Understanding information spikes around live events

One of my personal / professional projects over the past year has included analysis of dozens of large in-person events. They have ranged in size and scope, but a short list of the events being monitored includes:

  • Social Media Club Seattle (150 to 300 person events, held monthly)
  • Display Week Seattle (5,000+ attendees)
  • DEMO (500 to 1000 attendees, held twice each year)
  • Seattle Chamber Tradeshow (5000+ attendees)

Having monitored these events online and in-person, there was a basic and simple theory I was working with: that attendee attention span and information spikes were ultimately at odds with each other.

I went ahead and visualized this into a simple graph below, detailing that audience attention span (blue dotted line) drops severely as available information spikes at the event. As time passes, our conversation length shifts dramatically based upon the number of conversations we have before (semi-qualified, via our own personal research) , during (not qualified, based on simple networking and quantity), and after (semi-qualified, based on event education and follow-up research.)

To anyone who has attended an active live event: we have experienced how the event itself challenges our attention and interest level. Conversations typically become short and scattered, while social interactions often replace quality with quantity.

For an experienced event attendee, quality and quantity do not exchange. They take the time to profile individuals before an event, create opportunities to strengthen existing relationships, and qualify how they will spend the most valuable asset they have at an event: personal attention.

The important element in this shift is the creation of relevant information as part of a proper media strategy before and after an event.

  • Before an event: attendees are looking for information to qualify what they are doing.
  • During an event: attendees are trying to sort through massive information to find relevance.
  • After an event: attendees are researching based on new found event education points.

The green line “Proper Media Strategy” takes into account the three segments of relevant information and the potential attention span they may reserve.

Key differentiators for ROI: strategy and execution

Of 418 attendees I asked:

Asking attendees if they researched the event or attendees doesn’t really paint the big picture that is drawn when you ask the “big question” of whether or not the event had a positive return on investment.

This question was subjective to each person: was the cost and experience of attending the event (flight, time, scheduling, ticket fees, etc) worth the return in investment  (sales, relationships, education)

For some people it was simplified to the basic question “Would you do it again?”

When compared to the people who researched the event topic and/or the event attendees, the shift of perception of ROI was significant.


The chart above says it: If you researched the event, you could expect to see a %30 shift in whether or not you had positive ROI.

You could also expect to see a 45% shift in ROI
if you took the time to research attendees.

:::::::::::  My conclusion  :::::::::::

As an attendee, vendor, or sponsor: If you are seeking to have a positive experience at an event, conference, or tradeshow – look at ways of researching your network, the attendees, and the event topics.

As an event coordinator: do everything in your power to enable your audiences to understand who, what, when, where, and why. Do not assume that your attendees are experts at networking!

Let me know:

does this data support your own personal experiences?





13 thoughts on “Understanding information spikes around live events”

  1. interesting graphs, but how are you capturing the conversation time data points? Is this from sales call recaps or just old fashioned research? getting data points around events (or any B2B activity really) is hard.

    we’ve been looking at competitive contacts/communication around live events in the time series analysis. we overlay press releases, story mentions, print and digital advertising, webinars, as well as large event activity presence. we’ve found it helps us adjust our mix and message.

  2. I completely agree about data research at events. This was mostly “feet on the street” research, along with on-site and off-site metrics that we collected using a variety of analytics / listening platforms.

    As an easy tool in-person research during events, we created a mobile app that allowed us to quickly poll and ask questions. That made it easy to have a checklist of questions and immediately record responses.

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  4. Thanks for the comment Jody.

    Having just returned from a 10,000+ person trade show in Portland, I am continually shocked by the number of businesses that don’t understand the above model and the impact it has to business. It was unfortunate to see almost a thousand vendors spending so much budget and allowing so much of that budget to vaporize around the event.

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