Event Intelligence Series Part 1: What is Event Intelligence and Why Should You Care?

Steven Yellen |

Event Intelligence Series Part 1_ What is Event Intelligence and Why You Should CareWelcome to the second edition of the Aventri W.I.N. (What I Need) Series. If you’re new here, the W.I.N. Series is a sequence of blog posts providing a deep-dive discussion on a specific topic. It saves you from getting overloaded with a ton of information you can find online and provides you with just the information you need (hence, the name of the series) to take action.

In the first edition of the series, we talked about The Offline Buyer’s Journey. For this new series, we will talk about a closely related topic — Event Intelligence.

Between 20,000 and 25,000 fans stormed The Moondog Coronation Ball, history’s first rock concert, on March 21, 1952.

Twelve of the British colonies that eventually formed the United States were present in the First Continental Congress held in Philadelphia in 1774.

In a course of 6 months, 6 million visitors flocked to The Great Exhibition (considered as the “Father of Modern Trade Shows”) which opened on May 1, 1851.

As you can see, event intelligence isn’t an entirely new concept. In some shape or form, event intelligence has existed for years.

Simply put, event intelligence is information or data gathered before, during, and after the event that provides insights as to the different micro-conversions and behaviors that transpired at each stage of the event lifecycle. Event intelligence determines if event goals were met and whether events delivered value for a company or organization.

Unfortunately, compared to other marketing channels, gathering event data has been stuck in this very basic level for a very long time.

More specifically, compared to digital marketing, intelligence gathering in event marketing has lagged. Digital marketers have comprehensive analytics dashboards right at their fingertips. They have clear sightlines on past, present, and projected data for their various digital marketing campaigns. With data, they have an X-ray vision of what’s going on in every step of their buyer’s journey.

Graphic illustrating a sample buyer's journey for the simple purchasing decision of a doctor visit during an illness.

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On the contrary, most event marketers stop at recording the number of attendees or participants their events and meetings achieved. Some would have lead generation and sales data. Very few would have real in-depth data that paint a comprehensive picture of attendee behaviors before, during, and after the event. Sometimes this due to misalignments between the goals of the Event Management team and the CMO/marketing organization (we’ll discuss this in a later blog).

Things are about to change.

Welcoming Event Intelligence to the Mainstream

There’s a simple reason that the adoption of event intelligence was slow.

It’s because it was difficult to do.

Earlier, it took a lot of resources to collect, organize, and analyze the data necessary to put together useful and valuable event intelligence. Even the technology that was necessary to do so was rare. In short, it was only the early adopters — a.k.a. the companies with big coffers to spend in such undertaking — that benefited from event intelligence.

Recently, new event data gathering technologies (NFC, RFID, Bluetooth) became more accessible to companies and organizations. With easier and more cost-effective methodologies to gather event data, event intelligence became mainstream and is now an important component of the event/meeting/conference industry.

According to Intel’s event program manager for global event marketing Victor Torregoza: “We are living and working in a data-centric economy. That applies to us as consumers and it applies to us as individuals. On the event marketing side, when we are setting the strategy for a particular program, we look at several types of data. We look at data provided by the event, we look at data from our own research, and we tie all of that together to inform our strategy for the show. So it is the word, the topic of discussion—and it’s priceless.”

Now, here’s the question:

Should you join in on the big data bandwagon?

Data Without Objectives = Vanity Metrics

Here’s the golden rule of event intelligence:

Thou shall have objectives.

Say it with us: Thou shall have objectives.

If you don’t have a full understanding of the following:

2 diagrams highlighting how data without objectives equals vanity metrics

Any effort to do event intelligence will just be futile.

Once you identify the objectives of your events, be it internal or external, you now have to think about the metrics that would be indicative of whether you achieved your objectives or not. For example, if the goal of an external event that involves end-users is to increase sales, the metrics could be the following:

  • Number of sales closed on-site
  • Number of sales qualified leads that need a followup
  • Number of free trial sign-ups

For an internal event with the objective of training your employees, the following could be your KPIs:

  • Number of attendees per session
  • Participants’ length of stay per session

Without these objectives and metrics, event intelligence will be directionless.

Further, any data that you will collect will just be vanity metrics. These are numbers that look good, but don’t mean anything — not to you, not your organization’s management and stakeholders, and certainly not to your event attendees. Vanity metrics muddle event managers’ perceptions of their events’ performance, without really having any knowledge on how to use the data they have to prove ROI or improve future events.

Drowning in A Sea of Data

A secondary problem with being obsessed with big data without having specific objectives and questions in mind is it leads to data overwhelm and confusion.

Have you heard of Mofarguru Restaurant in Budapest? In 2006, it achieved the Guinness World Record for the restaurant with the largest menu. How large? A total of 1,810 items.

Now, imagine dining in this restaurant without any idea of what you want to eat. What cuisine are you craving for? What protein? Are you going for a full-course meal? Without thinking about these questions, you will definitely get overwhelmed.

It’s the same with event intelligence.

You should approach data with a hypothesis — something you want to prove or disprove — by asking a specific set of questions. Without these questions, it’s easy to trip over data and get overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated.

Don’t get enamored with big data. Put more weight on use cases and what questions you want answered using event intelligence.

[PRO TIP: If you’re already shopping for a vendor partner for your event intelligence needs, and they already gave you a list of technologies you need to use without first asking you about your objectives and the KPIs you want to measure, that’s a red flag. A good events technology vendor should be more than just tech providers. They should act as consultants/advisors. The only way to do this is to first understand your unique needs.]

“We Are Not Big On Numbers, Why Should We Care?”

We’re going to make a bold statement here:

Event intelligence is not optional.

Once again, if you’re counting the number of registrants and attendees for your events, and have a basic idea of how many leads and sales you’re getting from your events, you’re doing event intelligence at its most basic level.

What many are not doing is event intelligence at the transformative level.

The Game-Changing Impact of Event Intelligence in External Events and Internal Events

External events are an important component of a brand’s marketing mix. Events are so important that in 2018, 21.4% of companies increased their event budgets.

Side by side bar charts showing how event professionals expect their overall event budget to change in the next 12 months and if their marketing budget is the same, smaller, or bigger for 2018.

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How did external events occupy such as a central role in the marketing, sales, and customer engagement of several companies?

It’s because most of the objectives of external events are aligned with the primary marketing objectives of senior marketing executives such as increasing sales, increasing brand awareness, driving customer relationships, generating leads, and driving web traffic.

Table showing how Top Marketing Objectives Align with the Most Important Data

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Further, event intelligence is not only used in measuring the success of external events vis-a-vis their specific objectives. The data helps optimize future iterations external events, and is also used to inform other marketing strategies such as product development and competitor analysis.

Bar graph showing How Event Data Is Used Across the Marketing Mix

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I talked about the different behaviors that event marketers should be measuring and the corresponding metrics in the first W.I.N. Series — The Offline Buyer’s Journey.

Internal Events: Similar to External Events but Different in Its Own Way

The same concepts can be said to internal events. However, internal events are different in their own way.

Compared to external events that command attention because of the big-ticket metrics that are at stake (leads, sales, customer lifetime value, etc.), internal events have more corporate-centered KPIs. Nevertheless, it is equally important to track the value and ROI of internal events in the same way that you’re tracking external events. This is especially true because internal events take a significant chunk of a company’s spend on meetings.

Chart showing meeting activity by type

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Most of the time, your primary objective with your internal events is to get people to show up. Unfortunately, a lot of companies stop at this. There are a number of untapped event intelligence opportunities that are missed such as session effectiveness based on qualitative feedback, attendance rate per session per region/employee segment, speaker effectiveness, session duration effectiveness, and so on and so forth.

Why measure these things?

Internal events are not one-off events. Most internal events are held on a regular basis. Without event intelligence, you’re blind as to what things are working, event components that need improvement, and elements that need to be removed from the agenda altogether. Having no access to this data leads to wasted resources and poor engagement of your internal stakeholders.

Examples of Objectives and Metrics Settings

To bring everything together, here are a couple more examples of how objectives and metrics work in setting the foundation for event intelligence:

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Below is an example of an internal event:

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Intelligent Event Managers Use Event Intelligence

Event intelligence is the differentiator between good events and great events. And we’re not just talking about great events in terms of execution. Great events are able to prove their weight in gold by demonstrating clear ROI and their role in achieving an organization’s overall goals.

That’s it for Part 1 of the Event Intelligence W.I.N. Series. In Part 2, we will be diving deeper on how event intelligence helps in optimizing specific event components.

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This Post was Written by Steven Yellen

Steve Yellen is the vice president of product strategy at Aventri.

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