What’s the point of putting on events?

The answer seems obvious but it’s worth thinking about every now and then. An event’s goal is to provide a valuable and memorable experience for attendees: to help them learn, connect with others, and feel a sense of belonging. Events also help you meet revenue goals, but only if you provide value to exhibitors and sponsors too. You can determine what attendees value by observing how they behave during events—insight that is useful for you and your revenue partners. But to gain that knowledge, you must know what attendee and event data to collect and what you’re going to do with it. An event data strategy prevents you from collecting too much data and falling into analysis paralysis. Collect only what you (or your revenue partners) will use. You need data that helps you improve the attendee and exhibitor experience, and provides insights you or your colleagues can apply to other decisions about association programs, content, and marketing campaigns. How to Gather Insights From Attendee and Event Data Let’s look at four sources of valuable attendee and event data. #1: Attendee registration form The registration form is an opportunity to learn more about attendees: Career stage Position Type and size of company Purchasing authority Interests Reasons for attending However, you must find the right balance between your desire for information and the registrant’s patience level. You risk losing the sale if your form takes too long to complete. If someone plans on attending your event, a long registration form won’t dissuade them, but it might give them pause. Why do you need all this information and what do you plan to do with it? They’re right to wonder, and you better have a purpose for requesting the information—another reason for an event data strategy. Only collect data you will use to improve the event or membership experience for attendees and exhibitors/sponsors. You can alleviate attendee concerns by asking, “Want to know how we use your data?” Link to an explanation of how the insights you gather benefits them. #2: Attendee profile Once you gather all your registration form data, you can dive deeper into the attendee profile in aggregate and by market or membership segments. Who showed up? You see C-suite leaders in attendance but maybe it’s the same faces year after year—and they represent only a small portion of that market segment. Why aren’t you attracting more C-suite professionals? Are you not providing the content they seek? Is your marketing reaching them? Do you need to conduct market research and find out why your conference isn’t on their radar? Attendee data gives you a reason to investigate, ask tough questions, and make changes. What can you tell exhibitors and sponsors about attendees? They want to spend their marketing dollars on shows that attract decision-makers and influencers. A one-page summary of attendee demographics that breaks down attendees by position, responsibility, and type of business will help convince potential revenue partners to invest in your show. #3: Attendee content interests You can learn a great deal about the interests of attendees by exploring event technology data. Require attendees to check in and out of sessions by scanning their badge if they want to receive CE credits. You can then accurately determine which sessions were the most popular with different attendee segments. By using an Event Engagement app with this type of access control, you can also send polls or surveys to the attendees of specific sessions either during or after the session. Their replies (or lack of them) provide more insight into their interests and needs. Collect data the old-fashioned way too. Assign staff to take note of popular topics and questions during sessions, keynotes, and roundtables, or on social media. #4: Booth traffic An Event Engagement app with lead retrieval allows exhibitors to check in attendees to their booth, demos, or mini-sessions on the show floor. This data provides clues to both attendee interests and exhibitor performance. Check-in data shows you which booths have above-average traffic, however, you’ll have to visit the booth to know whether the data is an indicator of attendee interest in the exhibitor’s product/service or in booth swag. What can you learn from these high-traffic booths that you can share with other exhibitors? Identify the booths with below-average traffic so you can pay them a visit and see what’s going on. Is it due to location, unclear messaging, or lack of attendee interest in their product/service? The data gives you an opportunity to interact during the show and provide advice for next time. During sales meetings with potential exhibitors and sponsors, show them which exhibitors had the most unique visitors and share your ideas for attracting booth traffic. Perhaps they would be interested in enhancing their reputation by investing in thought leadership opportunities, such as show floor education or sponsored content. Share Event Data with Others in Your Organization Find out what kind of decisions your board or staff leadership must make about events. Make sure they have the necessary data to make decisions based on reality, not assumptions, conjecture, or natural bias. What impact does location have on the event? What percentage of different market and membership segments are attending? What topics are increasing (and decreasing) in popularity? What percentage of attendees are participating in different aspects of the event, for example, keynotes, exhibit hall, receptions, and other programs? The conference team isn’t the only department who needs to know what topics are heating up. The professional development, publications, and website teams are also interested in topic trends. This data is even more useful if you can break it down by market and/or membership segment, for example, different types of positions, career stages, and/or company size. The membership team would welcome a list of non-member attendees. These people are warm leads whom your colleagues can educate about the benefits of joining your organization. Or, their company may be a member, but these attendees haven’t yet interacted with your association outside of that event. Membership staff also need to know about the interest of membership segments in different aspects of the conference: networking receptions, career services, match-making services, etc. If, for example, a significant percentage of young professionals did not take part in some aspect of the conference, membership staff will want to find out why so they can provide advice on future association program decisions. The component relations team are interested in event attendance by chapter. This data provides clues about a chapter’s relationship with National, marketing gaps, and/or lack of program relevance. They can also help chapters with local programming decisions by sharing information about topics with growing interest. Government affairs staff would love to know who checked into sessions on regulatory, legislative, or political topics. These attendees might be interested in subscribing to political updates or volunteering for political action. Don’t forget exhibitors and sponsors, event data provides useful information about industry trends. This data also helps existing and potential exhibitors and sponsors make the case for supporting your show. Event and attendee data provides solid evidence of the interests of attendees and the performance of exhibitors. Find out how our Exhibitor Experience solutions can help you collect the data you need to improve your event and membership experiences.

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