Data Brief: Why Event Planners should have a seat at the Executive Table

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Let's start with a basic question: Why do corporations hold customer events? Most organizations used to answer this question with: an opportunity for face to face interactions with customers that might lead to additional sales, and more brand ambassadors. But let's face it, we live in a digital age where data is king and understanding consumer behavior is paramount to the success of future products and services that customers want to buy. So why has it taken so long for events to be recognized for what they really are? A chance for corporations to gather rich data and compelling insights about their customers interests, and efficiently connect with each customer for targeted sales and marketing efforts. This is why event organizers should have a seat at the executive table.

Some in the organization might say, but wait, event organizers aren't actually selling, they aren't actually marketing, they can't account for revenue. But can't they? In fact, can't they account for more revenue opportunities than the digital marketing team and the inside sales team combined? If looked at objectively, they are managing a huge budget, sometimes up to 30% of overall marketing. They are managing content and distribution. They are managing sales opportunities and pipeline development, and they are managing all of this while giving customers their organizations most intimate experiences. That is an incredible task, and one that has massive bottom line implications.

Some organizations are starting to recognize this strategy. Microsoft recently brought on leadership that helped the entire event team recognize that their role was more than just flawless execution (which is still demanded no matter what). But rather that their role was to collect data about their customers at events, through surveys, interactions with sales teams, session attendance, and exhibit attendance, so that when the event was over their marketing and sales teams knew exactly what the customer wanted to buy. This represents a huge shift in expectations for event marketers.

So then how do event marketers actually strategically address these fundamental outcomes that are required for the executive team? The answer is simple, data. If event marketers can collect data points on the following: number of executive and product level meetings, attendance of content specific sessions, surveys of content specific sessions, brand awareness through NPS score or social media reach, number of contact exchanges (how many people actually exchanged contact information with one-another), budget management, and finally, be able to track opportunities from lead qualification through actual revenue, then the event marketer now becomes one of the most important data scientists at the organization. Because they are managing bottom line revenue.

Why has it taken so long for this shift to happen? Historically, it has been very difficult to collect data on session attendance and exhibit attendance, because the technology was either too intrusive or just too expensive. Not to mention that the data wasn't always reliable. Between RFID (too expensive) and NFC (intrusive), everyone was trying to hodgepodge together different technologies that would help them get slightly better information than simply counting heads with a clicker. But times have changed with wearables and Bluetooth technology.

Whether using a fitbit to track your steps and create a corporate wellness program, or using bluetooth earbuds to listen to massive amounts of available streaming music, bluetooth technology is revolutionizing the wearables field. This is also true for events. Not only does bluetooth technology offer an opportunity for event marketers to collect massive amount of data points (Big Data), but it also gives attendees an opportunity to collect the information from their own event attendance. Much like fitbit will give you health and step information, wearable bluetooth solutions like Loopd, give you information on things like where and when you met that interesting person, so when you follow up with them, you can do so in a more personal way. It also will tell you what exhibitors you visited and give you the ability to flag the ones you enjoyed most, so you remember exactly what you wanted to follow up with them about.

This is not just the future, this is the now. Technologies such as Loopd are enabling event marketers to collect more data and in turn provide them with valuable information to pass along to their executive team. Maybe the head of events should be the Chief Dealmaking Officer? Afterall, whoever brings in the most deals, reaps the most rewards. I think the event team has a leg up. All they need is a more strategic approach to collecting and synthesizing data.