In-person events are coming back with a distinctly digital flavor as organizations blend on-site programming with the digital interactions that defined events during the Covid-19 pandemic. These hybrid initiatives are transforming the events industry, increasing engagement through more tailored participant experiences and reaping invaluable data to improve future offerings and drive business value.
But this is often easier said than done, as hybrid events can be costly and are always complicated. To top it off, many event planners and marketers are working with reduced budgets but still expected to deliver a greater return on investment. Solving this dilemma rests in the utilization of the data hybrid event tech provides.
How do we use data to enhance the attendee experience to drive business value? The key is to target specific, actionable data points that help show a higher return in value. If the goal is to drive engagement, propel sales or influence marketing efforts, it pays to identify the data and metrics that fall in line with those goals.
Here are the steps we recommend for clients to drive business value through our events:
1. Identify Your True Objectives For Hosting The Event
This sounds so simple and, at the organization level, the answers may be straightforward enough. For example, creating business value for an association may mean connecting attendees with experts, bringing deep-diving consultants to transform their business or utilizing products in a new way. Another objective could be to support and energize a partner ecosystem that drives your strategy for selecting and highlighting sponsors and ehibitors at the event. New growth and retention — just put a name to it.
Next, consider what attendees want from your event. I encourage clients to do this in advance with a question on the registration form. Come up with a list of 10 things, such as networking, education, certification, and ask registrants to rank their top three choices. In addition, monitor pre-event signups and discussions to see which sessions participants plan to attend and who they plan to meet — vendors, experts or other attendees.
Use these identified goals to shape programming and promote engagement. For example, planners often group participants by personas and then send personalized messages alerting them to relevant sessions, exhibits and groups that may appeal to their preferences. If your top customers are interested in particular sessions or topics, you can proactively create the right experiences to provide value, which equates to engagement.
2. Choose The Metrics That Matter
The goals identified in the previous step suggest the most valuable data is collected from participants pre- and post-event. It is important to also ask what matters most in terms of driving revenue or other business goals. What, for example, will help the sales and marketing team close deals faster and increase the price of a sale or contract? Do you want to know a participant's annual budget and purchasing timeframe? Identifying and asking the organization's top five questions for qualifying prospects can bring immense value.
But beware of collecting data you will not use or asking too many questions and becoming cumbersome. The last thing you want is to create friction and turn off your audience.
3. Collect The Data
An advantage of digital formats is the ability to collect additional data discreetly. Most people now take information disclosure as a necessary trade-off in exchange for access and experiences. Use a good event platform to track users' participation in sessions, chat rooms and who they contact within the platform to refine their preference profiles.
Registration forms and the virtual side of today's events offer excellent opportunities to gather participant details, needs and interest indicators. Individuals may be less forthcoming in person and will probably object to wearing trackable badges but may agree to have their badges scanned for entry to individual sessions or areas of the convention floor. The cost of staffing is typically the limiting factor for on-site data collection methods, but digital aspects of on-site experiences can gain greater access to participant data.
4. Maximizing The Collected Data
Use data to improve experiences and correct issues in real-time as the event unfolds. If a particular speaker or session is popular, promote it to your audience through notifications or add a gamification component. You could even ask the speaker to host a repeat session.
Participation results also can suggest adjustments for future programming. Create a mini-series one month after the event that highlights your best sessions to keep leads warm and fuel sales and marketing campaigns throughout the year.
Driving business value with an event takes being intelligent about what you're measuring and using the data generated to shape outreach, whether it’s creating a better experience or following up in a meaningful way with sales and marketing. Of course, every convention or conference is unique in how it manifests value, but following these steps will crystallize the event's objectives and the means to achieve them.
Allie Magyar is Founder and CEO of Hubb. With 20+ years of experience planning some of the world’s largest events, including as the lead planner for Microsoft Ignite, Magyar founded Hubb in 2015 to deliver technology innovation and data-driven decision-making to the events industry. She has been recognized as a Top Woman Entrepreneur by Smart Meetings and is a member of their Women in Events Hall of Fame.