The rise of virtual events introduced a number of enduring changes, from the ways we attend events to how we experience content. Yet, nothing has proven quite as impactful as the way event professionals can now collect, analyze, and leverage event data, thanks to event technology.

By event data, I’m not just talking about the number of registrations or day-of attendee counts, but deep, actionable data you can use to personalize event engagements, design content experiences, and truly prove sponsor ROI. 

Events unite thought leaders, decision-makers, and customers under a single “roof” — whether in-person at a venue or on an event platform, making events the perfect setting for capturing high-value metrics.

We’ve seen marketing teams and event professionals take notice by utilizing in-person and virtual event data to influence their broader marketing strategy. The increased adoption of end-to-end event technology introduces new ways to collect deeper event metrics. And not just during a live event, but in the pre- and post-event stages. 

Put simply, analyzing full-cycle event data is now a key part of achieving event success. Let’s take a look at some proven strategies to collect meaningful data across all stages of the event cycle. 

Before we dive deeper, be sure to check out our complete guide on event data strategy, developed in partnership with Skift Meetings, to learn additional strategies that will help you make the most of event data in 2023 and beyond.

Capturing pre-event data for event design

The pre-event period provides the perfect opportunity to leverage historical data and begin collecting new data to inform event design, session topics, and sponsor promotions. However, before you dive in, determine the data points or intelligence you hope to gain. This will allow you to align with data categories previously established in your CRM and help sales better target leads across all stages of the sales funnel.

Ultimately, your data should influence your messaging. For instance, examine your social media and email analytics to understand the topics your attendees engage with most frequently. These insights can inform session content, keynotes and panel discussions, and engagement tactics. 

I also suggest reaching out to your audience for ideas. During registration, include some questions to poll your audience on the topics they want to learn about or speakers they want to hear from. Use these insights to personalize the attendee journey and drive your messaging. 

Next, determine the data points that are most important to sponsors and exhibitors, so you can build in data-collection opportunities throughout the event lifecycle. Don’t guess—ask your sponsors about the data they want to capture, and how they define event ROI. It could be brand or product awareness, lead generation, or likely a combination of several metrics. Use the data you collect during registration to help sponsors target their messaging to attendees pre-event.

You can also leverage historical event data to prove the value of sponsoring your event. Either way, engage your sponsors about the possibilities, how to best position their promotions, and the data insights you will provide post-event.

Some examples of sponsor data points include:

  • Banner ad clicks: Show visibility into whether or not sponsor messaging resonates with their target audience.
  • Sponsor booth clicks: Understand how booth design, including visual elements and clear CTAs, impact engagement.
  • Sponsored game challenges: Discover the content and challenges attendees engage with most frequently, such as session content, downloadable resources, or external links to a sponsor website. 
  • Poll results: Find out what topics are most important to your audience and discover their perspectives on specific industry challenges.

You can also leverage historical registration data to find the right balance between in-person and virtual ticket prices. We’ve definitely noticed some interesting trends in the industry’s approach to ticket prices over the last few years.  

Monitoring data during the event

As event professionals, we’re used to planning every aspect of our events far in advance of the big day. We also understand situations can change with little notice, and in some instances, we need to reverse course in the moment. 

To prepare for these pivots, identify and monitor aspects of your event that could trigger a need for a change in plans, such as attendee responses to chats and polls, session popularity, and heat mapping. Consider alternative plans in advance and make sure to bake in extra time in the agenda. For example, if you have a wildly popular session but the room size limits the number of physical attendees, consider running the session a second time later in the agenda. 

You can also leverage attendee data to inform session content in real-time, such as allowing attendees to vote on a specific angle to a presentation. It’s not really practical to ask speakers to create multiple presentations, but they could use event engagement tools such as live polls to ask attendees if they would prefer to hear more content or workshop their own ideas in small groups.

I also recommend setting up a dedicated channel for attendees to provide real-time feedback. Think about the business climate today: If a customer has a bad experience, they typically take to social media and expect a prompt response. Resolving the issue quickly ensures small issues don’t grow into major problems.

During an episode of the Webex Events podcast, Event Horizons, we talked about how event organizers can even make adjustments to event design based on attendee feedback. Our team attended HubSpot Inbound’s conference and was impressed by how the event organizers collected attendee feedback about the session rooms setups and made adjustments to ensure more attendees could participate in key sessions. 

“I think that the HubSpot team has done a phenomenal job of really taking in customer feedback. From day one to day two, they even took in some customer feedback around the breakout rooms and adjusted the size of those. They took in some feedback around not being able to get into main [sessions] and created standby lists. I’ve been really impressed with the agile mindset that they have demonstrated,” one attendee shared. 

Your event technology provides the perfect tool to collect and monitor this attendee feedback. Call it the “help desk” or a clever name related to your event or industry. Just make sure attendees know it exists, and let them know you’ll have staff actively monitoring it throughout the event. We’ve seen Webex Events customers use chat, Q&A, and live video messaging to field and respond to real-time attendee questions. 

You can also utilize tools like heat maps to monitor high-traffic areas for bottlenecks and install signage with scannable QR codes for attendees to submit instant feedback. Some organizers place feedback terminals at various high-traffic points, so attendees can rate a session, share their thoughts, or report a problem in the moment. We’ve even seen some tech-savvy organizers turn to AI-powered facial analysis to gauge live attendee sentiment.

Putting post-event data to work

After the dust settles, take advantage of the post-event period to mine your event data. While well-designed post-event surveys provide valuable information, event technology allows you to dig even deeper, offering a minute-by-minute analysis of every click, interaction, and engagement in the platform.

Leverage your event technology to look for trends, actionable insights, content ideas, and sponsor engagements. What worked well? Did any sessions fall flat or see low attendance? What can you improve? What do you definitely want to repeat? Take note of the most popular platform features and sessions, the most effective engagement strategies, chat and poll logs, among other data points. 

Make sure to keep the conversation going with your attendees. But don’t lead off right away with a post-event survey. Start with an authentic thank you message, recap some of the event highlights, and share video clips and photos before you ask for a survey response. This builds rapport, creates FOMO for those who didn’t attend, and allows you to incorporate personalization in your messaging. 

Also, send a personalized letter to each of your sponsors and exhibitors, thanking them for their partnership, and proving their ROI. But don’t just send a spreadsheet and call it a day. Craft a compelling narrative or mini case study showing tangible takeaways like poll results, clicks to sponsor banners and features, time spent in sponsor sessions, and the number of completed game challenges. Providing sponsors and exhibitors sheets of data is one thing, but helping them make sense of their data and suggesting ideas for future sponsorships is equally important.

Finally, analyze your post-event data to uncover ideas for your ongoing content strategy. Pay close attention to your most popular social posts, the sessions with the biggest crowds, most downloaded event resources, and top-performing paid ads. This data will help you craft content that is sure to resonate with your audience.  

Powering event success with data

Producing successful in-person and virtual events requires planners to make a multitude of decisions, from choosing the right speakers to designing content experiences that resonate with attendees and sponsors. Inevitably, some ideas will exceed expectations, while others fall short.

What matters is how you leverage your event data, either to validate your decisions, or to reverse course. Looking to the future of events, data should inform all stages of the event lifecycle. The planners who lead with a data-forward strategy will blaze the trail of event success.