According to a new report from the Trade Show News Network, the biggest benefit technology has brought to the conference business is data—specifically, the ability to apply it to event planning.
Of the many things that technology has done for event planners over the years, perhaps the most important is generating data they can act on.
That’s a key finding of the Convention & Exhibition Management Technology Study, a new report from the Trade Show News Network, Access Intelligence, and Cvent. When asked to name the most important technology developments in recent years, two-thirds of surveyed event managers cited the ability to use data to make better event management decisions. Likewise, two-thirds named the ability to use event data to improve attendance marketing and communication.
The survey found no clear consensus on exactly what “event tech” is. While apps were the most common response, at 19 percent, the survey included 12 other options ranging from event management software (11 percent) to audiovisual components (6 percent) to education and content management (2 percent).
“The term event technology means a wide range of different things to convention and exhibition executives,” the report states.
Meanwhile, a comparison of the event technology infrastructure used by associations and for-profit entities offers some interesting contrasts. For event setup, associations generally rely on an event management platform (71 percent versus 60 percent of for-profits); they are less likely than for-profits to use CRM platforms (43 percent versus 50 percent) and onsite tablets (33 percent versus 55 percent). Associations are more likely to use marketing automation (43 percent versus 35 percent) but less likely to market using search engines (29 percent versus 45 percent).
Technology budgets may be driving that difference. Thirty-one percent of association respondents said they planned to spend more than $100,000 on technology this year, far fewer than the 42 percent of for-profits that said the same. Associations were far more likely than for-profits to have a budget lower than $50,000 (31 percent versus 18 percent) but less likely to have a budget between $50,000 and $100,000 (37 percent versus 48 percent).
Generally, though, most respondents said they expect to spend more this year. More than three-quarters of organizations (77 percent) were looking to increase their technology spending in 2017—with an average increase of about 10.8 percent—though respondents were most likely to say costs and budgets were their biggest challenge (25 percent).
Associations often want their event data to serve a number of purposes, including:
- gaining better understanding of customers or members (74 percent)
- improving education programming (68 percent)
- conducting event surveys (63 percent)
- measuring audience engagement (58 percent)
- boosting leads for exhibitors, sponsors, or partners (58 percent).
Ultimately, data from events is providing organizations with better marketing insights: 38 percent of respondents said marketing was the most effective way they were using event technology.
“Event producers are making the leap from using technology to better communicate with attendees to now capturing and tracking the large amounts of data generated,” the report states. “What’s needed is understanding what the data means and how event producers can use it to improve their event business and attendee experience.”