The new age of experiential measurement

Alan Doyle

After many a false dawn and having made it to June relatively unscathed, it finally feels like we’re able to call 2022 as the year of the return of live events. Sweet relief.

Event marketers aren’t holding back in their delight and many are even filing their virtual plans under ‘MaybeTheyWon’tMakeMeDoThisNow’. While we believe the future is (mostly) hybrid, we are as excited as everyone else to be back delivering amazing experiences in person. But we also are pushing our clients not to discard the benefits of virtual. Yes, cynics, there are some. Reach is an obvious one but measurement has had perhaps even more profound an impact.

Let’s be honest, measurement is the stick with which other marketing channels like to beat our beloved world of experiential. Too often, a digital marketer will point to seemingly endless data points ‘proving’ the effectiveness of their work and we reply with “yeah, but look at how our audience *feels*” (with apologies to those of us who do it better than this facetious comment suggests).

But the rise of virtual changed that. Thanks to the infrastructure provided by virtual platforms (both pre-existing and rapidly developed as investment flowed into the sector), event folks suddenly had ALL the data: attendees, dwell time, engagement on specific sections, interactions, etc.

Here’s where it got really interesting. Another area event marketing suffers is in integration with broader marketing efforts: measuring the event effectiveness as part of a much broader engagement cycle has always been challenging because of the inherent differences in the nature of the interaction. But we started talking to some of the more forward-thinking brands about how this could be solved: your event interactions are now digital interactions, so what does your digital CRM look like and can we start to integrate the event measurement into a broader analysis and gain richer insights into event effectiveness as part of the full marketing infrastructure?

This might be giving you a headache. It’s a big problem to solve.

But we’re the anti-cynics on topics like this. To roll out the cliche, what an *incredible* opportunity for our industry. We know in our bones how effective event interactions are… now’s the chance to measure it and stand tall next to our marketing cousins and brag about the data that backs it up; to think more deeply about when and how the event moments integrate with wider communication cycles so that we can make them even more effective. This is our moment.

Is this opportunity being lost with the return to IRL? We say - or rather, we plead - don’t let it go. Sure, the challenge remains real to deploy sophisticated measurement for in-person experiences. But we’ll let you in on a secret: there are brands out there who have always done it well. It won’t surprise you who they are, as they’re very smart people with a fundamental appreciation for data and its benefits.

The pivot to virtual has shone a spotlight on the issue, drawing the attention of the whole industry instead of a minority. We had a taste of this data-rich world with our virtual exploits but there’s so much more that can be done in terms of integration and in terms of realizing the potential of measurement for in-person.

A final word of encouragement: if you’ve ever felt constrained by a budget, now is the time to engage with this topic. Nothing will make the case for greater investment in your event marketing than a measurement plan that will demonstrate its effectiveness.