Event data is essential in helping planners and organisations understand exactly what happened at their events and how they can improve things in the future. Whether it’s measuring attendance or figuring out which sessions people found most engaging – event data can be incredibly valuable.
Despite its importance, however, many planners find it difficult to manage all the data they collect from events and get the kind of insights they need. In fact, a research study from Eventsforce found that more than 8 in 10 event planners see data management a consistent and growing challenge.
With this in mind, we have put together four simple steps that can help you get the most out of your event data:
1. What Data Do You Have?
Data is relatively easy to collect. And these days, there are numerous ways in which you can do this. Our research found that registration systems, online surveys, event management software, mobile apps, on-site check in and audience engagement tools are some of the most popular data collection tools used by event planners today.
Related article: How to collect valuable data from events
So there’s plenty of choice for planners when it comes to collecting data. Unfortunately, the ease with which data can be collected is also part of the challenge for some planners. You may have so much of it! The first step then is to take stock of what you already have. What kind of data do you hold on your events? How old is it? Where is it held? Is it on spreadsheets, is it in event management systems or is it held within an app? What about your other organisational systems like your CRM or finance solutions? You may have to pull together offline and online information to discover exactly what data your organisation already holds.
2. What Data Do You Need?
What event data you have can be very different to what data you actually need. You may discover that you’re collecting all sorts of data but never end up using it. What a waste of time and energy that would be. But also, how damaging it could be for your organisation when you consider the GDPR fines and penalties that can be imposed for organisations not taking personal data protection seriously.
Related article: How GDPR Changes the Rights of Your Attendees
In this step there are two main considerations. One is, what data do you need to execute the event and the second is, what data do you need to provide to your boss or senior leadership?
For example, you will probably want to know what your most effective event marketing channel is. It could be the registration website or your email invitations or something else. Data will help you with the answers. You may wish for insight on topics and speakers and for this you could measure attendance at sessions. Event management systems such as Eventsforce have tools that will help you get these kind of insights.
The second consideration is understanding what event data is needed by your boss and stakeholders. You can be certain that they will have their own requirements for reporting in strategy meetings etc. For example, they will likely want to know the viability of holding further events and could ask about the revenue and costs of putting on an event. They may wish to know how many new leads are generated from events or how many existing customers are attending events. It is important that you understand what they want and how they want the information to be presented right from the start.
3. Are Your Data Sources Reliable?
This step is all about ensuring you use the right data. If the personal data you have, for example, is out of date or not compliant with GDPR then you will be wasting time and energy – as well as missing out on accurate insights that affect your future event planning. Remember that under GDPR, the personal data of your attendees should always be kept up to date.
Interestingly, a 2019 industry poll from Eventsforce found that 56% of event planners have reduced the amount of data they collect from attendees as a result of GDPR. We would expect this trend to continue as planners streamline their processes and collect only the personal data they need to create and deliver successful events.
But it’s not just about personal data. It’s all the other data you collect anonymously too, like the results of polls and surveys you conduct during sessions. Again, event management systems play such a key role here as they help collate all this data in one place. Those solutions that integrate easily with other systems make the whole process of data management a lot easier too.
Related article: The Importance of Data Integration for Events
But it’s not just about the ability to capture data that is important, but whether or not you’re able to improve the quality of your data over time. For example, attendee lists are one of your most closely guarded assets and ensuring that the data is well maintained and accurate is essential. However, if your system is not updating changes to attendee profiles in your central database, then it’s hardly going to do you any favours for your next event. If your returning attendees are retyping the same information or correcting the data you hold on them time and again, then they may not bother the next time round. Or perhaps you’re not even reaching them in the first place because you still hold their old contact information? Remember, valuable event data is about quality, not quantity.
The ability of these systems to report on live event data is also key. Event management software and apps that capture and report data such as live attendance levels at events can be critical for important decision making on the day. For example, attendance recording apps can provide live data on important performance metrics, including event and session attendance figures, how it compares with registrations, no shows and room capacities.
Make sure the data sources being used and the platforms are right for the requirements of your organisation.
4. Can You Get Insight from Your Data?
Once the data is collected, it’s time to discover what the data is telling you. The first stage of obtaining insights is to make sure that you understand what you are looking at. If you don’t, don’t worry. Speak to your event management system provider and ask them for help in assessing the data you have. They are an invaluable resource and will help you discover all the data metrics you need set up to get the insights you need.
Related article: Why Event Tech Onboarding is Critical for Boosting your Event ROI
The second stage is to become an investigator. For example, say you’re trying to understand why your conference this year brought in more revenue than last year. It could be because you switched your suppliers and made savings. Or it could be because your marketing team introduced additional social media channels to communicate to your target audience. Or perhaps one of your key sponsors drew crowds through their own marketing efforts.
Drill into and the data and find out why. Once you have adopted this method of approach you will be able to make some useful insights that will benefit your organisation. Use the data and use your instincts. They work well together.
Analysing data and reporting back takes time. You will need to set time aside for this step. The good news is that more and more planners are starting to do this. Our study found that 70% of organisers are planning to make improvements in the way they collect and manage data around their events. More than 30% want to invest more time and resources in data analysis and reporting, whilst another 18% plan to address the issue by integrating their event tech systems. Other plans include investing in new data collection tools and involving other stakeholders for better data planning.
One of the most effective times to review your data is just after your event. You could put a process in place to make sure your review happens no later than a week after the event. Do not leave it any later as memories have a way of slipping and you want to capture all those insights that are in your head. Add your own comments and views. Your perspective is important as it can explain anomalies and really help in improving your planning for future events.
As a final word, it’s important to note that to get the most out of your event data, you need to keep evolving what you are doing. Change is constant, which means your data requirements and reporting will keep changing. Your bosses and stakeholders will change and ask for different information. The regulators will continue to increase requirements for personal data security and your competitors will keep on competing with you.
Learn from the data you have and repeat the steps we outlined so that you can improve where you can. Evaluate with the same discipline as is applies to jet fighter pilots. They learn from evaluation after every single flight. What can you learn from the data after every single event?
To help you on your way, here are some questions for you to consider:
- Did the data sources and platforms help with your analysis?
- Did you measure data just because you were drawn by the technology available?
- What data collection improvements could you make for next time?
- What insights did you gain that you didn’t have previously?
- How will this information help you improve your events?
Find out how Eventsforce data management tools can help you learn more about your attendees and get the insight you need for event success. Contact one of our team members at firstname.lastname@example.org or book a demo