As a corporate event planner for a data management company, I am immersed in the language of big data, data availability and data reliability. This has led me to begin reflecting upon the events we manage and how data can drive our event-making decisions.

It is a best practice to set metrics pre-event, and conduct attendee surveys and host debriefs post-event — all in an effort to gather event data. This gathered data provides event planners the ability to gain new insights for the future planning of trade shows and conferences.

The types of data available for trade shows and conferences varies, yet the event intelligence from both enables us to make data-centric decisions. There are many ways to collect and harvest the event data and below are a few illustrations.

Trade shows

A metric score card is a useful tool in the trade show planning process. It should document the show's total attendance, lead generation goals (i.e. hot leads and general booth scans), sales pipeline opportunities and total show investment. If captured accurately, the metric score card sets the baseline goals for future shows.

Additionally, a detailed tradeshow portfolio data analysis (i.e. annual show calendar, target audiences, lead goals, show investments and booth square footage) is a strategic and prudent exercise to formulate a recommended annual trade show portfolio.

Lastly, a show booth design and layout should be determined according to the audience's product preferences and interests. The target audience needs to be known and understood in order to determine an optimal product showcase.

With a data-centric mindset and approach, a metric score card, show analysis and optimal product showcase can easily be developed and managed.


Data from conference attendees is expansive with technology such as heat mapping and attendee tracking, which are available to planners today. Other less invasive data-harvesting methods for conference planning include the compilation of a detailed post-event report, collection of attendee feedback and reporting of social media and web analytics.

A comprehensive post-event report with registration stats (i.e. registered vs. no shows, attendee profiles, etc.), food and beverage guarantees vs. actuals and hotel room block usage (i.e. pickup vs. contracted) can optimize future event contracts with more accurate statistics.

Attendee feedback can gather a wide array of data. However for the purposes of future planning, insights into which conference elements were most valuable vs. invaluable and the overall impact of their attendance (i.e. led to a purchasing decision, experienced increased learning, expanded network, etc.) should be gathered.

Social media and web analytics provides a wealth of attendee information, including social impressions and mentions, and website visitors and data on a visitor's website experience (i.e. which pages visited, amount of time spent on each page).

These analytics provide an understanding for optimizing both the social and web strategy for an increased attendee engagement.

The opportunity to use analytics in our planning processes is exciting. Nonetheless as Joe McKeown, managing director at The Event Leadership Institute stated: "Planners have a lack of time to become fluent in the data at hand, moreover leverage the available data for planning purposes. They [planners] risk experiencing 'information exhaust.'"

These are valid points from McKeown and further the justification for selecting a few data-collection methods that can generate accessible and digestible insight in an effort to discover new innovative ideas and achieve the greatest event success.