Simon Clayton, Chief Ideas Officer, RefTech
Events can generate and collect lots of data – that’s a pretty obvious statement. Most people know that data can be very useful, and increasingly event owners are now collecting that data via multiple platforms and storing it in lots of different places.
Most organisers will have an online registration system and this might be part of their onsite
badging system or might be separate. They’ll probably also have a CRM system to manage
sales, exhibition stand holders, sponsorship contacts etc – including all the potentially
interested contacts. They could also have a content management platform to collect and
store information about speakers and exhibitors in order to populate and organise the
event’s website content and printed guides. This means that the average organiser has got
several different databases in several disparate systems. Bringing all that data together in a
single place in order to conduct better reporting on it, would be a very useful step.
If an organiser is storing lots of data in lots of different places, then it can be beneficial to
bring all of the data together to create a ‘Single Point Of Truth’ (SPOT). SPOT is a principle
used to ensure that everyone in an organisation is using the same data and that there is only one place that is guaranteed to have the correct data.
Manually bringing data together from active systems doesn’t work because there will be periods where the data is outdated meaning there is no SPOT. Luckily these days, many systems have APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that allow data to be pushed into or pulled from different platforms. For example, EventReference, our event management system can be configured to push data into CRM systems so that when a delegate registers, the CRM system is updated immediately.
Pushing data is the better option because the system only pushes data when it changes so the receiving end is only getting the changes. The alternative – pulling data is often a lot less elegant as it means you have to process a whole set of data every time and work out what has changed. There is also a period where your SPOT is out of date as you may well only update it every hour and that’s before you start trying to consider how to handle deleted records which won’t normally exist in a data set and that complicates matters considerably.
I believe a lot of organisers will have disparate systems simply because there aren’t many systems that can do absolutely everything you want in the way that you want it. By the very nature of our industry, organisers end up with a bunch of different systems that are not connected and it might be advantageous to have them connected.
Is this the future of event registration? Well, maybe but beware that these kinds of systems and integrations are anything but free even if the APIs are available at no extra cost. Integrating with APIs is not necessarily a straightforward task and requires upfront investment and ongoing management. You should make sure that you know exactly what you’re going to get for your money and the best idea possible of the costs involved (then double them to be safe). Ultimately, if you are going to invest in these technologies you need to make sure you are going to get enough benefit for your money before you embark on this route.