: Take what you’ve learned from past events and trade. Using actionable data insights from past events to inform decision-making results in a virtuous cycle, with event experiences constantly being refreshed and improved.
When you can access, integrate, and activate your event data, your teams will maximize ROI by optimizing the attendee experience, driving lead generation, and contributing to overall marketing goals in measurable ways.
Attendee expectations continue to evolve, and rather than trying to return to business as usual, event experience leaders need to use data to guide and inform event decisions. There’s never been a more exciting time to collect onsite and virtual data, experiment and iterate on data findings, personalize event experiences and take your sales pipeline to the next level.
Alon Alroy is CMO and co-founder of Bizzabo.
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Janice has been with businesskinda for 5 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider businesskinda team, Janice seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.