When someone attends your event, chances are you’ll not only know their name and job title, you’ll also know what they are interested in, which companies they have been following, who they networked with – and even, perhaps, the kind of mobile device they were using.
Attendee data has moved far beyond demographics to include insights into attitudes, behaviours and more. All of which means that event managers are increasingly sitting on large stockpiles of data.
The more data planners can get, the more focused their insights will be and
the more relevant and meaningful their brand experiences become. The challenge lies in understanding how to leverage this mass of event data, unpicking the most relevant parts and translating this into information that can be used meaningfully.
“Many marketers still have an analog mindset where data is isolated within silos,” says Chris Cavanaugh, EVP and chief marketing officer at Freeman.
Data insight, Cavanaugh adds, requires much more of an open-source mindset; the more you have access to, the better your understanding of the bigger picture. Analysing event data should therefore not be left to spreadsheets alone.
Event management software can track the entire process from invitations to check-in to post-event thank you campaigns, while built-in analytics tools can help planners understand what’s happening and how this can be acted upon.
“The analytics software market is still evolving – what really matters is that you track all relevant data points throughout your events today, so you can run an in-depth and sustainable analysis tomorrow,” said David Becker, CEO and co-founder of event management software provider Zkipster. “You can hire the best data scientists but without clean and complete data sets, they won’t be able to help you.”
Leveraging event data is not simply a number-crunching exercise. Cavanaugh points to how visualisation tools such as Tableau and Domo enable planners to dig deeper into their event data and derive greater meaning through experimentation.
“For instance, you can gain insightful intelligence on trends over time, validate hypotheses, and clarify erroneous assumptions about your strategies through sophisticated visualisations,” he says.
It’s also important to not lose sight of the fact that humans are sensorial creatures who experience the world through a combination of sights, sounds, smells, sensations and tastes.
“These senses are giving off reams of valuable data about the emotions we’re feeling when we have those experiences,” adds Cavanaugh. “The technology we use to measure these data points has been steadily improving its ability to read and measure emotional states and that presents a veritable goldmine of data.”
Tools such as facial recognition, biometric screening and even body language algorithms offer more insight into how brand experiences work. For instance, facial recognition technology can be used to measure how much an attendee is enjoying a show, track their level of engagement during a presentation, or even reveal their hidden personal biases.
The data from all of this can be analysed in real time, so that brands can, for example, target said attendee with relevant information, enriching the event experience there and then. Artificial intelligence meanwhile can be used to alert or match attendees to sessions or like-minded people for networking purposes, based on data previously shared.
For Ambera Cruz, marketing director at business intelligence software provider, Meltwater, translating data from events into valuable insights can be a harder proposition than collecting the data itself – especially when there’s so much information to process and detail to consider.
She suggests outlining what you want to achieve from the data and turning this into visuals. “Graphs, tables, heat maps and bubble charts make it much easier to digest information because they strip away the meaningless data and highlight the most significant trends,” she says.
“Look at what’s important and let the data speak for itself. Focus on the most significant data like outliers, trends and averages. Never force data to reveal insights that aren’t there. Generally, data collection software tools reveal the most important data first, and highlights trends and outliers,” she adds.
Analytics tools from the likes of Google can offer insight into levels of audience attraction, such as who visited a particular [event] website and how long they stayed. Analytic developments from Baidu and Alibaba can also be useful, according to Josef Liu, associate account director, digital at Uniplan.
“Baidu has come up with a WeChat version recently to allow marketers to review [data] reports and updates directly on their mobile phone, and has also developed an extensive monitoring and analysis system which helps marketers save time when reviewing data,” he says.
Use it wisely
With so many tools at an event manager’s disposal, making the most of data mining can often be a case of trial and error.
“Data needs to be tested, compared and cross-examined for real valuable insights,” says Uniplan’s Liu. “Too often, data is lost. Nowadays so much is being tracked and so little is being used. In order to put data to good use, you need to clearly set your objectives, know what you need, why you need it and how you will use it.”
More certain is that by “unlocking” information on customers, event managers can achieve deeper levels of connection between a brand and an event attendee.
As Freeman’s Cavanaugh says, data-driven personas allow you to learn an attendee’s “language” and craft their unique journey.
“We know how to speak to them and when,” he says. “We can provide a level of personalisation that feels totally authentic and natural. What’s more, the data-driven approach allows you to measure the success of a brand experience against performance measures of your choice in real time.