Friend or foe: the new fight for online event data

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Friend or foe: the new fight  for online event data

The battle for online success could see event owners sleepwalking into the same quagmire that a decade ago saw online communities consumed by the likes of Facebook and Google. ExpoPlatform’s CTO Mykyta Fastovets explores the idea that some platforms are less friend than foe.


The hasty move to digital platforms over the past year has raised one question above all others – who actually controls an organiser’s customer data, and why would any platform be unwilling to share usage data so integral to an organiser’s success?

The attendee information collected at online events has lifted event data into a much larger playing field. Prior to the pandemic, an event may have had 10,000 visitors, and registration provided almost all that we could learn about them.

For events conducted on a virtual or hybrid event platform, these visitors might generate 300,000 interactions and 20,000 meetings, providing valuable insight into how the industry is connecting and doing business – an exponential increase in volume which has yet to be properly mined and understood. 

It is this data, which we call usage data (behavioural data) that is so integral to the effective growth of an organiser. 

Unlike the user data – unique demographic data that identifies a customer by name, email address, job title etc – usage data is generated by all the user interactions on the platform. This includes who met with whom, which content sessions they attended, which exhibitor profiles they viewed, and so on.

Both forms of data are incredibly valuable to organisers, who will want to suck this enriched data back into their own database to learn from it and use in future campaigns. 

But it is the usage data that is being overlooked.

The agreement you have in place with your online technology partner will tell you on which side of the line you sit: does it favour the organiser or the vendor?

Only the organiser-led model ensures the event organiser owns the relationship with their customers as data controller, with the technology platform serving only as data processor for the duration of the contract.

Here are three ways to ensure you are not giving away the lifeblood of your business.

1. Ensure you control the user data 

An event technology platform should only ever serve as a data processor. There is no need for a technology partner to store any data that identifies an individual by name, unless it plans to monetise this information down the line.

Data sharing must also be restricted to your immediate brand. No external companies or third-parties should have access to your data without your express permission.

2. Ensure the platform shares ownership of the usage data 

Online event platforms need to retain ownership of the anonymised usage data it generates for strictly limited purposes (ie. in order to function and improve the customer experience), the organiser must have co-ownership and be able to access this data whenever and however it likes.

And not only in the form of reports or representations; the platform should share the raw data itself. 

3. Make sure you own the IP

Any intellectual property shared during your event by speakers, attendees or exhibitors should also belong to the organiser rather than the technology platform.

Ask yourself, if it’s your customer, your usage data and your intellectual property; why should anybody else own it? What purpose does it serve for this data to be owned by the technology platform – and how could they use it independently of the organiser?

Knowledge is power; read the fine print. 

Stuart Wood is a news reporter across the Mash Media editorial portfolio. He writes for CMW alongside sister publications Conference News, Exhibition News, Access All Areas and Exhibition World.

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