Your beachfront conference venue might be exceptional. The band at your networking party could be on point. Maybe you’re personalizing attendees’ cappuccinos by drawing their silhouettes in the foam. But if your speaker selection is off, your event has a big problem.
That’s because while destination choice and networking opportunities are two top factors impacting event attendance (no data yet on coffee toppings), educational content is the number one driver that brings people to events. And studies have shown that the person delivering this content makes all the difference.
“Speakers are an essential element that can take an event from ordinary to extraordinary,” says Sarah Hill of Seven Events. “They’re crucial to setting the tone of the event, attracting attendees and educating their audience. Speakers go as far as influencing the entire direction of an event, so choosing the right ones is not to be taken lightly.”
There are a wealth of resources out there on how to get creative with your session format — Slido and PCMA in particular offer some great advice. Ian Altman has provided helpful tips on the top ways speakers can engage audiences before, during and after their presentations. Now we’re throwing our hat into the ring with a topic near and dear to our hearts: Here’s how to use your event data to pick speakers who will resonate with your target audience.
What we mean by “event data”
We realize that event data can be a bit of a nebulous term. Did an attendee tell you in the concession line that she really liked the keynote presentation? Event data! But for the purposes of this article, let’s clarify that we’re talking about the hard data captured via event technology, or the digital tools event organizers use to increase their productivity, boost their attendee engagement factor and maximize their overall event analytics prowess.
To drive down even further, in this post we’ll focus on event data gleaned from your event registration platform, mobile event app and the backend data platform they’re built upon. It’s time to mine those worker bees for hidden treasure, specifically a breakdown of your ticket sales, ratings and reviews of your speakers and sessions, private social network activity and real-time polling results.
8 data sources that shed insights
Ratings: Your event app should allow you to set up a numerical or star-based ratings scale for both sessions and individual speakers. Once you export the results, start looking for trends: Are there particular speakers or topic categories that performed better than others? Are there instances where a speaker received high ratings but their session fared poorly? The more data you have access to, the better.
Reviews: Similar to the ratings functionality, your attendees should be able to easily submit reviews of both a speaker and their session through your event app. Because reviews consist of free-form text, analyzing them will most likely be a more time-consuming task than processing ratings. But the insights are worth it! This type of attendee feedback is rich with keywords and phrases that will help you better understand why a speaker or session topic resonated — and that can be harvested later for post-event nurture campaigns.
Event ticket sales and session registration data: Think you can’t get a good pulse on speaker popularity by merely looking at your overall event registration data? Think again! If you keep close track of when you promote particular speakers and sessions via email, social media and other channels, and then cross reference that against your registration platform’s reports, you’ll be able to make a strong connection between the two. A solid event registration system should be able to tell you when your attendees registered to the minute, as well as other helpful information like their ticket type, specific promo codes used in your marketing efforts and their information entered at checkout.
Speaking of getting your hands on more session-specific data, if your event tech vendor has a session registration feature (shameless plug: Attendify is launching ours in a matter of weeks and is offering personalized previews now) then you’ve really hit the jackpot. An intuitive session registration tool will sync seamlessly between your registration platform and event app, and be built upon a backend data platform that houses your precious event data. Once you set up your schedule, attendees can easily navigate their packed agendas and pick sessions from the comfort of their mobile phones. And you’ll be able to tell exactly how speakers’ session registrations are performing in real time. That’s peace of mind to planners worried about the capacity of meeting rooms, and a data goldmine for event organizers looking at registration data to see which speakers and sessions were most popular.
Session check-in status: “Alright,” you may be asking, “but how do I know if attendees actually showed up to the sessions they signed up for? For all I know, they were on their third cup of cappuccino in the lobby.” Aha! Well, we may be total nerds (we definitely are), but this is where crunching your event data gets fun. If your event tech provider has a check-in app that pairs with its session registration feature and backend data platform, your team can use their mobile phones to scan attendees in and out of sessions as they arrive and leave. Later you’ll have access to stats like:
- Session registration vs no-shows
- Number of attendees who slipped out early
- Walk-up attendees (if you’re accepting them)
Private social networking activity: The beauty of the best event apps is that they come with a built-in private social network, where attendees can exclusively share information and interact with their peers at the event. The resulting activity stream is fertile ground for posts, comments and photos about particular sessions and speakers. Much like auditing reviews, going through your entire social stream history post-event is going to take some time. But the payoff will be worth it: You’ll learn which speakers and session topics sizzled, which ones snoozed, and be able to harvest free-text insights from attendees “in the moment.”
Real-time polling: If your event app has a real-time polling feature, you should be able to post polls either directly to your private social network’s activity stream or within specific sessions. Event organizers can schedule polls or post them on the fly. Conducting digital polls is a great way to keep your attendees engaged — and engagement is always a good indicator of speaker/session popularity.
Post-event surveys: Some event apps have built-in survey functionality, while others allow you to connect to the survey provider of your choice via a webview arrangement. Whichever way you choose to go, make sure you export and consolidate all of your data in one location, so you can cross-reference onsite-driven data with post-event stats. Did you know there’s actually a science to composing a great survey? We love these detailed tips from G2.
Mainstream social media: While your event app hopefully has its own private social network, you can be sure your attendees are interacting on your mainstream social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn as well. Combing through these event posts might not be the way you’d like to spend a Friday night, but take note: When attendees share their speaker experiences with their personal network it’s a sure sign you’re onto something.
Thoughts on putting it all together
Okay, that’s a lot of information. How about some more? If your event tech solution is built with an all-in-one philosophy in mind, data from its event registration system and event app should all pour into the same place. This backend analytics platform is where data is captured, stored and harvested later. And that’s a beautiful thing, because there’s a lot you can do with this information when you put it all together. Below is just a sampling:
Combine registration and event app data: Once your event is complete, be sure to compare session registration rates against the ratings and reviews those speakers/sessions received. Of particular interest:
- Which sessions sold out but had low ratings and reviews?
- Which sessions had low attendance but high ratings and reviews?
Taking the extra time to extrapolate this information will inspire you to go beyond the numbers and find out what really went down. Did a great speaker bring a dead topic to life? Were attendees bummed out when a speaker dropped the ball on a popular topic?
Session Insights: Charting engagement vs popularity: Machine learning (ML) is bringing a whole new ballgame to the meetings and events industry, one where algorithms and statistical models can be applied to large sets of event data to generate predictions. One solution that leverages ML to get to the bottom of event data is Attendify’s Session Insights feature. In a nutshell, the tool allows event pros to correlate session popularity to attendee session engagement. If a session was popular but garnered low engagement, it would be considered an “outlier,” and worthy of additional inspection to better understand why. The same goes for a session that was unpopular but drove a lot of engagement.
Looking for year-over-year trends: Word to the wise: Make sure your event tech provider allows you to archive your event data and access it long after the event is over. Maybe you need a little time to digest insights after your conference is through. Or maybe you’ll be hosting the same speaker or session topics at multiple events, and want to compare their performances over time. Having your data backed up for export later gives you a little more runway to crunch your numbers, and allows you to assess trends.
Jessica Waggoner is the Director of Client Experience at Attendify, where she leads the international Customer Success, Onboarding and Live Support teams that assist over 2,500 clients. She has more than nine years of experience in the fields of Client Success, Customer Service, Project Management and leading global teams. Jessica is passionate about building processes and resources to help others. In her spare time, she enjoys creating things — cooking, macrame and even Halloween costumes for her dog, Brutus. Reach out to her on LinkedIn.