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.

Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram!

Add new comment

Partner Voices
Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact