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Freeman Future Forecast: Data is More Important Than Ever For Future Event Strategies

By Ken Holsinger

2020 has been the year of the unexpected. It seems like every day introduces a new challenge. Events have been turned on their head and we are deep into the unknown, facing a number of uncontrollable variables that could introduce more change at any moment.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling, not knowing what comes next. That’s what led the Freeman Data Solutions team to start a massive new research undertaking. We wanted to utilize 50+ years of deep experience in research and our incredibly talented team of consultants and data scientists to generate the clearest picture possible of the event ecosystem so that we could forge ahead in a new world with as much information as possible, updating to reflect changes and challenges along the way.

Using data to inform our future strategies is not going to stop being important, even once we have things like a pandemic and a volatile election in our rear-view mirror. Even though no one truly knows what may happen next or how the world will work in the future, data can give us a glimpse into the possibilities. Data is the best and most reliable way to discover important insights that will help us make informed decisions and experiment our way forward.

Data is the core of strategy

The thing to note is that our need for data doesn’t begin with setting our strategy and end with that strategy’s execution. When in-person events do return, we’ll all be in experimentation mode. We will be trying to figure out what works best in a newly distanced physical world, while at the same time fine-tuning an integrated strategy that blends face-to-face and digital into a year-round experience.

We must use data to first focus on our objectives, and the right solutions to meet those objectives. By keeping our eyes on the ultimate goal and working backwards from there, we can plug in data to get a gut check on our approach, timing, and more.

What will hybrid/integrated events look like? What business models can we shift to in the interim? What do attendees want from a digital event? How can we add more value for exhibitors? What size in-person event will people be comfortable attending, and when? How do consumers outside events feel about things moving forward?

We know all these things from data, both our own surveys as well as data outside the industry, and they can help fine-tune the strategies and tactics we use as we tackle digital events in the short term and a ramp-up back to in-person events in the long term.

Data is an iterative cycle

Perhaps the biggest thing to understand about the future strategy of events is that it must be flexible. As we move to an integrated experience approach, we will move away from strategizing around a single event held in a single location every year.

That means that strategy will be more of a living, breathing thing than ever, and we must be willing to try more things, roll with the punches, and make more changes mid-stream — and collect data the whole way to gain more insights.

Data may never give us all the answers, but it can help us point in the right direction if we’re listening to what it’s telling us. And then we have to start executing more things to generate more data, and be willing to fail along the way to learn what to do next. That’s how innovation is achieved, but that’s also how we can find what works best for everyone in the event ecosystem.

That’s the approach we’re taking with our surveys — we want to keep a constant, steady flow of data coming in as we learn what’s working, in our industry and beyond. That is why we are launching our new Freeman Event Research report, providing not just data points, but actionable insights that you can use to take the guesswork out of making the right event decisions.

This paid report is fueled by our months of research, but presenting fresh, comprehensive data from September 2020. It covers sentiment across the event ecosystem, giving you a multi-faceted perspective of sentiment, timing, successes, and what is coming after the election, as a vaccine rolls out, and as the calendar turns to 2021.

We want to help you be prepared for what’s next in our changing industry. Our data, combined with deep insights from our strategy team, is a great place to find the information you need to get started on a strategy that will set you up for success, now and in the future.

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