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The 1 Thing for Your Event Success: Data Analysis

Your event last year was a smashing success. Is it possible to duplicate? No, forget duplication, you want to make it even better. How do you outdo yourself when planning the next event? Whether you’ve done a great job and have had success or know you’ve done your best despite the results, it may feel as though you’ve hit your peak and you’re not sure how to make your next event any better.

You met your company goals for the event, there’s no doubt about that. But what about your attendees? What is your competition up to? Who was at the event and why? Tailoring your next event around what attendees want and need as well as being on top of industry trends can help make your event next level. How can you do that? This one thing is what you need to go next level—event data analysis. Ok that sounded a little click bait-y and although the essence of it is true, it’s a little more involved than that.

Diving deep and swimming through a sea of data from past events might feel like a recipe for drowning, but don’t write your last will and testament just yet, it’s not has horrible or difficult as it may sound. Let’s zero in on what’s important to capture and why.

The data you need to know

Informational needs will vary from business to business, industry to industry, and between various event types, but here is a general outline of what kind of data you might want and what you might need to know.

  1. Was there an unmet demand?
    Or in the biz you might call it the supply-demand gap. Did you find one within your event offerings? Was what you were offering in hot demand or were there other sessions/booths/trends that had people flocking to them like seagulls around dropped french fries? What did they have/offer that you didn’t? Using data analysis to find out what was trending at the event can give you a leg up when it comes to knowing what people want, what attracted them to your competition, and allows you to develop strategies for what you can do or offer next time to close the gap and give the competition a better run for their money.
  2. Buyer demographics
    Who comes to these things? It’s important to know the specifics so you can target your marketing in a more specific way. Besides age, gender, occupation, and other general demographic information, you can also gather info on where people are from. People from different regions may respond to different or have a different set of needs. Oh, don’t worry, you won’t have to talk to every attendee and try to gather all this information yourself—ask event management partners or those involved in registration to help out with the demographic data they have on file.
  3. How is my attendee retention rate?
    Just like with customers or clients, it takes less money to retain attendees than to gain them. We’re not talking a little difference; this is a significant monetary difference. Of course, you don’t want money to be dribbling out of your pockets for no good reason, especially when you can stop the waste (and save it for something important like ice cream. Or your business. Either is acceptable). Data analysis in this area can help you find out if and how many of your attendees are jumping ship to the competition and help you start to find out why so that going forward, you can improve relationships to build loyalty and make them last. Have no fear, just know that it is normal to lose some attendees, but it’s important to know how you rate compared to the competition. Is your loss rate similar to the competition or are you losing attendees faster than sand draining out of a screen? Data will help you see where you are and how much better you could be doing.
  4. Know what your competition is doing and where the industry is shifting.
    What categories does your competition represent and are they repeated at events? Is there a pattern among successful competitors that shows industry trends and shifts that you aren’t on board with yet?
  5. Where did you excel?
    It might seem like something obvious to look at, but don’t be afraid to wade deep into your numbers and stats to find out where you did best, how you got there, and how you can keep it going in the future.
  6. What are your attendees telling you?
    E.E.D.B.A.C.K. Look at it, listen to it, learn from it.

Why it’s important

Oh, let us count the ways! Data analysis might not be your jam, in fact it might make your eyes glaze over as your brain goes to a faraway place without numbers and demographics and information. But knowing and understanding why it’s so important might just help you snap back into the thick of it.

  1. It can go a long way to increasing your ROI.
    Ding, ding, ding! This might be the winner. If you aren’t looking for better return on your investment, what are you even doing? Isn’t that the fundamental point of all your hard work? Data analysis can help you to think smarter, strategize better, and market more effectively to see those returns go up, up, up.
  2. You don’t want to get left behind.
    Your competition is doing it and guess what, they are seeing results for their efforts. It also means that anyone who is planning and marketing based on broad understandings and generalization of their audience or potential clients is going to get left in the dust. More nuanced and targeted efforts are becoming the norm, and so potential clients et al are expecting more personalized efforts from you and to get the most return out of their time and effort. If you can’t give that to them, there are plenty of competitors who will.
  3. The need to create loyalty and long-term professional relationships.
    Whatever interaction you had with attendees at the event is great, but how much of it turned into anything? It’s not enough to simply interact with attendees, then it’s been just another social event. You want to get them on board with your business or brand and having lasting professional relationships (remember, retaining customers > acquiring customers). Analyzing data is important for finding out how you are doing in this area and how you can improve.
  4. Be at the forefront of trends.
    But you have to know what they are first. And if you are waiting to see what everyone else is doing in order to find out, it’s already too late. Careful analysis of marketplace, event, and competition data can help you not only see where the trends are going, but they will give you eagle eye vision to spot up and coming opportunities from a mile away, allowing you to get on board before everyone else.
  5. Get the most for your time, effort, and money.
    Unless you have an unlimited event and marketing budget, time, and resources (and if you do, yay! You win!), you want to maximize your efforts to get the most out of what you’ve got. Closely following some of our other reasons, this might just sum it all up. Data analysis helps you target and become more efficient with what you are trying to accomplish, wasting little and leaving you wanting for less.

What does successful analysis require?

You’re convinced and ready to analyze your little heart out. But you wouldn’t bake a data cake without having all the ingredients laid out first, would you (the answer is no, no you wouldn’t)? For your recipe to a successful analysis you’ll need:

  • Measured objectives
    —A solid and well-defined list of goals for your analysis.
  • More than a sprinkling of critical thinking
    —If you threw your critical thinking cap in the garbage on your way out of graduation, it’s time to go get it back. The data you have won’t analyze itself. Your critical thinking abilities are needed to help effectively identify the data that will be most useful to you and to achieve…
  • Perfectly baked (as opposed to half-baked) strategies to reach your objectives
    —Hope you didn’t think you could tuck your critical thinking skills away again after the last point. That data won’t do any good sitting there on a page, just minding its own business; it needs to be used to reach the goals.

Using the Data

Once you gathered the data you need, its important to see how it all fits together, not just as a compilation of unrelated individual facts. Start creating a whole picture by putting the puzzle pieces together. When you do, you’ll find gold nuggets of data such as:

  • Overall attendance and the demographics of attendees (which demographics depends on which data is important to you).
  • How popular each session/activity/event/exhibit was by your chosen demographics
  • What session/activity/event/exhibit was the most attended, by whom, and when
  • Peak number of attendees for the whole event, each session/activity/event/exhibit, each day, each time period.
  • How many repeat attendees and why were they there?
  • Repeat competitors (repeat event showings indicate they are successful. Why? Find out what trends you need to catch up to).
  • How did each of these data points compare to other years?

Data such as this can give you a head’s up on trends and what your competition is up to, as well as attendee needs, wants, and behaviors. Of course, there is plenty more to be gleaned from your analysis, but what and how much is up to you.

Putting your critical thinking to good use will help you strategize based on the data you found and can help you with forward or out-of-the-box thinking that will put you ahead of the competition. But you also don’t have to go it alone. Multiple brains and different angles are always better, so gather your ace team and look over the data, analyze, and discuss together to come up with surefire solutions and strategies.

It also means that you might have to do something difficult—scrutinize and be critical of your own event. This can include listening to attendee feedback, even if it makes you want to shrink into a hole. We know, no one loves to have their shortcomings in their face, and our natural instinct might be to justify or rationalize why we might have fallen short (“It’s a bad economy!” “The cloudy weather chased everyone away!” “I was having an introverted day and didn’t feel like schmoozing very much!”). Put those back in the lame excuse files and then burn them—you won’t progress without full honesty; it’s critical to your ongoing success.

You may have already grasped the new reality of event participants—they need to wear a lot of skill hats and as technology progresses, you are going to need to put one more on—data analysis. That includes gathering, identifying, understanding, and properly using the event data available. It takes time, attention to detail, critical thinking, and might just be a skill that has to be learned but putting in the effort is going to pay off.

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