What Does Big Data Mean to Event Marketers?

It’s impossible to get through most days without being bombarded with messages about how “big data” is changing our lives.  Yet, many of us are unclear about what the term actually means, and more importantly, how it affects us as event marketers.   

Big data is simply a buzzword used for any collection of data that is so large and complex that it becomes difficult to understand using traditional database management tools. Despite its potential, big data is often difficult to collect, filter, analyze, and interpret to attain those promising insights.

Most companies estimate that they are analyzing a mere 12% of the data they have, according to a recent study by Forrester Research. A lack of analytics tools and "repressive" data silos are two reasons companies ignore a vast majority of their own data, says Forrester. Perhaps your company is experiencing something similar with the data you are obtaining from events.

To refine big data for event marketers, you must first ensure you are capturing all of the critical data points for the event.  I have found that event marketers who keep a razor sharp focus on each attendee’s journey at their own events or trade show booth, can get the most useful and relevant results.  

Where should you start? You can obtain significant data found at event touch points, such as the following:

  • Registration – Provides demographics, personal preferences, agenda choices
  • Check-in – self check-in and badging
  • Attendance – Sessions, keynotes, break-outs, meals, expo visits
  • Expo – Lead scans, qualification surveys, product visits, product requests, exhibit floor tracking, booth visits
  • Feedback – Session surveys, speaker surveys, conference evaluations, sponsor feedback
  • Social – Linked-in connections, tweets, crowd sourcing, meetings
  • Mobile –event guides, personal agendas, surveys, messaging

All of these touch points can lead you to learn what every attendee finds interesting.  Conference planners can see where various types of attendees spend most of their time, and gain insights into the value of each session for every attendee. Trade show managers can now understand which products are most important to those visiting the booth, and how long they are staying.  The data collected can be sliced in many different ways so that you can view it by attendee type, various different demographics or groups of attendees.  Example:  A conference geared towards bankers and accountants can look at a specific subset of activity for those that are CPAs vs. the entire audience.  We know for sure that Visit + Duration = $$$. Now it’s possible to measure it.

Multiple data sources can be combined seamlessly to provide you with attendee journey data.  RFID technology is reliable and its flexibility allows for a creative approach to visitor tracking that can be specific to any event. For proprietary events as well as tradeshows, RFID provides an understanding of where everyone has been and their level of interest, and can be used to drive more sales and ROI. RFID can give trade show managers a view of what specific products attendees are interested in, and how much time they’re spending in your booth and why.  Combined with CRM/sales conversion data, lead systems, mobile surveys, and registration demographics, you can gain insights into your attendee’s journey like never before. 

Attendees at Hadoop’s 2014 Summit were informed that the digital universe will grow from 3.2 zettabytes today to 40 zettabytes by 2020. (One zettabyte is roughly a billion terabytes.) Those numbers are overwhelming but as an event manager, if you keep your focus on your attendee’s journey, you will continue to grow your event more efficiently, increasing your ROI and creating compelling attendee experiences.

Watch for my next blog, which will feature an example from Philips Healthcare, and how they are utilizing data to obtain true insights.