How to Identify and Analyze Your Event Data, from Marketing to Post-Event

Perhaps your company or organization recently held an event. Whether it was an in-person event, a virtual event, or a hybrid mix of the two, hopefully, you were able to gather some numbers — via event key performance indicators (KPIs) and/or other methods — that you can now use to analyze event data and create better experiences for attendees in the future.


Gathering Data

With hybrid and virtual event planning, event data analytics are typically easier to calculate because much visitor activity is tracked, tabulated and stored for analysis. But even with physical, in-person events, there’s data that can be used as KPIs that’s recorded and saved.

For instance, even physical events typically track the number of registrants, attendees, non-attendees (people who registered but did not attend) and session attendees. At trade shows, some booths will record how many visitors they had, or how many interacted with the booth staff. In many cases, booths will keep contact information of visitors, or perhaps they run contests or giveaways, and they can partially measure the number of visitors using entry counts for these.

    • Did the physical event have program guides or daily show newspapers?
    • How many of these were picked up?
    • Were there surveys distributed anywhere that could give you an idea of specific numbers?

Of course, with real-world events (and portions of events), it’s harder to track variables such as attendance duration, conference or speaker engagement and visitor networking; but through ad hoc sampling and conversations with exhibitors and/or presenters, it should be possible to get an idea of how to analyze event data and figure out who was particularly popular at a real, in-person event — and who wasn’t.

In a worst-case scenario, you can always try to see if there’s video camera footage of an event that you could watch speeded up, so you can see how much activity there was (and where it was specifically, and at what times of day).


Event Registrants

One of the first numbers to look at is the number of registrants for an event. Many planners and organizers look at the number of registrants to get an idea of how much interest there was in the event in the first place — regardless of how many people attended. Many of these same planners and organizers have a predetermined number in mind by which they use to measure “success.”

There’s definitely a chicken-and-egg factor here; if the theme of the event being examined is undeniably popular, but registration numbers are low in the face of this popularity, then some questions to ask are: 

    • What can explain the low numbers?
    • Was the theme popular before the event was promoted, or did the event happen before the theme got popular?
    • Was the event poorly advertised?
    • Was there enough time for people to hear about the event and register for it?
    • Did word-of-mouth for the event build and/or peak?
    • Was there an obvious reason why not many people registered?
    • Could cost or some other issue have been a factor?
    • Was the event easy to get to and easy to access? (Even though we’re speaking about registration, and not attendance, many people won’t register for an event if they think it will be impossible or unlikely for them to go.)


Boosting Registration Numbers Can Usually Be Accomplished by Three Actions:

1. Making Registration Appealing and Easy

This can be as simple as reducing any costs and the time it takes to register to an absolute minimum. Is it possible to make your event free to attend? It’s great to gather as much data as you can for registrants, but recognize that most people don’t want to fill out endless forms, so registration should be as quick and painless as possible. Can you offer people anything in return for registering (a discount on an item or a service offered by a partner, for instance)?

2. Promoting the Event

Do you have a budget to promote your event? Have you found outlets and channels to advertise and promote that will deliver impressions and results in the form of registrations? Have you promoted the event in the press and on social media? Are people talking about your event? Is there a “buzz” about it? For larger events, independent promoters and public relations firms can help in this regard.

3. Tying the Event Into a Popular Trend, Activity or Topic

While some industries or marketplaces may attract perennial or seasonal interest, new or up-and-coming events and themes can struggle to attain popularity. If your event falls into this latter category — or if your industry generally lacks excitement or interest — ask yourself if what you’re planning can tie into a larger scheduled happening, trend, announcement or introduction — or even a celebrity appearance.

Sometimes, it could be as simple as hosting an event that happens concurrently with a similar-themed occurrence taking place in the same city or in a virtual venue. As some people say, “1+1=3” — meaning that even if you don’t have a formal partnership or agreement with another company, organization, group or event-thrower, just hosting your event at roughly the same time and/or in close proximity to another happening can produce results that are greater than what you might be able to achieve on your own. Imagine throwing a trade show or virtual conference focused on professional sports during the same week or hosted in the same city as the Super Bowl, for instance; your registration would be almost guaranteed to increase.


Event Attendance

Attendance and registration numbers will almost always differ from each other, but the question to ask is why. Which number was greater? Typically, there are more registrations than attendees, but not always. Was it possible for people to attend the event without registering? Some event planners and organizers set things up this way in order to boost attendance. But unless a hybrid or virtual event platform is utilized, tracking people who attended but didn’t register can be difficult or even impossible.

Some real-world events have people with handheld counters at the doors to measure the number of people entering and/or exiting, but typically, many events will be ticketed (even if the cost is free), and attendance can be tracked this way. With a virtual or hybrid event solution, it’s even easier to analyze event data as everything typically takes place in a virtual environment.

    • What does it mean if registration was high, but attendance was low?
    • Is there a logical reason that can account for this?
    • With an in-person or hybrid event, was weather a factor?
    • Was the physical event location easy and convenient to access?
    • Was getting to the location quick and stress-free?
    • If a virtual event platform was used, was access easy and without hurdles?

Some of these circumstances are within your control, while others may not be. Try to use any that were hindrances as learning opportunities.


Some Ways to Boost Attendance for Your Event Include:

1. Making Attendance Attractive and Convenient

The scheduling of an event can be all-important. While tying an event into a larger trend, happening or phenomenon (see above) can work in your favor, the exact timing and duration details should be thought about carefully before a commitment is made to a particular schedule. Conflicts with other happenings (even those that may be completely unrelated) need to be taken into consideration.

For instance, with a few minor exceptions, you should never schedule an event on a holiday, or even on a day or days that you know people will use for other activities — such as the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, for example. 

2. Hosting Special Occasions or Other Happenings

Can your event be where companies make major announcements or introduce brand-new products? Will your event host appearances by well-known industry figures or celebrities? Can your event be the only place where attendees will be able to witness, talk to or watch someone or something special? These are all ways to increase the attendance of your event, whether it’s real, hybrid or virtual.

3. Promoting Registration Numbers (If They’re High)

Nothing succeeds like success — meaning that if your registration numbers are already high, you should advertise them. It’s always easier to get someone to attend an event if they think their peers, competitors or sales prospects might be there. Use what’s known as FOMO — the fear of missing out — to your advantage. If people believe they have more to gain by attending than not showing up, the choice then becomes easy. Success breeds further success, just like a snowball building in size when it rolls downhill; sometimes all you need to do is get the ball rolling in the first place.


Pre, During, and Post-Event Surveys

Of course, numbers tell just part of the story; they really only tell the quantity side. For a perspective on quality, you may want to turn to survey questions to ask your attendees — ideally those conducted on-the-spot while an event is taking place. But if this isn’t possible, follow-up surveys may be used. Asking open-ended questions that leave room for lengthy responses can help you gauge the reaction of attendees. Ask them detailed questions that don’t have yes or no answers. Instead of asking “Did you like this event?” or “Would you return to this event if it were held again?”, ask questions like “What did you like about this event?” or “Why do you think you would come back to this event?”

When you have a wide range of answers to open-ended questions, you’ll learn a lot. It’s rare for an event to be successful the first time it happens; most successful occasions have to recur multiple times before their organizers and planners can really build on what’s been successful and phase out what’s not been as effective.

Smart event planners and organizers are able to not just examine numbers, but to look deeper and to ask “Why?” instead of just asking “What?” or “How much?”. Using the answers to “Why?” questions to build better experiences in the future is the key to successful event planning.


 E-Book: The Playbook to Planning Your Virtual Event

Related Resources:

6 Ways to Make Your Next Event More Engaging with Interactive Content

How to Make Your Virtual Trade Show Booth Stand Out

How to Humanize Your Virtual Event

How to Captivate Your Audience in a Virtual Environment

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