Having a well-planned feedback strategy is a critical part of any successful event. H&E North crunches the numbers with event tech expert Gerard Lennox to find the best technological solutions to help you measure success.

When the final session is done and dusted and the last delegate has vacated the venue, for the event planner, the real work is only just beginning. Post-event analysis is one of the most crucial steps to crafting better events. But to gather the key metrics required to accurately inform your future endeavours, it is vital to have the best tools in your arsenal.

Gerard Lennox, founder of events software and services provider, Xitagy, has been involved with events technology for many years and has seen the sector boom as clients seek increasingly innovative methods to extract data from their events…


The Survey Says

When talking about feedback, we often jump straight to finding out what our attendees thought. While this is important, it’s easy to forget to canvass the opinions of speakers, performers, exhibitors and sponsors, all of who have different goals for attending the event, to find out how you can improve their experience. Gathering data at each stage will feed into a more rounded representation of delegate reaction, so ensure you collect feedback before, during and after the event.

The most obvious solutions for organisers to get feedback are pre and post-event surveys, but the days of sending out surveys by snail-mail are a thing of the past. It’s far more efficient to send feedback forms via email or social media using tools like SurveyMonkey which can quickly collect and collate the results. Several event management tools such as Symphony now incorporate automated survey tools that send emails to selected attendees which can be personalised depending on which sessions of a conference were attended.


Appy Days

If you have an event app, this can be a great way to conduct your surveys. The only difficulty is getting people to use it. Often these are combined with polling tools to gauge an audience’s reaction during a conference. Many event organisers are opting for iPads on stands dotted around a conference. Each iPad displays a question with a selection of possible answers and delegates simply tap their preferred answer on the screen. At a recent event, to encourage them to participate, around 20% of respondents were shown a code that they could enter into their delegate app which could be redeemed for a free coffee at the catering stands. The system ensured that the same person did not keep tapping away for another chance of a coffee because it knew who entered which codes at which iPad!

Text messages are hard to ignore and you can set up reply codes to capture answers. Apple’s iBeacon technology works on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) with both iOS and Android devices and is often used by retailers to count mobile phones and push information to them. By customising the survey question to the particular delegate you can increase the possibility of them responding and providing feedback. The question is when do these become intrusive?

An interesting idea being experimented with involves physically asking people what they felt and then analysing their answers using artificial intelligence (AI). The questions can be asked by humans or robots or even an automated call to an attendee’s mobile phone. The AI then understands the words used but more importantly senses the meaning from the tone of the reply – interesting but spooky!


Tuning In

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are brilliant for telling you where and when people were and can easily be adapted into branded wearable tech, such as badges or wristbands. When the chip is scanned the unique code is read and attributed to an individual allowing you to gather a range of valuable data. Footfall, spend, time stamps and behaviours are just a few of the metrics that can be captured to help you assess the success of your event.

Wearable RFID can speed up registration times, keep track of who attended what session, allow delegates to swap contact details with exhibitors, track if they go near a particular exhibit and even bring up personalised messages at automated information points. Arrival times of delegates is an obvious piece of feedback which is easy to capture at check-in – but departure times can prove more challenging. RFID and to a lesser extent Near-field Communication (NFC) chips can sense people as the go through the exits.

RFID chips have a read range from near contact up to 25 metres, whereas NFC devices must be in close proximity to each other, usually no more than a few centimetres, often used for secure communication between smartphones, but not much use for tracking people without their explicit involvement.

By detecting devices with WiFi receivers, you can count attendees and display the information on a heat-map of the show floor or use intelligent flooring with pressure-sensitive material to capture footfall and track how long they are staying in one place.

Yet one thing RFID badges can’t do is tell you what the wearer felt or gained from being somewhere – they simply give you quantitative information, such as where they were. You could infer that if an attendee moves quickly between exhibits that they are not interested. But in reality, they could be on a scouting mission, collecting brochures or seeing what is available and have every intention of following up later, in which case, the wrong inference would be drawn.


Data Dangers

There is a growing backlash over tracking, with delegates keen to know who has access to the information, how it is stored and what will be done with it. In line with new GDPR regulations, you will need to seek delegates specific consent for this data on registration, and state how you intend to use it.

With the rise of smart technology, there are more ways than ever to gather a vast array of metrics that can give you the inside track on how your delegates really feel. But above all, it’s crucial to be selective, understanding precisely how the data you collect can feed into actionable strategies to improve your future events.