If you’re part of a team that is responsible for event strategy you probably know how difficult it is to tell if anything you do actually moves the needle. In any exercise in engagement there are the numbers that make you feel good, and there are metrics that really tell you what’s going on. Online marketing has become an excellent model for understanding the difference, in part because the actions people take online are so much easier to track and measure. Tools like Google Analytics or mixpanel have become common indicators of online performance – allowing easy access to insights derived from hundreds of data points and making it possible to test, tweak, and refine your online offerings for optimal impact and engagement.

No professional would try to manage a website, pay-per-click campaign, or any other online program without these insights. The dashboards that let them access that data – diced and sliced and presented as every kind of graph and grid imaginable – are their “command center” for deciding how they should deploy their resources.

Tracking What Matters

Real insights are more than just numbers. Unlike what is often referred to as “vanity metrics” such as the number of “likes” a single post gets on Facebook if there is no measurement for whether or not those who liked the post match the ideal audience the post was aimed at, or the number of unique clicks a single landing page gets with no idea of how long those people stayed on that page or how they interacted with it while they were there, insights compare multiple data points to paint a picture of the performance of any campaign, program, or initiative. 

To be meaningful, metrics must be aligned with objectives. It’s common for event program managers to set goals for each individual event. But to evaluate the effectiveness of the program as a whole, it’s important to take that thinking up a level. What are the primary objectives of your entire event program? To promote your brand or message, drive sales, increase funding, educate or train, or something different? How do you quantify the results of your event program? Is it by exposure, engagement, samples distributed, surveys taken, product sold, or some other outcome? But how do you relate those measurements to your ultimate objective?

That’s where insights come in. In much the way a physician would never make a diagnosis or treatment recommendation based only on a single test or vital sign, you won’t make the best decisions about your event program based only on whether or not a single event met the goals you’ve established or whether you’ve handed out 1,000,000 throughout the course of the year. 

A goal represents a single variable, measured against a desired result. You might, for instance, set a goal for the number of people who enter a drawing at your conference booth, or for the number of people who attend your webinar. Insights represent multiple variables in relationship to each other to give you a deeper understanding, not only of the results themselves, but why you got the results you did and how you can improve them. 

Knowing What Matters

When you’re used to defining your success metrics by individual event goals it might require shift to think in terms of program-wide insights. This ROI checklist for experiential marketing might be helpful in refining your approach to collecting and measuring event-based data.

Access to these insights gives you the ability to mimic much of the A/B testing methodology you’re probably accustomed to using in other types of marketing. So you’ll want to know what kinds of information you use to make decisions because this will help you determine what comparison data points you need to measure. Would it be meaningful to know what geographic regions are most responsive to your offering? Or what demographic groups were most likely to engage? What if you could measure the number of people who requested your slides from “Presentation A” versus “Presentation B”? Remember that insights are derived from comparing and analyzing data across multiple events, so the more consistent you are in the data you collect the more meaningful your insights will be. 

Using What Matters

Of course, no data can be meaningful unless you use it to change your outcomes for the better. That’s one of the reasons you set goals in the first place. However, using goals versus results as a decision making measurement usually only allows you to make binary choices. You can decide whether or not you will do a certain event again or whether or not you will offer a certain product to a specific geographic area, but you won’t necessarily have any clear indicators about what adjustments you should make before your next event. 

Insights, on the other hand, give you the power to change the variables that most impact the success of your event program. For instance, in this article about event program decision making, we took a look at the kinds of variables you can control and tweak for increased ROI. 

Because okapi aggregates the data from multiple events and presents comparisons and trends on your dashboard in near-real-time, you can not only make better decisions before your next event, you can even make data-informed decisions about the next day of a multi-day event. 

Decision making power like this is incredibly beneficial for things like guerilla marketing. When your field team is roaming around a city looking for the best places to drop-in, being able to immediately gather data on crowd-size and then compare that data to basic survey questions around demographics could quickly tell your team they’re activating in the wrong place or at the wrong event. Without collecting and visualizing data instantly that team could waste an entire day handing out samples to a group of people who will never go on to become customers. 

You design your event program to get results. We designed okapi to deliver the business intelligence and process control you need to get those results. If making an event program a success is part of your role let’s talk about how using the insights, best practices, and business intelligence built into okapi can make that easier and more effective.