A lot goes into planning and executing an event, and without data to reference, big plans and budgets can flounder. That’s because data provides insights on trends and patterns of event attendees’ demographics, behavior, interests, and preferences. Therefore, following a data-driven direction in planning can result in improved outcomes for your events.
Besides, while you can draw insight from existing data to plan events, you can also use current event experience to test ideas, gather data, and unlock new insights. All these can be done in the background while providing an atmosphere of learning, interaction, and engagement.
Virtual events provide event planners, speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors with tremendous opportunities to track and retrieve data for planning even better events in the future.
To understand how data can transform events, we will consider:
- The Importance of Data In Planning Virtual Events
- What Data Do You Need To Gather?
- Where To Get The Data You Need
The Importance of Data In Planning Virtual Events
There are lots of factors to consider when planning a virtual event, and data can show you where to concentrate your efforts. Let’s consider the following areas where data insights can be incorporated.
Event Promotion and Marketing
You need to promote your event to attract the right people. Instead of looking to the internet at large for scattered ideas of where to direct your efforts, you can find useful insights from existing data. The data generated during current events can also help you to measure the success of your marketing campaign, which can be useful in determining future actions. When you follow a data-oriented marketing approach, you will be right on target and minimize losses.
Content and Speaker Selection
Data from previous and current events can provide content direction for your planned event. The data source can be your own events or other events in the industry. When you identify the kind of content that resonates with your target audience, you can focus your event content in that direction, and this will result in attendee satisfaction. Similarly, event data can reveal which kind of speakers are popular with event attendees.
Sponsors & Exhibitors
Event data can also reveal the kinds of products or services your target audiences are interested in, and this can guide you to the ideal sponsors and exhibitors to reach out to. When you match interests with great products and services, your audiences will be excited to find relevant solutions. Your sponsors too will record more patronage, which will encourage them to continue partnering with your organization.
What Data Do You Need To Gather?
Gathering event data encompasses the entire event timeline and involves everything from marketing to post-event activities like sending out surveys. In all these stages, it is important to track the following data:
Email, Social Media, and Web Analytics
- Email Open Rate – how many of your marketing emails were opened?
- Email Click-Through Rate (CTR) – of those that opened your emails, how many clicked your event registration link and completed your CTA?
- Social Media Analytics – how many social mentions, likes, and shares were recorded for the event? What kind of content is popular with your followers/target audience?
- Web Analytics – what are the most common web traffic sources, and what are their conversion rates? Is your marketing strategy working out?
Event Ticketing and Registration
- Event tickets sold – how many event tickets were sold?
- Event sessions registration – which event sessions were most popular with attendees?
- Returning attendees from past events – have you been able to retain a good number of your past event attendees? This indicates attendee satisfaction and loyalty.
- Speaker ratings and feedback – how was each speaker able to deliver their topics and impact the audience?
- Event content views or downloads – which topics resonate more with attendees?
- Event stories on social media – what experiences are people sharing about the event on social media?
- Personalized agenda – what topics interest participants most?
- Meetings scheduled – how much networking took place?
- Sales/revenue generated by sponsors and exhibitors
- In-app purchases
- New customers acquired by sponsors
- New email signups
- Significant increase in brand interest before, during, and after the event
- Net Promoter Score – What percent of your attendees are willing to recommend your event?
Where To Get The Data You Need?
Depending on the size of your event and budget, you can hire data service providers to help source the required data or analyze your existing data. You can also use the following suggestions to generate your own data.
Use Data Scraping Services
Data is scattered all over the internet. They are found in emails, tweets, posts, images, forum discussions, and more. The data you want can be found wherever prospective attendees, competitors, and sponsors are posting online. Therefore, you can use data scraping services to collect data across a vast number of websites, social media pages, and online discussion forums.
Organize a Webinar
When you have a bigger event in mind, you can first host a webinar to create interest around the topic, as well as sample opinions through Q&A and live polling. The Q&A section is a data center in disguise. Pay attention to the questions participants are asking, as they can guide you in the direction your bigger event should be focused on.
Maximize Data Acquisition on Registration Systems
You can collect more data from participants at the event registration stage. Gain more personalized information such as addresses and locations, contact details, industry type, job title, etc. You can also ask additional questions that can help you identify their priorities for the event.
Use Surveys and Polling
Surveys and polling are essential tools for data collection, and they can be utilized before, during, and after events. For example, you can send a pre-event survey to your former attendees to get their opinion on favorite subject areas and speakers. While the event is ongoing, you can use live polls to gather opinions about the event experience or conduct a poll on behalf of event partners. After the event, you can also send post-event surveys to all event stakeholders and participants to measure the impact of your event.
Virtual Event Platforms and Mobile Apps
A versatile virtual event platform provides opportunities for tracking and reporting event analytics in real-time. This includes session selections, session attendance, interactions, content views and downloads, participation in Q&A, and purchases. Sometimes, the platforms also have dedicated mobile event apps that can be used to track a variety of in-app activities.
Use Data Sharing Platforms
You can access shared data from event management software providers in the industry through third-party agencies. You may consider this if it’s your first event and you don’t have existing customers.
Create a Discussion Forum on a Virtual Event Platform
A discussion forum is a place where people can raise topics and expect other participants to contribute. This is not part of the event’s agenda but a part of the event platform that can be opened to participants before, during, and after the event. Such a forum can provide data for FAQs, and you can use the information to guide your future plans.
There is no limit to the data you can capture and retrieve from past and current events. However, you have to be transparent about data collection from event participants, and if possible, allow people to opt-out of some planned use of data. Also, be sure to practice effective data hygiene. And always keep your data secure and private by using secure event registration and virtual event platforms.
About the Author:
Jordan Schwartz is president and co-founder of Pathable, an event app and website platform for conferences and tradeshows. He left academic psychology for the lure of software building, and spent 10 years at Microsoft leading the development of consumer-facing software. Frustrated with the conferences he attended there, he left Microsoft in 2007 with the goal of delivering more value and better networking opportunities through a next-generation conference app. Jordan moonlights as a digital nomad, returning often to his hometown of Seattle to tend his bee hives.