September 21, 2023

Small Business

Business Nes

Using data to boost event ROI

7 min read
Using data to boost event ROI

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Events are essential to any marketing strategy. Because they have the power to bring people together, events offer a unique opportunity to engage and deeply connect with a target audience while enriching a sales pipeline for the business. 

During the pandemic, events went through a transformation. In addition to navigating drastic changes to how and where we met, event experience leaders employed new technologies to facilitate connections. In so doing, they learned more about improving event experiences for all attendees, speakers and sponsors. The most significant change to events: Technological advancements 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 critical than ever to know how to capture the right data — and use it meaningfully. According to a recent survey of more than 200 event organizers, 85% plan to host at least three in-person events in 2023, with 35% planning to host at least 10. The opportunity is ripe to unleash the power of event data to maximize business impact. 

In-person events, reimagined with better data 

With event professionals producing in-person events again, they bring the lessons learned from more than two years of constant upheaval and technological transformation. Event experience leaders at all organizations are tackling the “event impact gap”: The disparity between event organizers’ aspirations to produce impactful experiences and their ability to execute those goals with available technology.

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While the role of event organizer has been evolving for many years, the pandemic quickly accelerated the change. In addition to planning and logistics expertise, event organizers now bring a host of other skills to the table: data analysis, marketing operations and digital production. But even with their enhanced skillsets, organizers continue to wrestle with outdated event software that keeps them from accessing and activating their data. That obstacle hinders organizers’ ability to design and execute personalized experiences and truly connect with their audiences. 

Better data activation empowers marketers to personalize outreach and drive engagement at scale, incorporating events deeper into their demand generation strategies. This fosters attendee engagement, driving increased revenue and ROI. 

Leveraging data to accelerate pipeline

In-person events possess enormous data potential waiting to be unlocked. Events stand out as a prime opportunity to understand how your target audience behaves, where their interests lie and what engages them deeply. When you’re onsite, you have an unparalleled window into the content, peers and exhibitors that appeal to your audience and how the audience is connecting to your brand. These insights inform both your future event strategy and your broader marketing strategy.

Use data to engage attendees

It’s one thing to decide what data to collect and another to be strategic about what you’ll do with the data. Event organizers’ experience executing virtual events showed that having access to data is half the battle. The real value of your data lies in your ability to turn it into something actionable and use it to your advantage. How do you bring the behavioral and engagement data you collect into the extended marketing fold? You need technology that enables your teams to use your data instantly and easily to personalize post-event content and communications. 

With the knowledge of whom an attendee interacted with, the sessions they liked and the type of content they downloaded, you’ll craft more effective outreach. This extends the value of your event for your attendees and your demand generation efforts. Rather than sending the same message to every attendee, with their name appended to the beginning of an email, you can use data to rouse your attendees’ interests and keep them meaningfully engaged. 

Understanding how engagement translates to leads  

The same data you use to customize an attendee’s event experience can enrich and accelerate your sales pipeline. By capturing insights into attendee activity — the polls attendees participated in, the sessions they checked into 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 by their levels of engagement and personalize your post-event follow-up.

In addition, equipping sales teams with the data needed to prioritize the most engaged leads lets them focus their time and efforts on maximizing conversion success. And because of the rich data you’ve collected about each attendee, sales teams can discern whether a correlation exists between an attendee’s high engagement levels and their likelihood of becoming an opportunity, enabling better future strategies.

Using data-enabling technology to refine experiences

Data-enhanced experimentation isn’t limited to your sales team. Events of all formats offer ample opportunities to experiment, iterate and improve experiences and business outcomes — before, during and after an event. 

Ensure you collect data corresponding with your event format. For instance, an in-person event with a virtual component requires data collection strategies for both audiences. Customize questions to speak to the distinct 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 registrants’ 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. Event experience leaders are leveraging new solutions like wearable technology to gain insights.

Today’s wearable event technology has the power to offer attendees more personalized networking and session experiences while simultaneously giving organizers unmatched data capture. Your budget may not permit wristbands, high-tech badges and other wearables as must-haves for every event, but they function 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 employ, you’ll gain: 

  • Advanced analytics, such as dwell time.
  • Records of touchless contact exchanges.
  • Event gamification for attendees.
  • Lead collection for sponsors.
  • Integrated tracking and reminders for session check-ins.

The behavioral data you collect, combined with pre- and post-event surveys, deepens event insights and facilitates more personalized opportunities for attendees, speakers and sponsors. 

Experiment and follow the data 

Data empowers event experience leaders to test new ideas and follow where the data leads. 

Experimentation can apply to anything 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 past event data. Once you put an experiment out into the world, evaluate the results. Then plan for your next experiment based on what you learned and pivot your event strategies as needed to keep refining your efforts. 

Data maturity powers advanced insights 

Actionable data not only enables better event experiences, it also empowers CMOs and marketing leaders to demonstrate the impact of events. Prioritizing a data maturity model ensures 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 each event touchpoint, providing insights that allow you to align event strategy against key success metrics.

Four steps comprise data maturity: 

  • Data capture: Accessing your data is the first tactic. Your organization needs the ability to gather data holistically, including granular information like session attendance and demographics. 
  • Data integration: Connecting the data you capture to your business systems enables you to take action in the future. 
  • Data utilization: Use the integrated data to offer the audience more valuable event experiences. Identify and curate 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 act. Using actionable data insights from past events to inform decision-making results in a virtuous cycle, constantly renewing and improving event experiences.  

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 must leverage data to direct 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 cofounder of Bizzabo.

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