Big data is an integral part of most industries these days and event planning is no exception. As people all over the world continue to rely on personal devices and expand their digital footprints, it becomes easier to collect and leverage data to influence their event experiences.
The industry’s biggest and most experienced event planners use data to create highly personalized, meaningful events. But using data in your event planning process doesn’t require sophisticated tools or a big budget. Data is more accessible than ever.Big data is an integral part of most industries these days and event planning is no exception. Click To Tweet
In this article, we will explain big data, its role in event planning, and how it helps you host engaging events.
What Is Big Data?
Big data is a nebulous term that means different things to different people and companies. Basically, it refers to all the data points you can collect from interactions with your customers, fans, stakeholders, etc. The more data you have on these people, the better you can reach them and serve them with products and experiences.
Like most industries, big data plays a role in event planning and management. It opens new opportunities to learn about your guests so you can plan events that delight them.
Big Data in Event Planning
You don’t have to collect as much data as, say, Amazon or Google. Nor should you hold yourself to the same data standards or have to work with massive data sets and specialized tools (though there are tools that could help).
As an event planner, however, you’ll find the most value in defining the key data points that matter to you, then taking aggressive steps to collect them.
Which data points matter most? That depends entirely on your needs and your guests. If you host an event for C-level professionals, you may want to know their income level, years of experience, and job title. But if you host an event for amateur cake decorators, those data points won’t help much.
Where do you get your data? Anywhere you can reliably connect a guest with an interaction. For example, let’s say a guest fills out an online form and checks the “marketing” box for the question “In which industry do you work?” You can reasonably assume this guest is interested in marketing topics.
How Does Data Help?
Why should you collect data and use it to inform your decision-making? Here are the main benefits.
Marketing your event is a significant expense, so you want to do everything you can to reach your guests without spending a lot of money. By collecting and analyzing data on your guests, you can uncover the best ways to reach them.
For instance, let’s say you survey your guests and discover that most of them were encouraged to attend by their employer. Instead of reaching out to potential guests next year, you might decide to reach out to employers.
Here’s another example. You notice that 75% of your attendees tweeted from your event with your event hashtag. That’s a pretty clear indicator that you should spend some of your marketing budget on Twitter.
Analytics for Event Planning
What kinds of speakers do your guests want to see? What topics and stories do they want to hear? What tools, demonstrations, and showcases do they want to experience?
If you have the right data, you can have answers to those questions before your event. By learning about your guests before they show up, you can create experiences that meet their needs, solve their problems, and entertain them.
For example, a pre-event survey could tell you everything you need to know about your guests to design the perfect event. There are plenty of easy-to-use survey tools, so this is actually a low-tech way to collect data. Alternatively, you might dig through your social media analytics or email marketing analytics to uncover your guests’ interests.
Every piece of information you collect about your attendees is an opportunity to create a better experience. Technologies like RFID, VR, geolocation, and iBeacon let you create personalized experiences unlike any other event.
For instance, a simple iBeacon can broadcast information to nearby devices. This way your guests are only bothered by the booths or displays they’re interested in. You can even serve location-based games!
You can also use what you know about your guests before they arrive to serve them content and information about the event. For example, let’s say you’re hosting a trade show for wholesalers and retailers. You can use printed packets or your custom event app to connect retailers with wholesalers in the same industry or niche.
Crowd Flow Control
Modern data harvesting can help you manipulate crowd densities at your event. This practice is called crowdshaping. It’s a powerful way to ensure all of your guests have a good time without overtly influencing their choices.
For example, a high crowd density around your bar might drive you to enlist another bartender or open another bar. If a presentation is about to begin, but there’s still space in the room, you could push a notification to your guests via your event app to let them know there’s still space.
Furthermore, you can harvest data from one event to help you solve problems for the next one. Let’s say you collect data one year that identifies bottlenecks and frustrating lines. This information would help you design next year’s event in a way that lets the crowd flow better.
Big Data Case Studies
Here are three cases studies of how big events used data to create high-quality and memorable experiences.
At C2 Montreal, organizers gave attendees badges with RFID technology that tracked their movement. They could see where people gathered and which parts of the event were empty. When they noticed a large number of people gathering at one particular food table, they sent more food service workers to help.
At the North American International Auto Show, organizers at the Nissan showcase created a personal experience for guests using RFID technology and iBeacons (tech that broadcasts information to nearby devices).
When a guest approached a vehicle, they would receive information about the vehicle on their personal device. Nissan also used this interaction to learn which cars guests found more attractive.
At SXSW, Pepsi hosted a dance party where dancers were given wristbands that measured their response to stimulus. The wristband had an accelerometer to measure movement, a thermometer to measure body temperature, a microphone to measure their volume, and a device to gauge physiological arousal through sweat.
The event DJ could see this feedback to learn which songs pleased the crowd. For some added gamification, the crowd could see their movement and use it to control lighting, smoke machines, bubble machines, and C02 cannons.
Obviously those cases aren’t how most event planners use data. Those kinds of technology options won’t be available for your wedding, company picnic, or local industry conference. But they show you how far data can take you.
Some Data Is Better Than No Data
Every bit of data you collect on your guests helps you throw an engaging event. Don’t neglect data collection just because you can’t capture a lot of it. It’s better to collect a little bit of data then no data at all.
Most importantly, data matures as you collect more of it. Having one year’s worth of data is useful, but having five years’ worth of data is game-changing. The sooner you collect data on your event attendees, the sooner you’ll be able to leverage its power.