A panel of super-smart event industry leaders shared their insights and tips for successful benchmarking at VEI’s recent Tech Talk ‘Benchmarking Across the Digital and Virtual Events Spectrum’, sponsored by ON24.
Sophie Holt, Managing Director of Explori, kicked off the discussion with the latest Net Promoter Scores for virtual events.
She revealed that there are high advocacy levels for virtual events from attendees with an NPS of +21. This increases to +42 for webinars and content-led events.
For comparison, trade shows globally score +11.
From an exhibitor perspective, the NPS score for digital experiences drops to -50, but Holt warned that this isn’t as alarming as you may think.
She revealed: “We know virtual events perform really well around content and educational objectives, however, if we look behind the exhibitor score, 39% of them are highly satisfied and loyal to virtual events.
“What we can also see is that the teams who run great live events are also running great virtual events. Their events tend to be experience-led and designed to meet audience objectives.
“They also train their exhibitors on how to get the most out of the platform they're using and their participation in a virtual event. The key to success with virtual events for exhibitors is the actions and attitudes of the organizers.”
Next learning curve for eventprofs? Benchmarking
Benchmarking is set to be one of the next major learning curves for digital event organizers.
Cheri Keith, Head of Strategy at ON24, said: “As in-person events return and hybrid events come to fruition, we will see different behavior from our audiences that we'll start to benchmark against. There is so much more we can learn as we start to innovate with these event formats.”
The trend will also demand a shift in perspectives. Laura Davidson, Director of Tag Digital, pointed out: “Adjusting the expectation of exhibitors is important. Point out that the qualitative data you can get access to is phenomenal – it will allow exhibitors to plan their marketing and sales activities for the year.
"Changing expectations takes time and education, and a full events cycle to see how the data can be utilized.”
In the past, live event organizers have relied on surveys for data and insight, but that’s now changed, added Humphrey Chen, CEO of CLIPr. “When you watch something, when you linger or click away, when you minimize and maximize, when you bookmark or when you react – these are all signals that tell the [platform] owner what someone values and what they don't value. As people engage more, we will get much smarter about what people want to see again.
“Sometimes you will want to be in gathering mode and so popularity ends up being a really important signal. Now the popularity signals can actually be much more accurate because there's a lot less effort to give this feedback.
"As a result, the delegate experience of the future will be more personalized, more adaptable, deliver higher value and ROI, and be more binge-able. Netflix is a high bar, but we've got to aim high.”
Which items should be benchmarked at events?
The discussion moved on to items that could be benchmarked at virtual events, which often fall into three categories: the baseline of activities, counts of actions, and the impact of those activities.
Examples include the number of meetings and interactions, sessions watched and dwell time, likes and comments, response to polls, survey responses, plus business impact and the pipeline generated. Keith added: “The buying journey for most people includes 27 interactions, so we know that a lot goes into closing one opportunity.”
Is this all possible if delegates are experiencing digital fatigue?
Keith replies: “Digital fatigue is a real thing. However, what we're seeing is greater and longer engagement from delegates in digital experiences. This is because event organizers have evolved to put on better digital experiences over the past year.
"We're going to see ebbs and flows in participation, but it's probably not because the audience is tired of that type of delivery mechanism. It’s likely that the way you're putting on an experience may need to be rethought.”
For benchmarks to be powerful, consistency and standardization are key.
The majority of organizers typically use four or more platforms across a portfolio of events, which can make standardization hard to achieve, particularly when each platform differs on data collection and the definition of various aspects of that data.
Holt explained: “If you want to create a 365 journey, you've got to be able to standardize the data from different platforms. Lots of different event organizers and platforms were tackling this challenge individually. This is why we now have an industry-wide initiative called Vsef, which is a universal data format for hybrid and virtual events.
“Vsef helps data move more freely between platforms, business intelligence tools, CRM and marketing systems. It sets out detailed standards for a range of event metrics and engagement KPIs and how those data points should be formatted for easy transfer between systems.”
Hilditch next took a question from someone in the audience who asked: what should my expectations be for digital campaigns and how has it changed for virtual?
Davidson answered: “The expectation for virtual event campaigns has changed. If you would usually do a 12-week campaign for a live event, we're now looking at a six-week campaign curve to virtual.
“Organizers are moving to a more 365 approach, too, which means putting more budget behind digital products – whether that's a virtual event, a platform, lead generation through content, and essentially what that's doing is building their first-party data. We all know that cookies are coming to an end, reinforcing the importance of data. With all this data behind them, organizers are increasing the value of the work they're doing.”
A new innovative way of benchmarking is through emojis, said Chen. “Think about measuring success based on the type of emotion you're able to elicit from the audience. We've been coming up with new emojis, like an insightful brain emoji, so then you can measure the number of times the brain, or light bulb emojis, are hit.
"Measure and define your emoji reactions thoughtfully and keep track of how many times your delegates bookmark and share select video moments within your events. These are the high value, high impact moments, and they are actually the newest type of leads in our new model.”