The Year of the Intelligent Events Business

SmartExpo’s MD Jonathan Dufton explains why and how data  and intelligence will revolutionise the events industry

The events industry has increasing amounts of data at its disposal, yet it has only scratched the surface of its full potential.

2017 promises to be a turning point, as growing expectations from key industry stakeholders and the development of enabling technology will drive the shift to intelligent data-centric events businesses.

The SmartXpo (exhibitions) and SmartConnect (conferences) intelligence platforms, in collaboration with industry professionals, have been exploring why organisers need to become intelligent, what this looks like, and what the benefits of becoming intelligent will be.

Why become intelligent?

So, why does an events business need to become intelligent?

While the conference industry has always been adept at tracking event performance, there has been a tendency to reflect too much on historical information, rather than using this insight to deliver a vision of the future. Instead of drawing on the growing amount of high-quality data being captured, strategy has relied too much on ‘gut instinct’.

This leads to a fragmented, reactive approach to planning. It is also operationally inefficient, as key data points, from sales records to attendee feedback, to digital metrics, are rarely centrally located, making sourcing critical information labour intensive.

Furthermore, as competition in the industry intensifies, organisers are also under increasing pressure from sponsors to demonstrate visible and measurable return on investment. Data-driven techniques hold the key to showing that events are successfully meeting and exceeding their objectives.

Data and insight drive better decisions. Organisations cannot afford to shy away from that anymore.

Intelligent business profile

So, what does an intelligent business look like?

Driven by true intelligence, not just intuition and instinct, intelligent events businesses share the following characteristics:

• Data-centric

• Agile and proactive

• Focused on customer value creation

• Robust, efficient and consistent

Centralising data into a universally accessible dashboard enables all financial, operational, and customer information to be collected and classified in a standardised method across the organisation. This drives robust, efficient and consistent processes for everything from sales to planning and management.

Former CFO of global organiser UBM Robert Gray said: “Having access to a strategic business dashboard and data visualisation software service is critical to running an events organisation now. However, to make effective and forward-looking use of your data, the dashboard must be designed based on an in-depth understanding of the events industry.”

However, the challenge facing most organisers is to harmonise, centralise, and visualise its data.

Jonny Baynes, partner at Plural Strategy, says many organisations have the raw data, but don’t have it in the right format or on tap.

With the right data analytics tools in place, an intelligent events business will be able to overcome these obstacles and capitalise on opportunities quickly and proactively. Instant access to current intelligence inspires and improves planning, enabling fast and decisive action to be taken.


What exactly are the benefits of being an intelligent events business?

Taking an intelligence-led approach is driving transformation within organisers, resulting in a more strategic mind-set, an even closer understanding of the communities they serve, and creating operational excellence.

Andrew Carney, director at data specialists SmartXpo, puts it thus: “A strategic culture is one of the key benefits of being an intelligent events business. Whether it’s identifying opportunities for growth or recognising events at risk of decline, you can act before you are forced onto the back foot”.

“To be able to have access to all critical event information in one place, to see how an event is progressing is a huge advantage,” says Lukas Hall, head of events marketing at Incisive. “As a management team we can now identify trends and patterns which we can then relay to the team to improve day-to-day operations without taking up their time.”

Shifting a team’s focus away from dealing with complex and inefficient operations, to continually and proactively driving a step-change in operating performance through smart use of data, is the ultimate reward for transforming an organisation into an intelligent events business

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