Digital events: data disparity

Glenn Hansen, president and CEO, BPA Worldwide, speaks to David Richardson (pictured), principal and head of analytics solutions at Cogknition Analytics, regarding data standards for digital events. Richardson was part of the international working group set up by Hansen, Reporting Standards for Digital Events (RSDE) 

As a data analyst, what challenges do you face with digital event data?

DR: We expected digital events would give us tremendous insights into event performance, since the digital platform captures every attendee interaction. What we found was that the standard reporting from most platforms often provided an extremely misleading picture of participation, even relative to traditional reporting from physical events.

Most people come and stay at physical events, so simply capturing the number of attendees at the event and at individual sessions or other engagements provides a pretty good measure of participation. At digital events, work and home are only a mouse click away and many people leave after minimal engagement, so it is imperative to also know how many see most of the event and how many stayed for only a few minutes.

Most digital event reports provide only attendance counts and average dwell time. We found that attendees could be credited whole days of attendance because they left a window open. When averaged with people who only viewed a few minutes, this inflated both attendance and average participation. When we restricted individual view times to the length of content and looked at the distribution of participation, we found something very different and more revealing.

However, getting to that often meant dealing with inconsistent data structures and rules for recording participation and resulted in hours of needless work to clean data. We worked with RSDE to establish standards for platforms to share the data from an event so that it would be easier to see what really happened.

How do the standards determine a session’s start and end time; number of people who logged in; number of people who saw content?

DR: RSDE establishes rules for what counts as viewing a session. The rules require that session viewing only counts when the session is available and is limited to the length of the session. If video on demand was available after the live event and the same user logged in for VOD, that time counts, up to the maximum time for the session. 

We’ve defined a standard of three minutes for session attendance to screen out people who didn’t see a meaningful portion of the session
or event.

How many data tables are included in the RSDE standard?

DR: There are 12 required tables capturing various types of event data. 

In addition, platform interactions include participant registration data, exhibitor, and sponsor information, data about sessions, session duration, or what content it includes. 

Organisers may be thinking, ‘Having standard data would be really useful, but does RSDE mandate the output?’

DR: Data standards do not prescribe the actual output organisers receive. Following data formats enables anyone to download data from any event that’s compliant with RSDE, and work with comparable data under comparable names. The actual report design is left to the platform and the organiser to decide.

How can organisers learn more about RSDE?

DR: We created a User’s Guide, RFP template, and data ownership Terms and Conditions. Organisers can specify how they want their event documented according to RSDE and specify the additional information they most need. 

Organisers should require certification that platforms’ reporting complies with RSDE. Using certified platforms, organisers know data can be trusted and what it means.