It’s never been easier for event planners to collect data documenting the entire attendee’s journey. But another story entirely is to be able to generate reports that give insights into areas of improvement. And indeed, most event planners don’t use data at their full potential, as many still only use the number of attendees as proof of success. But there is more to a successful event than this number.
In fact, data can provide insights into attendees’ expectations and needs, help identify what works and what needs improvements, and ultimately help event planners improve their events in real time and over time and create a better experience.
In this article, we will explain why you should track data and how passive and active data tracking methods can be used in concert to help you improve your events and demonstrate the strategic value of your events to your stakeholders.
The ABCs on tracking your own event data trends
Typically, event data can track who your attendees are (demographics), what they are doing and when (engagement), and why they are doing it (sentiment/opinions).
One of the first things an event planner needs to do is decide what his goals are regarding data collection and analysis. In short, what do you need to know about your events?
Then you need to figure out which data you need to track to meet these goals (is it demographics, opinions, etc.?), and finally, what tools you will need.
When to track
You can gather and analyze data at every step of the process:
- Before the event, through demographics and interests collected during registration.
- During, with information such as attendance to sessions, speakers’ ratings, the attractiveness of certain areas or booths, who attendees are engaging or networking with, etc.
- And after, when you collect feedback on the overall event experience.
Why you should track over time
It will also be beneficial to track data over time as it will allow you to make decisions based on facts, not intuition (was this session a success? Should it be renewed next time?).
Tracking over time will also help you uncover trends (how are the attendees reacting to specific activations over time? How are they networking?) and see what each change means (was moving the break area in this spot a good idea?).
It will help you get a more complete picture of the attendee’s journey (once my attendees are on-site, where do they go, what do they do, who do they meet?) and demonstrate the value of your events to stakeholders (what is the performance of the booths? How many people were in contact with this brand? How many qualified leads were generated? Is it improving over time?).
Ultimately, by tracking the data over a period of time, event planners will be able to improve their events and the attendees’ experience (do I get more people to attend my events? Is the feedback good?).
Depending on your goals and the type of data you want to collect, you might want to focus on passive or active data tracking, or even better, use a mix of both. Let’s go a bit further and define these two types of data tracking.
Passive data tracking
The primary purpose of passive data tracking tools is to collect data without attendees having to enter information into a device. This helps monitor the actions and whereabouts of attendees passively and unobtrusively. It allows real-time monitoring during the event and often generates heatmaps.
Types of passive tracking tools
Here are some of the most commonly used tools for passive data tracking.
- Counting mats: these are mats equipped with sensors and placed at the venue’s entrance and other locations with high traffic. They record the pressure of footsteps anonymously and provide instant traffic statistics.
- Wearables: these devices are embedded with RFID, Bluetooth, or NFC tags that ping beacons positioned around the event space. They come in all forms and sizes (badges, lanyards, smartwatches, etc.) and record engagement data.
- Cameras: connected to an AI-powered facial recognition software, they provide engagement data, as well as sentiment data (happy maps).
- Social media tools: tools like Hootsuite can tell you which platforms are the most effective, what content is shared the most, etc., therefore measuring engagement. They can also record opinions through sentiment analysis if coupled with artificial intelligence.
- Google Analytics: by analyzing your website data, this tool can produce reports on visitors and their demographics. You can also get some engagement data through the most viewed content report.
Benefits of using passive tracking tools
The benefits of using such tools include providing:
Real-time information on traffic and engagement
These tools will help you analyze floor traffic and dwell time around the event space, track session attendance, and duration, as well as monitor booths visits. They can also help track emotional response to stimuli (for example, an elevated pulse rate can show heightened interest in a specific activation).
Insights into performance
The event planner will be able to identify areas or content that attract the most or the least and be alerted in real time to problem areas, such as bottlenecks or underperforming booths. He can then take the necessary steps to improve the situation immediately.
Information devoid of bias
One of the most significant advantages of using passive data tracking tools is that they provide factual proof of ROI for exhibitors and sponsors (how many people visited their booths, were exposed to their brands, etc.). There is no danger of estimation or inaccuracy of memory; the data is reliable and accurate.
Active data tracking
On the other hand, active data tracking tools will gather active feedback from attendees. They require a conscious effort from attendees who need to reflect on their experience. These tools collect opinions and sentiment data.
Types of active tracking tools
The main tools used for active tracking are the following.
- Surveys: they can be used throughout the event. Before the event, they can help uncover attendees’ expectations and interests. During the event, short surveys conducted on sessions or speakers will reveal what generates the most engagement. Finally, after the event, a longer survey provided via an emailed questionnaire, the event app, or a survey platform will help assess attendees’ opinions on the overall event.
- Polls: they are usually used right after a session via the event app or a chatbot. They offer binary answers (did this session meet your expectations, yes or no?).
Benefits of using active tracking tools
By giving a voice to the attendee, these tools will help event planners:
Discover more about their attendees
Through pre-event surveys, the planner can get to know who the attendees are, their expectations, interests, etc. This information can help shape the event itself to take these into consideration.
Monitor attendee satisfaction
Mid-event surveys can help with the assessment of specific sessions and speakers. In contrast, post-event surveys will provide an evaluation of the whole event and the overall satisfaction of the attendees.
Improve their events long-term
Comparing pre-event and post-event results will show if there is a discrepancy between expectations and experience. Surveys and polls can reveal areas that need improvement for the future and help discern trends in attendees’ behavior, interests, or expectations.
Collecting data on the attendees’ journey has never been easier, but event planners still need to improve the way they get insights from this data.
Event planners have several data tracking methods at their disposal. Passive tracking tools will provide real-time insights and improvements on the spot, while active tracking tools are better suited for longer-term reflection, finding trends, and improving the event over the years.
Relying on several data tracking methods could be the best way to get the most comprehensive insight into your event, providing valuable information on every aspect.
Make sure your tradeshow booth or exhibit generates the most engagement, which will show on your data reports! Contact us today if you have a project you would like to talk about.