The Paradox of Technology: Conquering the Event Data Deluge

Event Data DelugePost authored by Brian Scott, Chief Information Officer

Technology… technology… technology… You can’t get away from that word in today’s world.

Look! I just used it three times.

It’s to the point that its usage has numbed our brains to what we’re supposed to be getting out of all this gizmo stuff.

It can do this! It can do that! Really? Are you sure? Or is it simply going to churn out one more report or dashboard that leaves us scratching our heads thinking, “What am I supposed to do with all that information?”

Making Sense of the Data Deluge
Our industry has been flooded with data for decades. And no sooner do we begin to sort it all out and the next data torrent sweeps in, confounding us even more. It’s as if the data mountain has grown so high that some question whether it’s worth the climb.

Keep in mind, more is not always better. This is definitely apropos when discussing data. With the advent of RFID, mobile event apps and now Bluetooth Low Energy (beacon) technologies, the deluge of data has exploded exponentially. It’s a sonic boom of information that’s leaving many show organizers and vendors alike clawing for the sweet sounds of real intelligence, let alone wisdom.

Yet all this time, as the data mounds grow higher, identifying the best strategy to analyze this data becomes more challenging. Adding fuel to the fire, as competition intensifies, differentiation becomes more elusive.

So How Shall We Conquer this Data Conundrum?
For starters, I say we get back to asking more purposeful questions that align with the business results we’re striving to achieve. It’s time to raise the ante and performance expectations for whatever technologies we may be courting.

The data flirting stage is officially over. After all, who has the time to onboard new vendors or tech solutions that fall short of expectations? In today’s change-charged business environment, making the wrong decision can be disastrous.

To conquer this data challenge, we need trusted advisors who are equipped to help us improve and better compete. Advisors who know our organizations well and who can efficiently guide us to solutions best poised to improve business performance.

We need to cultivate strong, technology expert networks that produce happy hearts and healthy offspring. That offspring is insight and wisdom to direct the myriad of changes that must occur between where your business is at right now and where you want it to be next year and beyond.

Anything short of that and profitability will be at risk.

Data Mastery Starts With Smarter Questions
Questions you say? What questions?

Here’s where things get tricky, as the questions are unique for each business and each event. What’s true across the board for all: We need to think hard about the questions we ask. We need to document them. Expand on them. Debate them and hone them. Even print them out on posters and staple them to the walls, so we can ponder and perfect them.

Looking for a question starter kit? A primer to get the question engine fired up? Be my guest and morph, extend or dismiss entries in this starter list:

  • What are our attendees actually doing while they’re at our event?
  • Which event experiences delight them most? Which ones frustrate or disappoint them? What evidence do we have to support this?
  • How much time are event guests spending in education sessions… versus the exhibit hall… versus other receptions, activities, etc.? How does this behavior differ by attendance segment?
  • What percentage of session attendees skipped the show floor all together? What encounters, insights or incentives might we offer to make the show floor experience more appealing?
  • How can we measure and enhance the quality of peer-to-peer networking at our event? How can we help event guests find and connect with the people they most want to meet? How can technology accelerate and improve both the quantity and quality of these connections?
  • Should we invest more money in our VIP lounge, in first-timer onboarding, in our tech innovations pavilion, etc.? What evidence do we have to support these investment decisions?
  • Which demographic/psychographic attributes match our most active and prolific attendees? [How do we define prolific?] Conversely, which attributes match our least active/least loyal attendees?
  • If we had more expansive behavioral data for the two event guest extremes, how could we leverage this insight to grow engagement and in turn, boost attendance and loyalty?
  • Is our event marketing strategy in lock-step with what matters most to our guests? What benefits should we highlight in our messaging to tip more decisions to attend?
  • What’s our strategy around segmentation? Which event guests wield more influence in our industry? How can we make it easier for these guests to invite others to our event?
  • How can we step up personalization – before, during and after our event? How can we leverage past behavioral data to create hyper-relevant messaging to win more YES decisions to attend?
  • How can we extend the event value runway beyond the live event experience? How can we make it easier for guests and exhibitors to connect after the event? Who didn’t they meet at our event, but should have? How can we be a more helpful connections steward?
  • Should our event strike an even mix of education, networking, lead generation, etc.? Or should we tip in favor of one more desirable outcome? For example, networking with education on the side or vice versa? Does our current event programming reflect that ideal mix?
  • Should our education and exhibit hall hours overlap? To what degree? Are we providing enough “white space” on our agenda to allow for impromptu conversations and exchanges? Are our event guests feeling overwhelmed and longing for more downtime? How do we know?
  • How can we jumpstart booth and sponsorship sales with more credible ROI proof? How can we use behavioral data to heat map our show floor, identify high-traffic locations, and introduce variable booth pricing? How can we use this data to increase investment decision urgency?
  • How can we be more transparent and provide exhibitors with concrete data on the quantity, quality, and duration of traffic, in and around their booths every minute of every day?
  • How can we provide event guests with exhibitor or session recommendations that are accurate, appreciated and based on actual behaviors? (e.g., You liked this, you might like that)
  • How can we better leverage past behavioral data to predict future needs? How can we tap these data insights to predict and address emerging trends?

Whew… believe it or not, we’ve only scratched the surface, but this list should spark new ideas that are worthy of serious consideration … Why?

These questions aren’t based on newfangled technologies that are coming. These tech-enabled solutions are here and ripe for the taking, but it will require some thinking to lock in on the right tech strategies, deployed in the right way.

One final caveat: Resist the shiny objects and hold your technology providers more accountable to new standards for performance.

It will revolutionize your business.

Intrigued? Would you like to learn more about how technology can revolutionize your events? Tell us more about your situation.

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