How Event Organizers Are Re-Engineering Gut Instinct

Joe Colangelo

There's a place for everything in business – even flying by the seat of your pants – but best practices are ever-changing.

An event organizer’s audience acquisition strategy is a prime example of how the pandemic has materially impacted go-to-market strategy. The level of experience and intuition-led decision-making worked when there were predictable market interactions like:

  • Understanding that a hard mailer would go to an office that someone actually worked in daily
  • Employee turnover wasn’t part of the great resignation – making it harder to rely on the data in your database
  • Team’s were not as distributed and you could rely on a destination to pull in a portion of the local audience.

Today’s “gut instinct” isn’t as relevant, and we are in the throes of creating our future instincts.

Where is that intelligence going to come from for future best practices?

Quite simply, it’s going to come from a more focused strategic approach of testing, learning, and adopting.

Drucker said – “What gets measured get managed.”

By focusing on a data-oriented decision-making approach, you are maximizing your opportunity for success. Easier said than done right?

So how do we get there?

Migrate Your Mindset

Using performance indicators to manage business processes and outcomes is nothing new for Event Organizers. There has been dedicated efforts to understand hotel pickup, email opens, and event satisfaction for decades.

So why is data so important now?

The key difference is that there’s a wider variability around those inputs that used to go into “gut instinct”. The last 18+ months has pushed attendees, brands, and sponsors to adopt digital, to move jobs more frequently, and to abandon traditional expectations on what “meeting” means.

Prior to the pandemic, anyone could attend an event without leaving much of a trace. Someone might show up and even exchange a few business cards, but they had no reason to swipe their phone at a check-in terminal or let the organizer know they'd been and gone. Even the surveys that many venues used to rely on as primary sources were optional and anonymous.  

Now, feedback, engagement, and behavioral data is baked into our more digitized world.

It’s time to focus on what’s the new “gut instinct”.  What are the trends and tendencies that you’re seeing pre, during, and post-event that are going to be the building blocks of the new best practices?

“Future” Best Practices

A few of the early trends we’re seeing at today’s most successful event organizer adopt are centered around the principles of agility – trying and testing, and keeping what works, and throwing out what doesn’t…

Of course, having the power to access more data doesn't mean success is going to fall into your lap.  Even still, here are some tactics being employed today:

  • Better data integration.  The best part of using enterprise grade software is the ability to move your data in a streamlined manner to another system where it can be utilized.  Think historical audience database integrated with your marketing automation platform…. yummy.
  • Transparent performance reporting.  Exposing success and failures across a team is a galvanizing way to root out new approaches or problem areas with your strategy.  This is a hyper productive approach when looking at marketing metrics across digital, email, and social – to understand, at a high level, where your attribution is coming from.
  • Automate away time suckers. Across all industries, we’ve heard and seen a dedicated movements towards automation.  For Event Organizers, the ability to automate away mundane tasks and focus on higher value operations is key in today’s “doing more with less” environment.  Adoption of tools to help facilitate this automation such as Zapier, Microsoft Flow, and Workato.

The key to developing the next generation “gut instinct” is going to be a combination of the data-driven tactics outlined above.  Those who get there the fastest are destined to see the fruits of their labor with more engaged audiences, better acquisition of prospects, and more loyal returning customers.

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