Publishers are already aware of the value of getting to know their readers better so that they can provide them with relevant content and turn them into a more attractive audience for advertisers. As more and more publishers add events to their offering, the same holds true for knowing more about these new audiences.
My background is not in events, but I know something is going to change in the way we run events in the next few years. I know this because of my information technology background. In the last few years, I’ve seen quite a huge shift in how technologies are being adopted and what lies ahead for us.
A brief, recent history of IT people and data
Ten years ago in the IT industry, we had a massive focus on something called data centre consolidation and virtualisation – removing servers out of data centres. As part of that, we IT people started to do a tremendous amount of monitoring. We wanted lots of data. We couldn’t get enough data!
And then, about five years ago, with the transition from Windows XP to technologies like Windows 7, the attention shifted towards applications. We had people like Microsoft saying you had to understand the applications to move them from one location to the other. So we IT folk said: “Let’s monitor those, let’s understand this – give us data, give us lots and lots of data.”
But today data centres and applications are old hat and we’re never going to see that type of transformation again because companies like Microsoft find it too risky to have people move their applications. When they need you to move from one platform to another it gives other companies, like Apple, the opportunity to steal their business. I moved from Microsoft to Apple through this transformation myself, so I know about this first hand.
From monitoring apps to monitoring audiences
The attention of IT people shifted from monitoring apps to something new: people. You who are reading this right now. It’s all about monitoring an audience and understanding what they do.
The world we live and work in has changed. We don’t just use one device, we use our personal devices, our work devices, and we leverage all of these to do our work.
What we in IT are trying to do is to understand your persona – how you interact with IT. We’re trying to capture that as you log on to your systems, to understand what different devices you’re using and what different applications you’re using on those devices.
So, why are we looking to do this? We’re not doing this to be Big Brother. We’re doing this to understand you better, to serve you better as an individual, to understand what resources you need to do your job.
Three years ago big IT analysts wouldn’t have given this much time. But now we’ve reached a tipping point and this will be the next big development over the next three years, with a fast rate of growth in adoption and investment. Currently, we’re seeing an adoption rate of about five per cent, but indications point to thirty per cent in the next couple of years. Understanding the personas of the people attending your events will become mainstream.
Understanding the user journey
How many of us are leveraging technologies to guide us for the future – to really be pro-active for the future? There’s so much data today that it can overwhelm us. We’re now talking about big data and we need machines to help us make sense of what we’ve got. So those people who can use technologies to help them over the next couple of years will be in a much better place than those who don’t.
In the end it’s not merely about data. In fact, we in IT don’t like data anymore. We need to put data into context, which gives you information, which gives you value.
This will take time. It may take a year to understand someone because they do different things at different times of the year. There are month-ends, quarter-ends and year-ends. People take time off. Your job is not static. If we understand how someone works throughout the year, we can serve them better.
When it comes to events, we need to understand how your users are going to go through that journey with you through that event. Once we understand that journey, we can start making pro-active decisions how to better serve them: what interests them, when they spend money with you, where they spend money with you, what sessions they’re attending, where they are attending, and that enables us as people who run events to provide better value.
The companies we’re working with use these insights to start to think about three- to five-year plans for the vision where they want to take their events to. Do they want to take their events abroad, do they want to grow their events, or do they just want to sustain them? Or do they want to branch off and diversify into other events?
If you would like to talk about how we can turn your event’s audience data into valuable information, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an edited version of a talk that Thomas Howie recently gave at Event Tech Live.
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