The Basics of Dealing With Event Data

Big Data & Event Planning | Image via Flickr user: lucky_sun
Written by Kaylynne Hatch

It should come as no surprise to anyone with even a passing familiarity with event planning that events are all about data. Between budgets, time management, F&B, and marketing – there aren’t a lot of places where an event planner can hide from the numbers and metrics that can make or break their meeting, conference, or event. And that’s just in the planning phase, what about all the data that is generated during and after an event and how can you harness it to make the best decisions for all those involved?

Today we’re going to look at big data considerations to keep in mind while planning as well as a few tools to make the best use of your event’s data.

Collecting & Using Data at Events

To start, let’s consider all the potential sources of data at an event as well as the tech and resources that can help planners track and analyze it:

Web Properties – Well before you event planning even starts to take off, you can start tracking the traffic around your event’s website. Google Analytics can be an incredibly powerful tool when used correctly. Once you’ve setup up tracking and specific goals and objectives, Google Analytics can track not only basic web metrics (like traffic sources, how long visitors are on your site, and what pages they view), it can also help you see which of your campaigns are resulting in the highest number of registrations, view the impact of social media efforts, and even figure out the highest performing parts of your sales funnel. This data can make a huge difference when it comes to planning your event’s web presence. Another powerful tool for similar tracking (and SEO) is Moz.

Registration – Planners could get a lot more information during registration if they just ask the right questions. Of course, you don’t want to overwhelm your attendees with a registration form that takes too long to complete and asks too many questions, but by asking a few, carefully thought out questions, you can collect helpful, additional data points about how attendees found your event and why they’re registering for your event.

Mobile Apps & Beacon, NFC, and RFID Tech – Mobile Apps have gone from being a useful amenity to a vital tool at events. And beacons, NFC, and RFID technologies are being used increasingly by both event planners and event exhibitors. All of these tools produce a huge amount of data and an incredible opportunity to learn a lot about your attendees’ interests and networks as well as their traffic patterns throughout your exhibit hall. This data alone gives event planners the power to make changes that can have a huge impact on their events (like updating wayfinding signage to better direct attendees throughout the hall or spotting any bottlenecks that might be taking place in certain areas) and with the right tech, they can now make these changes in real-time

  • There are a LOT of event apps out on the market today and they all offer a variety of features for just about any event. To help you make comparisons and find the right app for you, check out EventMB’s 2016 Event App Bible.
  • Beacons: Check out Loopd (recently acquired by eTouches), SmartTrac by Hubvents, or Ligo by Limefy
  • NFC & RFID: There are a variety of companies offering NFC and RFID tech for events including Connect&Go, NoodleLive, Intellitix, and Tagstand.

Audience Participation – Event planners can track audience participation in real time with a variety of polling and survey tools (many even have integrations with or are built right into event apps). Pulling data from these tools (or creating brief post-session surveys that are pushed to users at the end of each session) can be a great way to get an idea of how effective or engaging your event speakers are.

  • Check out audience participation tools like or PollEverywhere to learn what tracking features they include in their products. You could also ask your event app provider if they include audience participation features that allow you to gather data related to session engagement.

Social Channels – Live events don’t just happen IRL (in real life) anymore and what happens at your event won’t stay at your event – it’s going to hit social. So why not track data from related social media activity as well? Because social media is such a big part of digital marketing, there are a LOT of options out there for gathering and analyzing data across social channels. This data can help you gauge attendee engagement, analyze attendee sentiment, or even just see what connections are being made and who your event’s influencers are.

  • You might consider using Mention to track your event’s brand anywhere online (or even your competitors). You can also use Google Analytics to create social media reports. Or you can just use the build in reports from each individual platform.
  • You can also track your events hashtag across platforms in a visual way and use it to encourage social engagement at your event in the form of a social wall. Tagboard, and are a few good options (some even provide additional analytics after your event).
It’s Useless Unless You Analyze

Just by scanning through the above, it’s apparent that without careful planning an event organizer could easily wind up with a lot of data and only a vague idea of how to use it. Luckily, as data has grown in complexity, event technology has evolved to help. Many major event management platforms have tools build in to analyze collected data and event give planners guidance as to how they should use that data in order to improve their events.

At last year’s IMEX America, eTouches provided a presentation at the TECHknowledge booth to explain how they are helping event planners leverage the data they collect at events before, after, and in real-time to increase event performance and power. Their eROI module is designed to “give event organizers a comprehensive view of the value their events generate.”

Last year, DoubleDutch began to discuss the idea of live engagement marketing based on collected data. They’re now offering software designed to “harness attendee insights to accelerate action.”

There are a Few Pitfalls to Keep in Mind

Big data is just that – BIG. So it can easily become very complex and difficult to deal with. There are two big pitfalls that people should be aware of when utilizing big data, whether it’s for business, marketing, or events.

      1. Not aligning data collection with goals and objectives – It can be easy to fall into the mentality of “If a little is good, more must be better” when it comes to data collection. However, this isn’t the case. It’s more important to ensure that the data you’re collecting is related to your goals and objectives. It makes little sense to collect data that isn’t required or won’t even be processed.
      2. Ignoring the results of your data analysis – This is actually a common problem in marketing. Sometimes the data is just so counterintuitive or so different from the initial hypothesis that it’s difficult to change the way we’re doing things. It helps to think of the data results as a direct response from your attendees (because it technically is). Gathering data is another way to get to know your attendees better in order to provide a more meaningful and valuable event experience.
The Benefits of Big Data

Data has become an incredibly valuable tool in the toolbox of event organizers, it provides an opportunity fine-tune events in order to provide the best possible experience to attendees. By leveraging big data in a smart and purposeful way, event organizers can save money, optimize marketing campaigns, improve efficiency and increase attendee engagement – and perhaps best of all, the data helps give a clearer picture to the true ROI of an event.


Have you used big data to optimize aspects of your event? Do you have ideas about how data can be used to improve meetings, tradeshows, and conferences? We’d love to hear from you! Be sure to leave a comment below or send us a tweet @MeetingPool.

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Kaylynne Hatch

Editor / Social Media Manager at The Meeting Pool
Kaylynne Hatch is a social media expert and online marketing manager. With a Bachelor of Science in Communications and New Media from the University of Utah and a background in graphic design and entrepreneurship. She has been working in the events and travel industry since 2013.