In the past two years, a number of developments by data-focused industry suppliers have improved planner options for aggregating reams of meeting data coming in from multiple directions—apps, registration systems, attendee tracking systems, social media, and so on—and framing it in a way that provides insight into attendee behavior or preferences. Here are just four that reflect the changing landscape:
• Vivastream pivoted in 2015 from being an event-app provider back to its roots as a big-data intelligence firm, releasing a data-aggregation and analytics product specific to meetings and events that recently landed Professional Convention Management Association as a client. It ingests data from any app or software product and then provides detailed-but-simple dashboards and reports for desired segments, down to the individual attendee.
• In 2016, Vista Equity Partners bought both Lanyon and Cvent in the largest event-technology transaction to date, soon followed by its purchase of marketing automation company Marketo. “Those moves showed the direction that things are going in our industry,” says longtime event-technology consultant Corbin Ball. “They want to make sure that every bit of data collected for an event goes back to the attendee record, and then their clients can more effectively market to those attendees in the future.”
• Self-service event-app provider Attendify released in November 2017 has a complementary product called Audiences, aimed at the same goals as Vista’s acquisitions. “Clients use our app to get attendees to build personal schedules, look at speaker and sponsor profiles, connect with others through social forums—and all those clicks are collected and then aggregated with data from other sources,” says Michael Balyasny, Attendify’s CEO. Audiences provides a view of every attendee’s actions: polls taken, sessions and speaker ratings, exhibitor interactions, photos posted, etc. It also allows for individualized marketing communications. “We’ve had the analytics tools, but one part was unfinished: being able to use the signals attendees were sending through their actions to personalize outreach to them and improve marketing outcomes. Now it exists.”
• In mid-2018, Freeman will release two related products called Fuzion and Quant. The company calls Fuzion “the industry’s first-ever open-digital event technology platform,” providing a common language for integration between dozens of apps and software products. “We designed it because planners have a bunch of technologies they’re trying to stitch together to tell the whole story of their event data, to generate insights and act on them, and it’s pretty tough right now,” says Richard Maranville, executive vice president and chief digital officer for Freeman. After Fuzion connects data across registration, mobile apps, and other systems in the event ecosystem, that’s where Quant comes in. “We wanted to solve the analytics problem where once you have all the data linked in one place, what can you do with it,” he says. And to complete its products, Freeman is building a consortium of event-technology partners who will integrate their offerings with Fuzion and Quant; at least 35 technology providers were involved with Freeman at press time, with more expected both before the products’ launch and for future iterations.
A DIY Alternative
Despite the potential of multi-source data-capture and analytics products, they require another technology purchase by meeting departments that might not have the budget to do so, or the volume of events to warrant the investment.
It is, however, possible to create a system for capture and analysis without an overarching aggregation product. It starts by determining the data capabilities for each app and software product in use. “The first place that planners should look to for analytical help is their present tech providers,” says event-technology consultant Corbin Ball. “They’re the ones closest to the data and each should provide some dashboard or an easy way to import that data for you to work with.”
But even in a case where a department’s current products don’t interface well with each other or don’t offer robust analytical tools, Ball suggests a handy workaround: IBM Watson Analytics. Watson offers a free tool where a department can upload a spreadsheet with up to 50 columns and 100,000 rows of data, and run detailed analyses. “Many events could really do a lot with that amount of data,” Ball says. “And you don’t have to be a data geek to work it. You can run queries that are phrased in plain English, and it will process the data, find correlations, and help you display the results.”