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A manifesto for event data: why organisers must keep control of their most important asset

Who now owns the customer – is it the event organisers or virtual event platform? Data is the lifeblood of any event, but too many organisers are giving away this vital resource without knowing. Make sure you aren’t giving your most valuable asset to a potential competitor.

The international events industry sits at a crossroads. The move to digital platforms over the last year has been rapid, creating an explosion in attendee information and event data that is redefining the way organisers understand and shape the communities they serve.

But in this rapid advance something has been forgotten: who actually ‘owns’ the customer, and why aren’t all platforms sharing valuable usage data with the organiser?

To understand what is happening to your data in more detail, we must first define the types of event data handled by virtual event platforms:

User data – The unique demographic data to identify a customer (name, email address, job title etc). This is typically uploaded to a platform through a visitor or exhibitor registration process, and can be used by the organiser to communicate directly with the customer.

Usage data – The behavioural data that is generated by all the user interactions on the platform. This includes who met with who, which content sessions they attended, which exhibitor profiles they viewed and so on.

Online events grant us access to a gold mine of data we’d never know about in physical events, including who meets who and which visitors are matching with which exhibitor products and sessions, powered by sophisticated AI algorithms. 

As an example, an event may have 10,000 visitors (user data). Previously their registration data would be all that was known about them. For events conducted on a virtual or hybrid event platform these visitors might generate 300,000 interactions and 20,000 meetings (usage data), providing valuable insight into how the industry is connecting and doing business – an exponential increase in volume which has yet to be properly mined and understood. 

Both forms of data are incredibly valuable to organisers, who will want to suck this enriched data back into their own database to learn from it and use in future campaigns. 

What if this data belonged not to the organiser, but to the event technology platform that hosted it? More to the point, what purpose does it serve for this data to be owned by the technology platform – and how could they use it independently of the organiser?

As can be seen in this infographic, not all event technology platforms handle user data in the same way


In an Organiser-led model, the event organiser owns the relationship with their customers as data controller, with the technology platform as the processor for the duration of the contract.

This data can be used for a single event or multiple events in a portfolio to make for a seamless journey.

Yet, in an increasingly common Vendor-led model, it is the platform itself that can own the direct relationship with your customers, and share that data with other organisers.


Nurturing the next Facebook for events

The vendor-led model positions the technology platform at the centre of the relationship, in a similar way that Facebook, LinkedIn or ClubHouse own the relationship with their users, and event organisers merely ‘rent’ the space.

The platform is then able to monetise your customers’ data and intellectual property through various means, including reselling it to other brands or competitors launching rival events. While this is great for the VC backers of these platforms, it’s bad news for the organisers losing control of their data.

In the same way that the publishing industry now bitterly regrets how they helped direct their audiences to follow them on Facebook a decade ago, the early 2020s could become a moment the event industry also looks back upon with regret, having nurtured a competitor.

It’s worth highlighting that Usage data, tracking the customers’ behaviour on the platform, must be handled slightly differently. Once anonymised, this usage data is an important part of how vendors improve and optimise the online experience for customers.

We believe organisers should have co-ownership of this data and be able to extract it whenever required.


Knowledge is power; Read the fine print

Without due diligence, organisers can find themselves nurturing a direct competitor with their most valuable data. 

To ensure that your data isn’t at risk, make sure your contract includes the following:

  1. Make sure you control the user data 

When it comes to data, an event technology platform should only ever serve as a data processor. Control of the user data itself should belong to the organiser and the organiser alone.

Without an event organiser’s express permission, data sharing must be restricted to your immediate brand. No external companies or third-parties should have access to your data.

There is no need for a technology partner to store any data that identifies an individual by name, unless it plans to monetise this information down the line.

  1. Share control of the usage data 

While it is true that an online event platform needs to retain ownership of the anonymised usage data it generates for strictly limited purposes (i.e. in order to function and improve the customer experience), the organiser must have co-ownership and be able to access this data whenever and however it likes. 

And this should not be only in the form of reports or representations; the platform should share the raw data itself. 

  1. Make sure you own the IP

Any Intellectual property (IP) that is shared during your event by speakers, attendees or exhibitors should also belong to the organiser rather than the technology platform. 

Yet, as is the case with social media platforms, some virtual event platforms also now own your IP.

Ask yourself, if it’s your customer, your usage data and your intellectual property; why should anybody else own it?

ExpoPlatform’s mission is to support – not compete – with event organisers on their digital transformation. To find out how our AI-powered virtual and hybrid events and 365 community platform can support your business objectives visit us here.