Event planners are swimming in data with the potential to boost return on investment and enhance event impact, but without industrywide data standards, that information is often lost or hard to analyze beyond a single event. The new Explori-led VSef initiative aims to change that.
More than ever before, event planners are swimming in data about their events, but actually making use of that data can be frustratingly difficult. Different platforms use different metrics to record the same information, and data is often siloed between various programs. The result? In a sea of data, it’s sometimes hard to find a drop of useful information.
Event research firm Explori hopes to change this with the Virtual Standard Export Format (VSef), a new data standard for virtual and hybrid events. The industrywide initiative aims to establish industry standards for data that can be shared across platforms and programs, so that eventprofs can use data to gain more insight into their customers and establish benchmarks for attendee engagement and impact. The results for the event industry could be significant, with eventprofs able to use big data to get a better view of event performance and ROI.
The Challenge: Inconsistent, Siloed Data Collection
According to Sophie Holt, managing director of Explori and VSef’s director, “most event planners are using multiple pieces of technology to deliver their events ... [not only] different platforms for different types of events, but often within the same event, they're using on average four different pieces of technology.”
That makes it difficult to pull data and mine it for information that could enhance attendee experiences. For example, a metric as simple as dwell-time—how long an attendee spends at a digital event—can be hard to track across platforms if one platform records duration in minutes or hours and another uses percentage of day.
The Solution: An Industry Standard Maintained by a Third Party
As Dr. Barış Onay, chair of the VSef working group, puts it, “the silver-lining in the pivot to digital has been the data-rich environment we organisers now find ourselves in. But we have a huge standardisation job at hand if we’re to benefit from this newly found trove of data. VSef has been designed to solve this problem; to provide an open source standard.”
VSef’s standards have been developed by a working group of industry organizers and tech platforms, including Clarion Events, Informa, MBB Consulting Group, RDC, Tarsus, and Verona Fiere and Virtual Strategy Ltd. The initiative is being run on a not-for-profit basis, and aims to keep the standards current by updating them every six to twelve months. It’s open to any organization or platform that would like to adopt its standards.
For VSef to work as Explori hopes, it will have to be adopted fairly widely. Right now, Explori says that they have 10 tech partners who are actively implementing compliance with VSef standards, and another 120 downloads of the standards by potential partners. They expect to see the number of partners grow as the benefits of a single standard for industry data become more widely recognized by both organizers and marketers on the one hand, and industry clients on the other.
Explori hopes that, as a neutral party that has already partnered with companies throughout the events industry, and with no virtual event platform of their own, they will be well-placed to promote the adoption of VSef standards across the industry.
A single standard for industry data has the potential to make data easier to extract and analyze. As Holt explains it, the VSef initiative is really about creating “a shared language” to allow eventprofs to more effectively integrate, manage, and analyze the data from their events. “It isn’t like we’re saying to people, you've got it wrong before, now you need to do it like this. We’re looking to find out what works for organizers, and how we can mesh that together in an agreed standard … What happens next is the exciting part.”