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Event Intelligence is our term for insights gained through data analysis. Event Intelligence is the cornerstone of every event as it gives organizers a deeper understanding of attendee thoughts, behaviors, and intent. In this guide, we'll teach you how to analyze your event and make intelligent improvements for next time.
Months, to years, of planning, take place in order to make sure that events go off without a hitch. Countless meetings are had, dollars are spent, and time is invested in these events. However, even the best planning and most trained personnel cannot replace the invaluable insight of abundant and accurate data.
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.
Event Intelligence is the cornerstone of every event as it gives organizers a deeper understanding of attendee thoughts, behaviors, and intent. It is what will support and enrich your current event and future events to come.
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.”
Plan: From precise budgeting tools to meticulous project management, event intelligence starts from the moment you begin planning by giving event organizers greater insight into the details of their event.
Promote: Promotional tools provided by event intelligence give event organizers the ability to track progress and engagement throughout the promotional period, allowing them to assess how and when attendees are interacting with the event.
Engage: With in-depth lead retrieval analytics, real-time check-in updates, attendee behavior tracking and so much more, onsite technology gives event organizers and exhibitors an unprecedented look into the activity and intent of attendees at the event.
Analyze: Extensive reporting and analytics tools, integrations, strategy consulting, and more allow organizers to make sense of all of the event intelligence gathered throughout the event and use that insight to prove event success and recognize possible areas of improvement.
Event Intelligence is the term for insights gained through data analysis. The goal of event Intelligence is to deliver actionable event data that will give you greater insight into your event and help you evaluate success and recognize areas of improvement throughout your entire event life cycle. Through real-time engagement analytics, post-event reporting, and integrations with CRM and MASs, event professionals are now able to improve event ROI, conversions and enrich buyer data across the entire online and offline journey.
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.
In this guide, learn how to combine online and offline event data, so you can easily compare your virtual event metrics alongside in-person and hybrid events to get a complete picture of the buyer journey.
Event marketers and meeting organizers who are new to the world of event intelligence can easily get enamored with big data. They want it all: a great-looking dashboard, flashy graphs and charts, and real-time data just to name a few.
Can you relate?
This is a good sign because this means you see the prize at the end of the journey — the transformative impact event intelligence can bring to your events and meetings. However, before jumping the gun on any event intelligence initiative, here one word of advice:
Take a step back.
All successful event intelligence efforts start with clearly defined objectives. To solidify this point further, take a look at the following event intelligence lifecycle:
Looking at the diagram above, the actual data intelligence — the flashy dashboards, beautiful charts, and impressive big data — comes later in the middle of the lifecycle. While this is where the “exciting” things happen, the first two steps are the most important.
Without the first two steps, event intelligence will make no business sense.
Because transformative event data doesn’t grow on trees. This means that you have to be intentional in getting the data that aligns with your business objectives and the indicative metrics for those objectives.
You cannot just start collecting data without doing these two foundational steps because you will end up with data that looks good on paper, but barely usable when it comes to moving your events and meetings agenda forward.
For instance, if you want to find out what specific skill areas the employees in your company are interested in developing, you have to design your events in a way that will enable you to extract the data you need.
This could include having a “choose your own session day” that allows participants to select which sessions they want to attend. Having done this preparatory work, you can then identify the metrics that you need to measure and the best methodology to get the data you need.
Related to the previous point, one of the key points event managers and meeting organizers should consider when designing an event intelligence strategy and structure is the intent and motivation they want to unearth.
For events geared toward sales (revenue) generation, this could refer to buyer intent. According to Aberdeen: “Prospective buyers emit signals of their purchase intent. To transform their buying experience, prospects must be engaged at the right moment, and with the most appropriate message and content.”
The same concept applies for internal meetings or events, but instead of uncovering purchase intent, the focus is to pinpoint participation intent.
This spans the entire event lifecycle — from pre-event registration to post-event engagement efforts.
For instance, you can measure pre-event intent by taking a look at different email marketing KPIs. Email marketers have long been using these metrics to measure different levels of user engagement. For example, you could be looking at the following:
With event intelligence, looking at intent and motivation alone can bring you a wealth of optimization ideas on how to promote and design your external events and internal meetings. Instead of focusing on big data, it’s more helpful for event marketing and meeting organizers to look at use cases. Let’s take a look at an example.
An important use case for event intelligence is proving ROI to exhibitors. This is especially important to tradeshow organizers.
According to a whitepaper published on Meetings and Conventions: “According to our recent survey of event organizers, proving exhibitor ROI was identified as their biggest challenge. By helping exhibitors better calculate their expected ROI, as well as improve their returns on future events, organizers are actually building the foundation for growing an event and improving its chances for future success. Improving exhibitor retention rates, increasing exhibit space and sponsorship sales, and identifying new opportunities for growth all require the organizer to develop a clear definition of the value an event currently provides to its stakeholders.”
With event intelligence, you can prove with a high confidence level the ROI your event delivered to exhibitors’ vis-a-vis the amount of money and other resources they spent to participate. In most cases, event organizers provide lead retrieval data to exhibitors. This is the ability of organizers to provide the contact details and other pertinent data of the event attendees who visited the exhibitors’ booths. The information is mined from a pre-collected database during the event registration.
However, a strategically thought-out event intelligence strategy can prove exhibitor ROI beyond lead retrieval. Below are other data that you can leverage to help exhibitors measure their booth performance:
For exhibitors who have sponsored sessions, measuring the attendee dwell time for their sessions provides valuable insights on how relevant their session topic is as well as the effectiveness of their speaker/presenter. These tactics also apply to external events or experiential events that harp on sponsorships to succeed.
Internal events, more specifically internal meetings, and training events involve serious spending. In fact, according to American Express’ 2019 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, US companies will spend an average of $1,196 per attendee for the internal team meetings and training activities. This does not include the cost of internal product launches and other corporate events.
Measuring how many employees attend these events is good, but it’s no longer enough. Internal event organizers should be able to prove the effectiveness of these activities to make sure they are getting the most out of every dollar they spend on these internal events.
Again, enter event intelligence.
Event intelligence allows meeting directors to measure the effectiveness of their internal events more in-depth that goes beyond counting how many people attended a specific event. For example, one of the metrics we recommend event organizers track is the number of qualified attendance. Qualified attendance or qualified attendees are those who stayed in a session for more than 70% of the session’s duration.
Why monitor this metric?
Let’s say a session is one hour long. There’s a huge difference between attendees who spent 20 minutes and the attendees who stayed 45 minutes. People who left early could be indicative that these attendees didn’t feel like the session was relevant to them, interesting enough, or important enough.
The data can also be telling of the quality of the sessions and the speakers themselves. Coupled with qualitative feedback through surveys, you can get a comprehensive picture of what the attendees liked and didn’t like about the speaker or presentation. Tracking at which part of the session participants left will also provide insights as to the specific session content that triggered them to leave.
If you want to take it further, you can track the improvement or lack thereof in the performance of employees who logged qualified attendance versus those who did not.
At the end of the day, an effective event intelligence design will rely on clearly defined goals. Why do you need to measure certain metrics? Why do you need big data? Why do you need real-time data and why can’t it wait until after the event?
By answering these why’s, you end up with event intelligence that is cost-effective and fits with what you need. You don’t need to build the Sistine Chapel every single time with all the bells and whistles of big data, or the latest and greatest event technology. It’s about being purposeful, intentional, and grounded on specific business objectives.
One of the event marketing voids that event intelligence has been able to fill is understanding — with great depth and accuracy — what transpires in the offline buyer's journey. More specifically, it helps businesses to understand how events and experiential marketing help move customers from awareness to decision.
Given the money and human capital you invest toward event marketing, there's no reason why you shouldn't track the offline buyer's journey the same way you're tracking your customers' buyer's journey online.
The following are the specific use cases of event intelligence in tracking the offline buyer's journey:
CRMs are the crossroads where the offline and online buyer's journey meets. This is also a classic example of how businesses can use event data to influence their overall marketing strategy, a practice currently done by 70% of marketers.
Seamlessly incorporating data culled from events into your customer relations management system will open new opportunities for segmentation and targeting. Whether an event is the entry point of customers into your CRM system or your existing CRM contacts attend your events, integrating event data into the database will allow you to serve specific content, offers, and sales strategy.
Digital marketing guru Ryan Deiss compares the progression of customers from one stage of the buyer’s journey to how real human relationships develop. One of the ubiquitous questions he asks his audience during live speaking engagements is “would you propose marriage on a first date?” This alludes to businesses that serve sales-oriented content to customers who are in the early stages of the buyer’s journey.
Segmentation and targeted content based on the buyer’s journey are indeed the new norms of online marketing.
With event intelligence, we’re excited to see event content evolve to achieve the same level of cognizance to the buyer’s journey. In fact, it is our belief that events should be designed in the same way online funnels are designed.
Online, depending on an email open, a click, a pageview, etc., customers are served different content experiences. Imagine how much more powerful and effective events would be if the same concept is modeled in tracking the offline buyer’s journey.
Let’s say a company, Company X, offers a full suite of events technology solutions to small businesses. To promote the event, you sent a series of 3 emails promoting 3 different sessions to your event:
Take the following example:
Based on how they interacted with the different promotional emails, it can be deduced that Customer A is probably in between the Consideration Stage and the Decision Stage, but is probably leaning toward the former than the latter. Customer B, on the other hand, is at the Awareness Stage, still seeking education about the use of events technology, in general.
Based on this event intelligence that you culled during the registration stage, you can then tailor fit all the succeeding content experiences that these customers will get.
During the event, you can send live notifications via SMS or a mobile app to encourage Customer A to sign up for live demos on how your RFP software works. For Customer B, you can prompt him to participate in other educational content such as smaller breakout sessions.
Aside from the event registration, you can get the same data during the event itself. If you have access to real-time data, you can create a personalized event content path for your participants based on where they are in the buyer’s journey. If you can only access this data after the event, you can tailor-fit your post-event communications to match.
Another use case of event intelligence in helping businesses understand where their customers are in the buyer’s journey is with lead scoring.
As you may already know, lead scoring follows one simple concept — the “bigger” the action a customer in your CRM makes, the more points he/she earns. A customer who attended a webinar will get more points compared to a customer who downloaded a whitepaper. These points are added up to come up with a customer’s overall lead score.
The higher the lead score, the “hotter” the lead is.
But come to think of it:
Isn’t going to an event a significantly bigger investment compared to attending a webinar, downloading a whitepaper, and opening an email combined?
Customers who attend events clear their schedule and spend on transportation (which could include flying out from somewhere) and accommodation. If it were us doing the lead scoring, a customer who attends an event will receive 10x the points versus a customer who downloaded premium content online.
How will following this lead scoring model change your marketing and sales strategy?
For one, you can follow up more aggressively on customers who attend those events. You can also target them with specific content that will accelerate their progress in the buyer’s journey.
Likewise, if you’re doing lead scoring in real-time, you will know during the event itself who are the hot leads. You can then mobilize your sales team to engage with these attendees to close the sale on-site.
In online marketing, multi-channel attribution is defined as “the process of determining which marketing channels ultimately lead to a sale and giving each channel the appropriate amount of credit per its role in the sales cycle.”
In Google Analytics, it could look something like the example provided by WordStream below:
If we’re going to look at the first row in this example, it could be hypothesized that exposing customers to display advertising first, followed by paid search, and followed by a direct visit to the site is the most effective conversion path.
Why is it important to know this?
According to Salesforce, it takes approximately 6 to 8 touchpoints to generate a viable sales lead. Since face-to-face interaction is more compelling, the lifecycle could be shorter for events. Nonetheless, it is important to track which combinations of event content and elements are the most effective in hitting the event goals so you can drive more participants to these paths.
Let’s go back to our example of Company X, the events technology provider. With event intelligence, Company X could find out that the customers who attend an RFP writing session, a breakout session on strategic meetings management, and a product demo on real-time event analytics produced the most sales. In the future, Company X could design an event that would attract more attendees to these sessions.
Just to be clear, it’s not a choice between tracking the online buyer’s journey versus its offline counterpart. If you’re doing events, it’s necessary to track the offline buyer’s journey in order to get the most value out of your event marketing investments.
Just to reiterate, none of the use cases that were discussed above would materialize without having a solid event intelligence strategy built on carefully thought-out event goals and the KPIs that represent these objectives.
Event intelligence is not about using the latest and greatest technology. It’s about answering specific questions tied into specific objectives in the easiest, fastest, and most cost-efficient way possible.
If you have an internal training event involving 20 individuals from a single department and you just want to know the attendees' feedback, do you really need to spend on advanced technologies like Bluetooth or RFID?
If you’re doing a consumer event with a projected attendance of 1,000 and you want to track different consumer behaviors, is badge-scanning technology the way to go or would NFC serve the purpose better?
Your choice of event intelligence technology merely follows your overall event strategy. At the core of this strategy are well-thought-out goals. If we were to create an event intelligence wheel, it would look like this:
We cannot reiterate this enough: Event objectives first before anything else.
That said, let’s proceed with some of the guidelines that you can use when selecting an intelligence technology for your future events and meetings.
Simply defined, active technology requires some type of participation from your events and meetings attendees in order for you to get the data you need. Passive technology automatically “extracts” the necessary data.
Below are examples of active event intelligence technology:
NFC, or near field communication is a technology used to communicate information from one device to another in short range. Although most commonly used for mobile payments, NFC technology has been added into event badges and other wearables as a popular, secure way to collect information. Instead of having paper collateral at your experiential marketing events, you can give your visitors NFC technology, during the event. Attendees can then simply tap on NFC devices that are spread out throughout your event. These devices are linked to digital displays of your clients’ company’s content that attendees can access whenever they want. If that wasn’t enough, this same tap also gives the company attendees information, so they can reach out to them after the event is over.
QR codes can be used to create gamification, while still tracking attendees and collecting valuable data. For instance, you can hide QR codes all over your event and send attendees on a scavenger hunt or create a point game (e.g. engaging with your product and scanning a QR code to get points to redeem for a prize). QR codes can also be used to link to online collateral like videos, demos, eBooks, and more. QR codes are a useful way to engage visitors during your event and send them to targeted, optimized webpages that feature valuable company content for them to download. You’ll not only be able to track how many scans your QR gets during your event, but will also collect attendee’s information, like name and email address, from your content downloads that can be later used for marketing purposes.
Mobile event apps are really a must-have for any marketing event both in-person or virtual. Not only can mobile event apps integrate with other event planning technology, like wearables, NFC and, RFID technology so you can track attendees’ movements and connections, but event apps also allow you to collect attendee feedback. Through polling technology, you can survey attendees in real-time during any part of your event. Surveying your attendees live during your event will allow you to better gauge how engaging your attendees are finding your event and allow you to make changes in real-time.
Here are examples of passive event technology:
Beacons are small Bluetooth transmitters that can sense nearby mobile devices and send/receive notifications to/from those devices. Depending on the device, Beacons can have a range of just a few inches to up to 150+ feet. One of the most common industries using this technology is retail, where stores can setup Beacons to market promotions, coupons, and other messages to shoppers walking by. When used correctly, Beacons can also be an effective tool for the events industry as well.
RFID, or radio-frequency identification technology is technology that is commonly embedded in wearables, like badges, and automatically checks attendees in and out of events, eliminating check-in lines and barcode scanning completely. In addition, RFID even captures attendee information, like contact information, the sessions or booths attendees visited, the length of time they stayed, and, perhaps most importantly, the engagement level. Knowing the engagement metrics around your event will allow you to understand your audience, specifically what your attendees were searching for at your event. RFID technology provides invaluable information that is needed to build a strong marketing campaign.
To help you visualize how your choice of event intelligence technology should line up with your event objectives and the metrics that correspond to those objectives, let’s take the example of a B2B external consumer event.
After brainstorming with your team, you determined that your ultimate goal for your event is to acquire more sales, both on-site and through your follow-up digital marketing campaigns. Based on this objective, you identified that one of the metrics that you need to measure is the number of qualified leads your event generated. In this case, a qualified lead is defined as someone who stays for at least 80% of the key sessions during the event.
Now, you might be wondering, if active and passive technology can accomplish the same goal, how do you choose the best one?
This is where other factors in your event design, structure, and logistics come in. It’s rare that event intelligence technology is solely used to gather data. Most of the time, it is tied to a few other event requirements.
For example, a piece of technology can serve both event intelligence collection and access control.
If you choose to use passive technologies such as Bluetooth or RFID, you’re able to manage the inflow and outflow of event attendees to and from the different areas in your event venue. Passive event technologies ensure a speedy flow of attendees in the different entry and exit points in your events. However, you’re sacrificing some accuracy in your event data gathering.
On the flipside, active event technologies give you high accuracy when it comes to data gathering, as you get 100% accuracy when scanning a badge or QR Code. However, since a certain type of action is required either from your attendees or staff to gain access, long lines of attendees could form in key areas affecting the navigability of your event. For high foot traffic events, this is an important consideration since long queues can easily hamper the overall event experience.
Another use case that influences your choice of event intelligence technology is inventory management for products, gifts, and giveaways. The read and write capability of NFC technology makes it the best option for this use case. NFC can also be used in networking and other applications that require devices to communicate with each other.
Keep in mind that choosing between event intelligence technologies is not an either-or scenario. You can use a hybrid of these technologies depending on your objectives and the data that you want to collect.
When talking about event intelligence technology, it’s inevitable to discuss how to choose a technology partner. Unless you have an army of in-house programmers and software developers, you’re probably going to require the services of a third-party provider for your events intelligence technology needs.
This is where we draw the line between a technology consultant and a technology vendor.
While a technology vendor gives you what you think you need (or what they offer), a technology consultant will take a solutions-based approach. A technology consultant will ask questions and push back if necessary to help you avoid unnecessary costs and ensure you get the required data while being cognizant to your other events requirements.
Naturally, the solutions-based approach will start with a consultant asking you a dozen questions, including but not limited to:
These questions only scratch the surface of what a consultant could ask you in order to figure out the most effective and cost-efficient technology to give you what you actually need. To demonstrate this, your technology consultant should present use cases culled from previous events they were involved in. They should be able to cite examples of similar events or even similar businesses that did similar events that can guide you in your event technology planning.
You might already be familiar with the Pareto Principle. It states that roughly 80% of the results you get come from 20% of your investments — whether it's an investment in time, money, manpower, and other resources.
Say you want to measure 10 data points from your event. Don’t be surprised if a technology consultant asks if you can manage with 8. Why? It’s probably because getting the last two will entail a significant jump in costs or require considerably more effort.
Having a sound understanding of your event objectives, the metrics you want to track, and the experience you want to give to your attendees is the core of any successful event intelligence initiative. Technology acts as an effective medium to accomplish your objectives.
By now, you might be asking, what should I do next? It is just fitting that we will end this guide by answering this question.
Your next action steps will depend on the role you play in your organization, which can be classified under 2 major categories: event/meeting managers and marketing leaders.
As an event manager, you are the primary champion of event marketing in your organization, ensuring that events remain a crucial part of your brand’s sales and marketing mix. Similarly, if you are a meetings manager or meetings director in charge of organizing internal events, ensuring that there’s an appreciation for internal meetings rests on your shoulders.
All these considered, the next step for you can be summed up with the following:
Prove the ROI of your event with empirical and irrefutable data.
This key takeaway is linked with a big hurdle the majority of event marketers and meeting professionals are facing: securing a higher budget.
As an event marketer, you’re not only competing to make your event stand out versus your competitors, but you are also competing against the other marketing departments within your own organization. Unfortunately, according to a Gartner survey, event marketing receives the second-lowest budget allocation, accounting for 5.2% of the overall marketing spend.
How a company allocates its budget to different marketing channels also reflects its marketing priorities. This means that event marketing ranks low in the priority list of CMOs. It only follows that if and when the time comes to implement budget cuts, the event marketing budget will be one of the first things to go.
This is quite ironic considering that face-to-face interactions with customers and clients yield better results.
The Gartner survey provides an answer to why this is happening: “[These] budgets reveal marketing’s continued commitment to digital techniques at the expense of traditional techniques, such as offline advertising and event marketing.” The survey adds: “CMOs struggle to align marketing metrics with business priorities, favoring awareness as their No. 1 strategic measure instead of customer value and return on investment (ROI).”
And there’s our magic word! ROI.
If you’re able to demonstrate hard-dollar ROI for your event marketing spend using event intelligence, you can turn the situation around in your favor and secure better funding for your event marketing campaigns. 86% of event marketers consider event data important or critically important to secure the budget they need:
In short, show your CMO the money (or whatever return) that your events are able to generate and they will give you the money you need to execute your campaigns.
So how do you get from Point A to Point B?
This may sound like a lot of heavy lifting on your end as an event manager, but it’s not. In reality, this should already be a critical component in creating your event strategy. It all boils down to one thing: proving the value of your events in the bigger scheme of your company’s marketing objectives. Remember the value of events to your marketing organization can be translated to the value you as an event manager bring to the marketing team.
If you’re a marketing leader, the first step is to understand the new opportunities if you begin collecting or incorporating event intelligence data into your overall customer profiling strategy.
In our years of experience, we’ve come to realize that there’s a significant number of marketing leaders who have zero awareness of the offline buyer’s journey. Even if your event managers are already doing event intelligence in some way, shape, and form, you may not be aware of the data that they’re collecting. Additionally, you may not be involved in the strategy of how they go about event intelligence. It’s possible that you’re completely unaware of the concept of the offline buyer’s journey — what it is, what you can track and measure, and how it can strengthen your marketing strategy.
Previously, we mentioned how there’s a big discrepancy between how much time and money marketing leaders are spending on measuring customer activities online versus the thought that goes into tracking and measuring the offline buyer’s journey. We also stand by our argument that event data carries more weight and is more indicative of customer intent. So, as a marketing leader, start by doing an audit and ask yourself the following questions:
So, as a marketing leader, start by doing an audit and ask yourself the following questions:
As a marketing leader, you should have a clear sightline on everything and anything pertaining to event intelligence. A strong appreciation of the impact of the offline buyer’s journey in your customer profiling strategy is mission-critical to your team’s event intelligence projects.
As a marketing channel or a platform for employee engagement (in the case of internal events), events and meetings should have corresponding goals, objectives, and KPIs. Without these, events and meetings lose their value. Event intelligence proves that events and meetings are worth their weight in gold. Instead of just a line item in your expense report, event intelligence demonstrates that events are profit centers, vehicles that bring businesses closer to their objectives.
Event organizers often struggle to understand the performance and value of their sessions. We created this guide because we’ve noticed something that didn’t sit well with us. A lot of our clients were running amazing events, but not always getting the recognition from management or the budget they needed to make them even more successful. Most people in the events industry know how powerful in-person connections are to brand value and driving pipeline but we wanted to provide a new way of making it data-driven to prove this ROI and really understand what is going on underneath an event – what the attendees are actually doing and give insights based on data for how to improve the event over time.
By measuring key factors, you can reveal exactly what makes a session valuable, eliminating the guesswork and introducing you to actionable certainty. With the right event intelligence technology, you can, at last, understand attendee interests and preferences.
Event intelligence is a fancy term for all these critical components of event insight. In short, it is complete visibility into session performance. We hope that after this, you’re motivated to start tracking the offline buyer’s journey and implementing an event intelligence strategy that works for your specific goals and needs.