Harnessing the Power of Event Data for Trade Show Growth

September 12, 2019

Nineteenth-century U.S. merchant and marketing pioneer John Wanamaker observed: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.” 

Many event organizers identify with Wanamaker when it comes to event data. They know their data is telling them something, they’re just not sure what that something is. And they’re not certain how to harness their data to more closely monitor the lifeblood of their trade show: qualified attendance growth. 

Fortunately, today’s organizers have more data tools and strategies than Wanamaker did and, by following these steps, can draw insights from patterns and trends that lead to attendance growth.

Data, Data Everywhere

If you are like most organizations, you have no shortage of data. You may have data on:

  • Audience attraction (website visits, social media clicks, registrations)
  • On-site engagement (RFID metrics, mobile app engagement, keynote data from second screen)
  • Post-show follow-up (attendee opinions, costs, ROI)
  • Auxiliary data (CRM, membership data, attendee interests)

You may find, however, that it’s scattered across multiple departments and stored in various formats. 

Your first goal is to centralize this data in one place

This process is critical, as it directly affects how well you derive value from your data. To get started, create a set of data standards and a governance policy that ensures you collect and store data safely, legally and consistently. 

Your goal is to integrate data from disparate sources so you can develop a core set of metrics across all activities. 

Measure What’s Important

With your data gathered, which metrics should you be looking at for your trade show? 

Different events have different purposes, so it’s vital to figure out what success looks like for your event and determine which data points will tell you whether success has been achieved. Dig deep on this strategy, as there may be some not-so-obvious metrics that are more influential than you think.

Conversely, avoid vanity metrics. It can be tempting to measure your event based on low-hanging fruit, like overall attendance. But…did the right people attend? And did they take the desired action? 

Start by listing your business goals for each event you host, such as:

  • Attendee satisfaction
  • Demonstrating ROI to exhibitors
  • Effectiveness in learning and education
  • Reducing churn among attendees and exhibitors 
  • Improved positioning compared with competitive events

Next, list the most important metrics and key performance indicators that tell you when you have reached these goals.

And remember: Qualified attendance growth is key because it will affect all other topline metrics such as the number of exhibitors, sponsorships, and revenue growth. 

After all, your sponsors and exhibitors also want the right people at your event.

See the Forest AND the Trees

One of the challenges with event data is there are hundreds of things you can measure. Collecting the data is easy. 

Making sense of it? That’s an entirely different ballgame.

Reporting on metrics can easily fall into a pattern: You collect the data, report on it, decide whether things look good or not based on your targets, and then promptly move on. 

Moving beyond superficial reporting, however, is where data truly comes into its power. In-depth analysis and the detection of patterns allow you to not only see the big picture in a sea of metrics but also to steer your ship based on what the data is telling you. 

Make no mistake: This task is difficult and time-consuming to do manually. There are helpful tools available that can connect data across all points of your event ecosystem and turn raw data into real-time data analytics dashboards, giving you actionable insights on trends over time, validated hypotheses, and clarified assumptions about your event strategies. 

Event data can be a powerful tool. To perform at its best, it must be utilized productively. By taking the time to organize your data, set relevant goals, and then analyze what your data is telling you, you can successfully monitor and grow your event.


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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.