Driving Growth Through New Data Channels and Unified Experiences

April 20, 2022

Nick Fugaro

Nick Fugaro is founder and CEO of Vivastream, the leading event data analytics platform in the industry. Fugaro brings a refreshing perspective to the events industry leveraging his 25+ years of experience in delivering technology solutions that help enterprises derive customer insights from data. On a mission to make event data actionable, he is an evangelist for encouraging the event industry to rely on data driven decision-making.

Since the “pivot” in 2020, the events industry has been acutely focused on how to define, plan and execute hybrid events—particularly in terms of the intersection and interaction between live and digital experiences. The shift to digital events has opened the door to a new, equally important industry imperative: how we leverage the new data channels that have emerged from digital events and integrate that data into our marketing and sales technology stacks.   

In the past, it was easier to measure event performance because gathering event data was simpler. Attendees visit a booth and get scanned, they attend a sponsored session, they see a demo, they take a sales meeting—and each of those engagement activities is assigned a specific value. KPIs were also simpler: We exceeded prior year attendance numbers; we did 100 demos; 30% of attendees polled said the event was great. Today, CMOs are telling us these metrics are not good enough. They want to know what content is being consumed and by whom, so the engagement can be more relevant and personalized.   

The good news is that digital events offer much richer, more comprehensive data to a broader audience. Now we can tell how much time people are engaging with content during the event, what content indexed well and what actions drove people back to that content post-event. If they registered for a session, did they attend? If they attended, how long did they stay? Did they download content? Did they engage with the right call to action or online offer? Beyond content consumption, we can understand who is consuming it—by region, company, industry and role.   

So how do we take those rich digital event insights and use them to enhance in-person or overall event engagement? We start by removing the internal data silos that house information on audience behavior or customer journey. We stop looking at what happened in-person and in digital as discrete things. We start looking at experiences and engagement across multiple customer touch points.  

By analyzing in-person and digital event data together, we can define the unique experiences each environment offers and then work to create a unified view of the attendee experience. This is particularly useful in optimizing the experience for customer accounts that have people attending events in both ways. We can look at behaviors across an account to see who is engaging live and who is doing it virtually. We take insights from behaviors during a live digital event and use them to drive in-person audiences to relevant and popular on-demand content.

Sounds great, right?  Unfortunately, it’s not always simple.   

A big challenge is that customer data is captured by a multitude of marketing activities and fed into sales and marketing automation systems and there is no connective tissue across those systems. Often data is force-fed into a single platform like CRM, and it doesn’t work because behavioral and preference data doesn’t fit the logic of a sales focused management platform. 

Further, data coming out of in-person and live events can be a hot mess, often across multiple spreadsheets. We need to retool how we collect, store, and analyze activities and behavior with the goal of standardizing data capture and reporting. We have to understand and take inventory of all of the data connection points and how they work together. Then we must derive insights that meet the needs of key stakeholders, including marketing, sales, account teams, executive leadership and sponsors.

It seems daunting, but harmonizing data and making it really useful is achievable. The first step is to schedule a meeting with each of those five stakeholders to understand the information and gain insights they want to learn so they could do their jobs better and can better evaluate and validate the event’s success. Once you know what each stakeholder group needs, you can assess your existing marketing and sales technology to determine if that data resides on an existing system or if you need new data and new mechanisms to capture and organize it. Then you must plan and plot out how you are going to analyze the data and deliver data insights to your stakeholders.  

Once you have a blueprint that maps insights to systems and data, you’ll want to organize and integrate it to feed each marketing system in your tech stack in the most optimal way. Then you’ll need to develop analytics models to streamline data analysis across the various data sets to create insights. Since everyone one wants the insights now, you’ll want to develop customized visualization dashboards and the ability to pull specific queries in real time. 

If you don’t have internal data scientists available to pull all of this together, consider bringing in a strategic partner that is an expert in data integration and can stitch it all together. The partner should be able to help you at every stage of the process, from stakeholder discussions to delivering custom insights. They can help pull data from your different internal and partner systems and map it all together to provide the story you need—and that allows you to do what you do best—strategize and plan better events with a more unified experience. 

Event marketers are evolving into digital marketers, and that means we have to understand data and data science. We don’t need to be afraid of this. We don’t need to know how to write code or build algorithms, but we do need to be data savvy. We must learn data terminology and know the basics about the various systems marketing and sales use to capture customer data. We also need to understand marketing and sales concepts like the marketing funnel, sales funnel and customer journey.  

Building these skills will allow us to connect the dots between our events and the marketing and sales disciplines. If we do this, when the metrics come in we’ll be able to demonstrate we took the insights and applied them to shift our event strategy, and voila: Engagement numbers went up, pipelines grew, we fed this many qualified leads, and we helped enrich these many customer conversations.   

And then the event spending and budgets will increase because leadership will see the results, recognize event attribution and understand that it makes sense to further invest in events because they deliver relevant insights that directly contribute and impact revenue growth.

Editor's note: Julie Lynch, Global Events Leader at F5, Inc., a U.S. technology company focused on software and security, contributed to this article.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.