I recently attended MPI’s World Education Conference, the largest gathering of event professionals in the world, and realized there are two fundamental challenges faced by event planners today: data collection and connecting attendees. The future of event planning is going to revolve around data, metrics and analyzing massive amounts of information to prove the success of your event. The second fundamental challenge is connecting attendees face-to-face, helping them meet the right people and build new, meaningful relationships. Luckily, event technology is helping event planners do both a lot better than before.
How Technology is Changing Data Collection
Historically, it has been very difficult for event planners to collect hard data from events. Determining the success of an event was largely subjective. As Corbin Ball put it in his session: “the past was perceptive.” Whereas the future is about metrics, numbers and hard proof.
So what has changed? In a word: technology. Event technology, such as mobile apps, has given event planners the tools they need to gather insights on attendee behaviour. The more detailed the data, the greater the insights. And as our ability to synthesize and understand data grows, the better events we have.
Proving ROE: Return on Events
I was surprised to learn that events are largely considered the #1 most effective marketing channel for generating buzz and word of mouth excitement. This means events and event planners are finally getting the recognition they deserve! It also means executives are measuring event success in the same way they measure sales and marketing numbers.
This means that for event planners, data collection will be crucial for proving “ROE” — that is, Return on Event (another little term I learned at #WEC17). Of course, you’ll need to set targets and put measurements in place before your event to ensure you are collecting the right data.
Engagement Metrics = #1 Benchmark for Event Success
It’s no secret that event attendees come to network. They want to meet the right people and maximize their time and opportunities. Events that facilitate connections and relationships are the ones that will grow. PCMA recently did a great job of this at their annual Education Conference.
Sponsors are also thinking more about engagement and prioritizing unique and memorable sponsorship opportunities, rather than simply placing logos all over the place.
The good news is, technology drives face-to-face connections by providing options such as group discussions, private in-app chats, gamification and more. You can also track the number of interactions between attendees to prove engagement. For sponsorship, there are a ton of creative options for featuring sponsors within your mobile app, increasing click-through rates, and getting the data you need to prove attendee engagement with sponsors.
Establishing Budget and Event Goals
One of the most interesting and entertaining sessions I attended was hosted by event planner Christy Lamagna, from Strategic Meeting & Events. She had a ton of fascinating ‘hacks’ planners could use to slash their budget, and it made me appreciate how creative planners are for bringing their visions to reality. The key takeaway was that every budget decision should relate back to your goals. For example, if your goal is higher engagement, how important are table centerpieces?
One anecdote I enjoyed was replacing expensive water bottles with ‘hydration stations’ — that is, water dispensers enhanced with things like cucumber and orange slices for flavor. Then, you can give away branded water bottle for refills. Suddenly, you’ve created an experience everyone will remember and saved a ton of money in the process. The point is when you get back to your goal of driving engagement, connecting attendees and collecting data, ask yourself — are you spending your budget in the right place to get the ROE you need?
Define your Goals & Get the Right Technology in Place
Events will have different goals and different benchmarks, but in general, you’ll have these two questions to answer: What can I do to achieve my goal? And how will I be able to collect enough data, to prove that I achieved my goal? For instance, if you’re thinking about increasing engagement and need the numbers to prove it, there are two technologies that fit the bill.
Wearable Beacon Technology
While there wasn’t any beacons or wearables on display, speakers showed us several videos for using beacons like Loopd, SmarTrac, and Poken. If you haven’t seen beacons in action, attendees wear a lanyard equipped with bluetooth or RFID technology. They work in different ways to facilitate connections, either by making it easy to transfer contact information or in some cases allowing attendees to upload a profile and have the beacon act as a matchmaker. The challenge with beacons is that many people find them intrusive, often turning them off altogether. After all, having a computer algorithm tell you to meet with someone is quite different than deciding on your own. And, there isn’t much of a vetting process before you are “matched” with another attendee, so you might be wasting your time. There are also challenges around the accuracy of data and the last thing an exhibitor or sponsor wants to hear is that your data isn’t 100% accurate.
Mobile Event Apps
The most common question I was asked at #WEC17 was: “I really like event apps, but how do I actually use them to make the event better?” Here are 5 rapid-fire ideas to think about for your next event:
- Have attendees ask questions to speakers ahead of time and let people vote up the questions that are most important
- Use the top questions asked in the app to set up break-out sessions for smaller group discussions
- Collect the data from questions and use it for insights, marketing materials, and other content
- Use gamification to encourage participants to attend sessions, speak to sponsors, and meet new people
- Use real-time alerts to add just-in-time challenges and drive traffic to sponsors’ booths
Remember, every interaction is tracked within the app, making data collection much easier and something tangible to report back on. By setting up your mobile app activities to reflect your event goals, you’ll have everything you need to drive engagement, increase attendee satisfaction, and ensure exhibitors and sponsors are getting the ROI they want.
Final word: An event app isn’t right for every event, and I’ve had many conversations that ended in agreement that there’s really no need. So, if you’re curious about what EventMobi does, and you need a little help to figure out, feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to working with you!