Event Success: Why Engagement Data, Not Registrations Is Today’s Most Important KPI
The event industry has undergone radical transformation in the past ten years, as digital and mobile app platforms have made virtual events more commonplace, and have likewise taken in-person and hybrid events, and the to new heights. The past year, in particular, has seen an acceleration of these digital-first event experiences out of necessity, accommodating for the needs of public health orders that limited gatherings and travel.
Digital experiences that support virtual, in-person, and hybrid events offer new ways to create lasting connections and build ongoing communities, particularly in the short-term, as some restrictions continue to limit the event space. They also offer new frontiers of insights for measuring and marketing today’s events, regardless of their format.
Though the game has changed in the events industry, as a result of this digital transformation, too many marketers and event organizers are still gauging an event’s success based on outmoded metrics. Instead of merely looking at registration data as a benchmark, or leading indicator, event marketers and organizers should be analyzing and understanding event engagement data, in all its various forms, as a way to measure an event’s effectiveness.
The Problem With Registration Data
Registration data has long been a tool in the arsenal of event organizers, because it’s easy to gather, and serves as a good indicator of the level of interest and enthusiasm surrounding an event. Marketers know that registrations don’t mean actual day-of, or even or on-demand attendance, but they’ve become accustomed to using this data, because there have not been any real alternatives to it, until recently.
While registrations are a good leading indicator to judge how successful an event may be, they can’t be the end-all measure, but rather serve as a baseline. Registration data works as a way to gauge initial interest, which certainly has value, but for it to be meaningful, it needs to be judged against actual attendance. If registrations are high, but attendance of in-person events or online event participation numbers are low, the registration data itself doesn’t serve to elucidate anything about the audience, the marketing event’s format and programming, nor its content and community.
The reality is that the success of an event isn’t just a matter of who shows up. Rather, it’s determined by how attendees are distinctly engaged throughout, and what event marketers and professionals are able to do with that engagement data to drive post-event targeting and personalized campaigns.
What Engagement Data Means & Why It Matters
Instead of starting and ending their event analysis using solely surface-level insights, such as registrations, or even attendance data for that matter, marketers and event organizers need to look deeper at more valuable forms of data: particularly those that center on attendee engagement, or each participant’s unique interactions. Tracking engagement data means monitoring individual-level audience behaviors, and the intent, which their actions signal, across multiple events and formats, whether in-person, hybrid or virtual.
As an event is taking place, marketers and event organizers are able to leverage integrated virtual and mobile event technologies with built-in attendee data platforms, to identify high-intent or other key attendee audiences, based on their unique, individual-level interactions and behavioral engagement. There are countless intent signals that can be identified, and when these triggers are initiated, audiences can be segmented and targeted based on what their actions have indicated during the course of an event. Some examples what of these intent triggers could be include:
- Live and on-demand session attendance
- Liked posts and mentions, overall or on a specific topic
- Profile information, interest areas, or expertise
- Engaging in chats and messaging with others
- Participating in breakouts or group discussions
- Downloading relevant documents or materials
- Posting photos or videos that influence others
- Community comments that contain certain keywords
- Polls taken, speaker ratings, or participation in Q&A
- Engagement with fellow attendees, speakers, and more
- Sponsor and exhibitor booth visits and conversations
- Or whatever trigger, or combination of triggers, is most valuable to an event
This type of behavioral data can then be leveraged to better understand your event audience and inform optimization of event programming and content, as well as serve marketing efforts and sales campaigns for maximum relevance and resonance.
For example, say you have an attendee of your annual Event Marketing & Measurement Conference, who has attended an on-site or virtual session on Womens’ Leadership in the Industry and then, after the presentation, downloaded a corresponding document on a similar but supplemental topic: Best Practices for Women Leaders. Marketers can take this data and use it in retargeting efforts, tailoring an email campaign towards that specific attendee with content relevant to the event-specific topics and materials, with which she has already engaged or in which she’s shown interest. With these two points of data alone, it’s safe to say that male-only leadership, or career-related content, may not be quite as relevant to this attendee.
This data can also be shared with event sponsors and partners. Say one of the event sponsors specializes in coaching women leaders to reach their career goals; they can begin targeting that particular attendee, because they know she has a demonstrated interest in leadership.
Furthermore, if 50 percent of the entire attendee audience attended, generously interacted during and after, and downloaded supplementary materials for the same session, while another on Email Campaign Strategies only received 15 percent audience attendance with minimal interactivity, organizers can focus future marketing events around more women’s leadership-related content and sessions. The data gleaned from attendee interactions, or engagement, can be exceedingly valuable to understanding audiences and tailoring marketing efforts and future events to demonstrated needs, preferences, and intent.
By moving towards an engagement-driven data model, as the primary means for measuring success, organizers and marketers can finally make events a part of a broader campaign strategy, and events will no longer be exiled to live on their own “tactical island.” Instead of simply relying on basic registration or attendance data, attendee engagement data and intent signals can be used to optimize future events, generate high-interest leads, increase the sales pipeline, and ultimately grow revenue to impact the bottom line.