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Event experience | 6 November 2019

Event Personalization: The 2020 Guide

Bianca Galvez

Welcome to your guide on event personalization in 2020 and beyond. Discover best practices for collecting event data, how to personalize the event experience, best practices for measuring event personalization, and more.

In-person connections are gaining traction in an increasingly digital environment. The noise from social media, emails, and ads have driven more and more people in search of authentic connections. For savvy event marketers looking towards 2020, this is a great opportunity to drive more personalized experiences and authentic ways to engage. 

In this guide we’ll define event personalization, we’ll look at the technology and tools that can support your personalization strategy, the offline tactics and processes that will compliment your personalization aims, and ways to leverage your data before and after an event.

The goal of event personalization is to provide more curated, engaging, and successful event experiences that target a specific audience. Let’s get to it!

If you’re looking for more event resources, you may want to check out these articles:

1. What Is Event Personalization?

Event personalization encompasses all of the strategies and tactics used to tailor your events, outreach, content, and activations to fit the needs of your target audience.

When tailoring your events, you can personalize the experience for three types of people.

You can personalize an event based on:

  • The Contact
  • The Persona
  • The Account

For example, you can personalize your event based on a contact. A contact would be a specific role like a marketing associate, a marketing director, or a CMO. 

You can personalize based on the persona, or the industry expertise that person has—this would mean differentiating between someone who works in B2B tech and someone who works in health services or financial services. 

Personalizing by account would simply be looking at the specific organization you’re trying to target as a whole.

Whatever direction you choose would give you many opportunities to personalize an experience. And it’s an exciting time to rev up an event personalization strategy. Over 41% of marketers believe events are the single-most effective marketing channel. 

With the increasing trend marketers investing in events, the need to deliver seamless, personalized event experience becomes more important. Scaling personalization strategies for conferences and multi-city events or roadshows can accelerate important event goals like driving revenue or sustaining customer relationships.

2. Why You Should Care About Event Personalization

Face-to-face interactions at events won’t be going away any time soon. A recent study showed that 84% of leadership believe in-person events are critical to business success. Along with executive buy-in, we discovered that 80% of overperforming businesses plan to increase their event budgets the following year. 

Traditionally, event marketers focused on tactical aspects of their events like finding the perfect venue or driving event registrants. With event personalization and account-based marketing (ABM) kicking into high gear, event marketers are shifting their focus to the attendee by delivering high-quality experiences that drive engagement. 

By focusing on the combined power of personalization and an account-based marketing and events strategy, marketers have a clear path towards achieving business outcomes. 

“We created 30,000 attendee experiences versus one experience for 30,000 attendees. And the second we start thinking about it that way, and the second we start to really put ourselves in the place of the attendee, we make better decisions, and the data just helps us to do that.”

—Colleen Bisconti, VP of Global Conferences and Events at IBM

3. The Difference Between Event Personalization And Account-Based Marketing

Pop quiz! What is the difference between event personalization and an account-based marketing strategy? Event personalization has the end goal of delivering a tailored experience that delivers on attendee expectations, interests, and goals.

Account-based marketing is a common B2B marketing practice of targeting and selling to key accounts or organizations.

When executing an account-based marketing strategy it’s often a great asset to leverage event personalization and target specific groups of people within an organization in order to build a relationship.

4. How To Collect Data For Event Personalization

Event personalization calls for a shift in your data collection and analytics programs. But fear not! This transformational data shift allows you to take a more targeted approach to your events. This is because personalization prioritizes data surrounding a person (contact, persona, or account) rather than gathering a macro perspective of all your data. 

By capturing relevant data based on your target contacts, personas, or accounts, you’re team is better positioned to tailor experiences, create engaging content, and deliver delightful moments.

Personalization and Account-based Marketing

If you haven’t used an account-based marketing strategy for your events, now is a great time to test drive an ABM strategy with events. In terms of your CRM data, you’ll need to prioritize a set of organizations or accounts. This allows your sales and marketing team to work in unison towards a common goal. 

When making this shift in your data capture, it’s important to review what event technology vendors offer in terms of capturing, syncing, or integrating valuable data and insights that will help you roll out a personalized event plan.

For example, one method of building your ABM and personalization strategy is to capture broader firmographic data about a company as well as the variety of people that are relevant in that organization. Armed with your target list and their interests, you can build event experiences that cater to their preferences. 

An example of a company using a personalization strategy coupled with ABM tactics is TaskUs. They are a leader in the customer success technology and host a series of “ridiculous CX events” with the purpose of delivering extraordinary experiences to their target audience of customer success leaders and executives. 

“Having these really intimate conversations around CX and facilitating them in a way that no other company is doing is what’s really special at TaskUs.”

—Brandy Sherrer, Director of Event Marketing at TaskUs

[You can watch the full TaskUs webinar here.]

Different event types produced by TaskUs - Event Personalization GuideSource: Bizzabo

Types of event data

It can be daunting when you’re first trying to evaluate the types of data you should be collecting for your event personalization strategy. One method is gathering different types of data before and after your event. 

Data captured before the event, which includes existing data, can help shape the direction of you event personalization strategy while data capturing during and after the event will help iterate on future events. Another key reporting function is analyzing data across your event strategy over the course of a year or several years.

Pre-event data

Before planning your event you’ll want to start with a healthy dose of data-driven thinking. While there are many sources of data in your event technology stack, a great place to begin that process is to gather data through your current event software

Valuable data to prioritize from previous events include:

  • Topics of interest
  • Ticket sales
  • Session registrations
  • Attendee interests

As you map out a multi-city or event roadshow, check out your data to understand which cities or locations drew the most relevant organizations/individuals.

Data Integrations to your CRM and Marketing Automation Tools

Data is only as powerful as you and you team are able to access and act on it. 

Integrate your event platform with your marketing automation and CRM tools to capture all relevant data around your existing accounts and their activities.

For example, ServiceTitan, a B2B software company for service professionals, connected their Salesforce to their event platform in order to capture relevant event data about their events strategy. (Read the full ServiceTitan story here.)

Integrating your event platform with your CRM has the added bonus of aligning your sales and marketing team, which is critical to event personalization success.

“What we’re getting from Bizzabo’s Salesforce integration is the ability to be proactively intelligent. We know who’s coming to our sessions, who was happy, who was not, and how to design better sessions for the future.” 

—Amy Herman, Sr. Program Manager, Training Events at ServiceTitan

Below is an example of how Bizzabo integrates with Salesforce. In this example, contacts from Bizzabo are enrolled in a Salesforce events campaign.

Example of an integration between event software and Salesforce - Event Personalization GuideSource: Bizzabo

Post-event data

Once the event is over, make sure to gather quantitative feedback with post-event surveys and individual follow-ups. This is a great stage to include personalized notes and detailed survey questions you may want to ask your attendees.

Post-event surveys offer a flexible way to capture important qualitative data points on your attendees’ preferences including:

  • What sessions were most relevant?
  • What activations were the most interesting?
  • Who were the most interesting speakers?
  • Did you get what you needed for the event?
  • Did the event meet your expectations?

Armed with this data, event marketers can increase the velocity of event personalization by optimizing the next attendee experience based on each critical point of measurement.

Below is an example of Bizzabo’s Agenda Analytics Dashboard which gives visibility on a variety of key metrics when reviewing event sessions, speakers, and attendee engagement.

Example of agenda analytics dashboard - Event Personalization GuideSource: Bizzabo

Capturing a variety of data points post-event allows marketers to make actionable decisions on the direction of future events. 

Another important component of post-event data is identifying the event ROI. Reporting that gives visibility to revenue generated from the event is critical at this stage. 

For example, the Gainsight team leveraged Bizzabo’s Event Analytics Dashboard for a holistic view of registrations, ticket sales, and attendee engagement. (Read the full Gainsight story here.)

“This is a really streamline process in terms of viewing and analyzing revenue capture on the back-end.”

—Lauren Sommers, VP of Corporate Events at Gainsight

Cross-event analytics

For marketers aiming to personalize a large-scale events strategy, it’s important to capture cross-event analytics

Evaluating the health of an entire events program can be a difficult. However, a great solution would be the ability to pull or create reports from various events and view them together in an event dashboard. 

When visualizing data in reports or aggregating multiple reports in a dashboard, it helps to prioritize the data for review. 

Cross-event analytics worth investigating:

  • Registrations across events
  • Total revenue from all events
  • Total refunds across events
  • Total cancelations across events 

Cross-event analytics are very helpful for sales and marketing teams that evaluate both user conferences and summits, roadshows, and field marketing events that have an impact on sales numbers. 

Below is an example of Bizzabo’s event dashboard for capturing the number of registrations, total revenue and refunds, and the cancelation ratio across an events strategy. This allows marketers granular visibility into all their events.

Example of cross-event analytics dashboard - Event Personalization GuideSource: Bizzabo

Once you’ve evaluated the right event software that can host and analyze your event data, you’ll want to organize what data to capture before, during, and after your events to maximize your event’s personalization performance.

5. Personalizing Event Experiences

We’ve taken care of the analytics related to personalization, but now it’s time to focus on the creative side.

Personalizing the event experience starts with zooming in on each moment of the attendee experience. This includes big moments like sitting in a keynote or session discussion or smaller moments like receiving a confirmation email or push notification in-app. The key to success is to focus on personalizing each attendee engagement and making it unique and impactful.

“When we put together the agenda for ONWARD, our conference, we think about every single moment in that journey.”

—Lindsey McKenna, VP of Revenue Marketing at Yext

Looking for more resources on delivering the personal touch to your events and account-based marketing strategy? Check-out the ABM for Events Ebook for tips and tricks on upgrading your in-person strategy for 2020.

Segmented email campaigns with targeted messaging

A successful outreach strategy combines email campaigns and curated messaging. Timing and messaging matter when trying to engage attendees/registrants before, during, and after an event. 

For marketers who value a high velocity, the ability to clone email templates minimizes the time and work needed to build event email campaigns. Email templates, scheduled emails, and the ability to personalize emails by name, company, or other personalization tags/tokens can increase open and click-through rates in your emails. 

Below is an example of how Bizzabo users can schedule email campaigns for different segments of their contacts when promoting events. 

Example of segmented emails - Event Personalization GuideSource: Bizzabo

Customized registration flows

Imagine a registration process where each unique attendee found the perfect ticket type, pricing, and information allowing for a quick and delightful registration process. That personalized experience is within every event marketer’s grasp!

To begin, search for tools that allow for easy customization of the registration form. This enables the on-brand experiences for a variety of registrant types. You may want to consider the different ticket or registrant types that are relevant to your event or ABM strategy.

Some examples of ticket and registration types include:

  • VIPs
  • Early Bird
  • General Admissions
  • Speakers
  • Sponsors

By building different registration flows for different ticket holders or RSVP registrants, you minimize the probability of a one-size-fits all approach.

How do you build in personalization to your registration flow? A simple and effective way is to create conditional questions (questions that are exposed when registrants answer questions a specific way) into your form in order to build a customized path.

one value add in a personalized versus one-size-fits-all registration approach is that you can capture additional valuable data.

Below is an example of an RSVP form for a roundtable discussion. The event marketer used Bizzabo’s conditional questions feature to expose the question “Have you spoken with a Bizzabo representative before?” when visitors select the Roundtable Guest ticket type.

You can also use conditional question to gather food, topics, or activity preferences that can also help with shaping future events.

Example of event registration - Event Personalization GuideSource: Bizzabo

Customized event agenda

Building a stunning event agenda is an important ingredient to your event personalization. A fully branded agenda experience may allow for great event branding, but delivering that additional personalized event journey creates the standout experience attendees crave. 

By powering your event agenda with searching, filtering, and tagging event sessions features—attendees can map an event experience that’s meaning and valuable to them. 

For example, carving specific tracks that are designed for different attendees will help make your library of event sessions more manageable. A marketer at your event may be interested in sessions that are different from an engineer or an executive. This layer of personalization matches your contact, persona, or organization to relevant forms of content. 

One option when building custom agendas is to tag sessions and speakers based on the attendee you are targeting. Additionally, having separate URLs for each agenda also makes it easier for attendees to understand what sessions are most relevant for them.

This small detail elevates a fully branded experience to an a la carte event experience made for one.

Below is an example of building a personalized agenda for customer success attendees using the Bizzabo platform. This gives customer success attendees a clear view of what sessions will be the most relevant to them.

Example of an agenda tool - Event Personalization Guide Source: Bizzabo

Event check-in experience

A personalized event experience starts the moment attendees arrive at the event venue. A seamless check-in, a beautifully branded lanyard, and entrance into a great venue gives a refreshing start to your event. However, a check-in with long lines and technical difficulties can start some attendees off on the wrong foot. 

Making a great first impression is an exciting part of the event experience. Some marketers employ additional vendors for setting up equipment for self-serve or managed check-in kiosks. Bizzabo offers both onsite solutions for large and small events.

Additionally, branding options that seamlessly integrate into your check-in kiosks give a professional and polished feel that adds loads of value to your venue. White-glove technical support that can step in in the event of technical difficulties can also assist in providing a seamless check-in for large and small events!

“Bizzabo’s onsite solution has allowed us to personalize our onsite event experience for every single attendee. The ability to have a seamless check-in experience not only elevates the experience we provide for our event goers, but also is at the core of how we think about event success.”

—Bradley Foster, Chief Growth Officer at Cult Collective

6. Measuring Event Personalization

For any event marketer, measuring KPIs is a must. A study of tech companies has shown that more than half of B2B tech marketers (66%) that are focused on bottom-line goals prefer to measure their event success with KPIs like sales pipeline or leads generated. However, when evaluating your event personalization programs, it’s important to prioritize data centered on attendee engagement and content.

When building your reporting for event personalization, there are a variety of data points you can include:

  • Session interest
  • Session ratings
  • Session attendance
  • Speaker ratings
  • App engagement
  • App usage
  • App community engagement
  • Polls taken
  • Feedback provided

Using your data visualization or event platform of choice, you can discover deeper trends in the types of content resonating with your target audiences and how best to deliver a great experience.

For example, Bizzabo allows users to review analytics around the event agenda, attendee engagement, sponsor engagement, revenue to name a few. When reviewing your reporting around the event agenda, you can dive into session performance like the average session rating, average attendee interest, session views, and feedback in order to gauge the relevance of your content as shown below.

Example of an event app analytics dashboard - Event Personalization GuideSource: Bizzabo

7. Event Personalization: Key Takeaways

The road to event personalization is within every marketer’s reach. By starting with relevant data, marketers can shape the event journey for contacts, personas, and organizations. Coupled with powerful technology, event marketers can build more personalized attendee experiences and elevate what it means to attend a professional event. 

Here’s what you should keep in mind:

  • Event personalization and an account-based marketing strategy go hand-in-hand.
  • Provide unique experiences rather than a broader, one-size-fits-all experience to attract and engage your target audience.
  • Collect relevant data pre-event and post-event are key to executing your event personalization.
  • Invest in tools for personalizing the event experience.
  • Measure event personalization based on attendee engagement and content quality.

Interested in how other leaders are tackling personalization? Check out the IN-PERSON Podcast for the stories of leaders who build the world’s most daring events. 

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