The rise in digital events over the past few years has given event organizers more metrics than what they typically get from face-to-face events. Now that in-person events have returned, how can organizers continue to mine data that will provide value to their stakeholders? At the Tuesday CL23 session “Deliver the Event Metrics Digital Marketers Demand,” Michelle Bruno, content and brand strategist at DAHLIA+Agency, sat down for a conversation with Adam Parry, director of Event Tech Live and editor of Event Industry News. Over the last decade, Event Tech Live, an annual industry event in London that also has now extended to Las Vegas, has gone through many transformations, from in-person to digital-only at the height of the pandemic, and now in a hybrid format. Parry spoke with Bruno about the type of data the team behind Event Tech Live captures, how they capture it, what data he’d like to gain access to, and more. Here is a snippet of the discussion.
Bruno: You have exhibitors, you have sponsors, you have attendees, and you have your organization. What are the data points you’re looking at?
Parry: Just like everybody else, we collect registration data, we collect lead capture data. We are fortunate through Event Tech Live that all of our exhibitors and companies out there want the opportunity to work with us and showcase what they do. That has allowed us to adapt, adopt, and get a wealth of data. Some of the things that we’ve done for a long time — we’ve used facial analysis, we’ve used heat mapping predominantly to understand a number of different elements of how the attendees interact with our show: What times are the busiest, where are they moving, how long are they spending in certain areas? And that really translates, on a high level, to how we then design that show in future years. Do we change content areas? Do we move the show around a little bit? When do we put content on? And I think more importantly, from a commercial aspect, this has allowed us to understand and have real conversations with our exhibitors and sponsors about their experiences at the show, right?
Bruno: Is there any kind of data that you got from the virtual event that you can’t get from your face-to-face [event] for your stakeholders?
Parry: It’s really hard for an event organizer, especially because they’re not up on stage, to kind of gauge that engagement level with content and speakers [in person]. Online, there was a huge amount of that, you know — emojis, reactions, lots of engagement through chat and comments and things like that. And we could see that and instantly, as event organizers, we could get that good feeling of, “We’re doing a good job.” This speaker was the right choice. In person, you are relying on anyone who fills out [an evaluation] form.
Bruno: Is there any data you want to get from your face-to-face event that you can’t get?
Parry: Conversion figures from exhibitors. I do believe there will be a day that we’ll be able to have an honest conversation with our exhibitors and our sponsors, and there’ll be some way to have an insight as a trade-show organizer with sponsors and exhibitors. What kind of value pull-through that exhibitor had.
I’ll give you an example from one year that impacted us as a show organizer. We have had an exhibitor that has exhibited with us at every single event. And we couldn’t really work out why they weren’t coming back to us and exhibiting with us [one year]. And the actual year they didn’t exhibit, one of their team members came to the show, found me, and apologized, because what actually happened is the leads and the business driven from our event the previous year had actually been attributed to a totally different show. So our show registered at their end as $0 out — which obviously was a huge investment for them. If we’d been able to have some visibility on that conversion without obviously dipping into their big financials and things like that, we could’ve had a conversation with them and said, “Hey, there’s something wrong here.” Plus, it also would allow us to identify other ways that we can help support that exhibitor, maybe on the media side or in other opportunities to drive more revenue for them and more income for us.
This interview has been edited for brevity. The full discussion between Michelle Bruno and Adam Parry can be found in the CL Library.
Casey Gale is managing editor of Convene.