If you’re using events to market, fundraise, or even educate, you’re probably already collecting data from event attendees. (If you aren’t then this article is just what you need to get you jumpstarted on doing it right. If you are then this article might make you rethink your methodology.)

You may be thinking of data simply in terms of mailing lists, or event statistics and demographics. But when event data is properly collected, managed, and analyzed it can tell you so much more. Answering these five questions is the starting place for designing a data methodology that can not only reveal whether or not an event was a success, but how to make the next event, as well as your product or service offering, so much better. 

#1 – What are Your Objectives?

The data you collect and the way you go about collecting it must first be defined by the result you want your events to have, so this is the first question you need to answer. 

What do you need your event program to do? Is your primary objective to build awareness of your brand, product, or cause? Or is it to create recognition of your personal brand or expertise. Maybe you’re running a field event marketing campaign or an experiential marketing campaign and your objective is to have as many people as possible interact with your field ambassadors or sample your product.  

Your event program may include more than one campaign and your events may have more than one objective. But until you know the outcomes you’re investing in you can’t design a data methodology to achieve them.

#2 – What Experience Do You Want Attendees to Have?

Think about the various points of interaction you will have with attendees and the way you want them to experience your brand. Will they be stopping by a booth for a demo or samples? Or sitting in on a lecture, book reading, training course, or other presentation? Will they be interacting with your representatives live or virtually through a webinar or other virtual portal? 

Where in the points of interaction will you have the opportunity to collect data? Will attendees complete the survey forms on their own devices or on your devices? Will they receive a coupon, presentation deck, or other incentive when they fill out the form? 

To get attendees engaged enough to ante up honest feedback and personal data you need to design your data collection methodology to match up with their event experience. 

#3 – How Will You Measure KPIs?

One of the questions we ask a lot when we’re working with clients to design their data structure and survey questions is this; “Are you measuring what matters?” 

For instance, if your primary objective is to educate a particular demographic about solar energy then your KPIs have to not only indicate how many individuals attended the event, or how many individuals that matched that demographic interacted with your information, they’d have to include some indicator of what those individuals learned about solar energy. 

Aligning your KPIs to your objectives is imperative if you want to consistently improve the outcomes of your event program.

#4 – How Will You Measure Progress?

Just as managing a successful season is more than just playing a bunch of individual baseball games, event program management is more than pulling off a series of individual events. To create successful strategies and campaigns you have to be able to see when the needle moves and what moves it. And that requires more than KPIs. Your strategy depends on the ability to analyze and compare multiple data points across multiple events. 

For instance, if you’re doing an experiential marketing campaign a comparative data analysis might indicate that young men in the Pacific Northwest say they’re more likely to purchase your product than males of the same age range in the Midwest. So you sample a different flavor of the product at your next Midwest event and run another analysis. 

Comparing data from one event to the next is one of the real advantages of implementing an event program management software solution– using consistent field naming protocols, survey templates, and standard questions will enable you to track progress after every change you make in your event strategy. 

#5 – How Will You Achieve Success?

Success isn’t achieved just by collecting and analyzing data. In fact, data doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t use the intelligence you’ve amassed to make changes that get the results you want from your event program. Whatever objectives you defined in the beginning, whatever goals and targets you established when you set up your campaigns, it’s not enough to know if you’re hitting the mark or not, you have to know what you can change to put those goals within reach.

Every event in your program has a list of variables. Some you can control, some you can’t. The key is to make data-based decisions about changing those variables rather than going by gut or subjective observations. 

Whether you’re designing the next stage of your event program or tweaking your strategy for the next day of a multi-day conference, consider variables such as products sampled or demoed and the packaging, the presenters or field ambassadors or any other staff that interacted with the attendees, your booth position or the time of day your presentation was scheduled. 

These questions may seem daunting, but they’re really just the foundation of an effective campaign. Investing the time to answer them accurately will not only help you design the ideal data collection methodology, it will also improve your overall event program strategy. And that’s what it’s really all about.