Whether it’s naming products, designing new software, or advertising, many industries rely on big data for success. One area where data analytics can be invaluable is in the events industry.
With technology playing a greater role than ever, event planners have an opportunity to gather and use data to cater directly to each attendee. Big data can be used to determine trends, plan attendee-centric events and provide personalized experiences.
What is big data?
Every day an enormous amount of data is collected. Although it isn’t always useful in its raw form, data analysis can reveal patterns, trends, and valuable insights.
It’s especially vital for organizing events, where one of the main difficulties lies in understanding attendee behavior to cater a single event across many different groups. While event planners and marketers can collect vast amounts of data from their attendees and events, understanding that data can be difficult.
Analysis of event data can be used to provide insights to improve attendee-centric events, increase engagement and deliver enhanced experiences. For example, if you’re hosting a conference, knowing where your attendees live can be helpful in providing personalized information, such as local hotels or the quickest route to commute in.
Whether you’re holding virtual or in-person events, data can be essential to bringing out the best in them. It’s likely you already have piles of data lying around, but if you’re just getting started, identify the key points you’re interested in, like in the example above.
So, how do you take advantage of big data to boost event success? Let’s take a look.
Improved targeted promotions
The biggest hurdle for you as an event organizer or marketer is getting people to your events. Advertising to the right audience and attracting attendees is crucial to increasing attendance and engagement.
However, promoting an event can be expensive. Finding a cost-effective solution is imperative to maximizing your outreach and increasing event return on investment.
This is where data analysis can help to provide valuable insights to improve your targeted promotions. For example, let’s say you surveyed attendees about how they first found out about your event, and the vast majority mentioned either social media or email. This shows you where your audience is.
Instead of heavily marketing in newspapers or leaflets, focusing on social media and email campaigns will target your prospective audience more effectively. Data analytics can also gather information about attendee locations when they’re likely to be on social media, and the types of content they engage with.
By using big data, marketers can identify what the target audience will respond to and personalize it for better engagement and event marketing. This information can in turn be used to deliver improved customized experiences at your event.
Using analytics to gain insights
We’ve already discussed how analytics are used in a specific situation. But, general insights can also be derived from big data.
For example, attendees often complain about a guest speaker that wasn’t invited, a topic and subject that didn’t get discussed, or a presentation technology that wasn’t used. With big data, this information can be identified and utilized to enhance your event ahead of time.
Use pre-event survey forms and online search data to gather information directly from your attendees. Explore social media, and community sites for event expectations and reviews. Automation services, like automation 360 Google Cloud, may help in collating and analyzing all this data.
The more you learn about your attendees, the better your analysis, and the easier it will be to build events around them, not just now but in the future. Predictive analysis can take data accumulated over several years and predict future trends. By looking at the existing topics, it can determine which are likely to grow in popularity, giving you an edge over your competitors when planning your next event.
Data analysis is only as good as the data you collect. Always think carefully about your goals and aims when you choose which data sets to record.
Personalization of experiences
Personalization is showing an upwards trend. Whether we’re talking about events or movie recommendations, providing your target audience with personalized experiences is more important than ever.
By using data collected from your attendees from pre-event surveys, you can plan unique experiences and keep them satisfied. There are several technologies that you can use at your events to do this, including RFID, VR, iBeacon, and geolocation.
Some of these can be used with a smartphone. Others, like RFID, can be embedded into lanyards, badges, or wristbands. For example, RFID-enhanced lanyards could be used to give access to VIP areas, and Beacons could be used to provide relevant information to select users.
Other ideas may include providing personalized event guides or notifications for each attendee based on their interests.
There are a limitless number of possibilities to provide event personalization for your guests. While you don’t want to overwhelm them with every possible option for customizing their experiences, ensure you have something for everyone.
So far we’ve looked at how collecting and analyzing data before an event can lead to a better experience for attendees. But, what about during the event?
Collecting and responding to real-time data can be used to effectively manage crowds. Known as crowdshaping, it uses technology to subtly ensure attendees enjoy themselves without constant intrusions.
By understanding when your attendees are engaged, disinterested, or pressed for time, you can make changes to the event schedule and create new calls-to-action. For example, imagine you have several book signings at your event. Just before the main speaker is about to take the stage, you realize most attendees are still waiting in line to get their book signed.
Your attendees have to decide which is more important to them, the speaker or the signed book. To cater to the demands of your guests, you might extend the time available for book signings and send out a notification to all attendees. They now have time to both listen to the speaker and get their book signed.
This is one example of passive participation where geolocation data is collected and analyzed to manipulate crowd flow. Another method is active participation, where attendees might answer surveys on the floor or give feedback for real-time changes.
For example, if there is a lack of clear directions to the main stage, an attendee could flag the issue in an online feedback form or to an event volunteer. The issue can be quickly rectified for other attendees on the day with improved signs.
Geolocation can be used for individuals or crowds. Technology, such as location badges or event data from apps, can identify crowd densities and where attendees like spending their time.
This gives event planners a greater amount of control over crowd flow. Over time, events can be designed around crowd behavior to improve the attendee experience. For example, data analysis might show that most people eat lunch in open, outdoor areas or that they avoid booths in cramped areas.
For future events, increasing open areas for lunch and placing booths in less constricted areas will solve crowd flow problems and ensure greater success for your event.
Event planning decisions are based on understanding your attendees. Looking at what they do over the course of the event and where crowds are situated throughout the day (using heatmaps) will help in real-time and future planning.
Making adjustments to your events based on the behavior of your attendees is crucial to guarantee attendee satisfaction.
What data can I collect from my events?
Now that you know how data can be used to fuel your events, you might be wondering what type of data you should be collecting. Let’s look at a few event data points to focus on to boost your future events:
Basic attendee information: Collect information about attendee demographics (age, employment, location, etc.) and how many new or returning attendees there are. Know your audience to improve your planning.
Registration and attendance: Have people registered but not attended? Have pricing changes deterred attendees? Use registration/check-in stats and follow up with absentees to see how to improve future attendance.
Event engagement: Engagement reflects the experience of your attendees. Keep an eye on social media, event page views, and how long attendees spend at your event. Use surveys and ask event speakers or exhibitors how your event compares to others.
Keep that information safe
With new data leaks occurring every few months, privacy is a major concern that can negatively impact any business or event.
Gathering data about your attendees also means keeping that data safe. Failure to do so can be catastrophic to any success you hope to achieve. It’s important you keep data private and safe for as long as you have it. Here’s how:
Ensure safe and secure TLDs, like an au domain
Use secure registration systems
Be completely transparent about the data you collect
Keep all technology up-to-date
Ensure WiFi access points and internet connections are secure
Provide an opt-out form for anyone who doesn’t want their data collected
Treat your attendees’ data as you would your attendees, with respect and care.
Glow up your events using data
Data is ubiquitous. In the time it’s taken you to read this, tons of data has been produced, collected, and analyzed. Event data is a valuable resource that is essential to make adjustments to your events in real-time and to build and improve on their success.
Designing safer, easy-to-navigate, and personalized experiences depends on learning about your audience’s needs and expectations, both actively and passively. Using technology, such as RFID or geolocation, you can adapt schedules, control crowd flow, and cater content for your attendees. Whether you’re starting small or going in big, collecting past and present event data is crucial to your long-term success.
Lisa Baltes, Marketing Specialist at OnlyDomains
Lisa is a part of the marketing team at OnlyDomains, an ICANN accredited registrar that provides top-of-the-line domain management solutions for business owners to establish their online presence. She’s the definition of a jack of all trades. Lisa enjoys content writing, social media marketing and is always looking for opportunities to learn. Based in Sankt Ingbert, Germany she enjoys hiking in her free time. Find her on LinkedIn.