Importance of data in the event and cultural sector

We know by now that data are important. But for what exactly? Which data, how and when should we collect and use them? Yves Van Handenhove and Kenneth De Keulenaer, both seasoned and experienced in the world of data, give three reasons why data are more than just mandatory numbers for the event and cultural sector. In a nutshell: data forces reflection, insight and action.


REFLECTION: collecting data forces you to ask the right questions in advance


"Why did you make these choices? Why this event, in this manner and for that target audience?" It is not easy to answer those questions, not even for event organisers. As researchers of the centre of expertise Public Impact of KdG University of Applied Sciences and Arts, we then often hear answers like: "historically grown ", " gut feeling" or " coincidence of circumstances". Some get away with this, but unfortunately only the happy few. In order to set up successful events, more is needed than gut feeling and luck.


Organisations that want to be successful in the long term, use data to guide their decision-making processes. They make choices based on data. Data help to validate the right or most optimal decision. This is often described as data driven decision making, it is about more than just collecting data. Before you collect data, determine the objectives and ask the right questions: "What decisions do you have to make?" and "What kind of information do you need for it?". These reflections determine exactly what data you need.


Since the corona crisis, organiers are struggling more than ever with the question of which method is most suitable to count the number of visitors at their event. After all, there are various counting methods, including click counters, cameras or technology based on Wi-Fi, radio waves or mobile data. Which one to choose? The online tool Telwijzer from our centre of expertise can help in that decision. This tool forces you to ask the right questions in advance: do you need real-time data and/or crowd images? How big is the budget for these counts? How long will the event last? What is the surface of the event location and how many access roads are there? This tool will help you choose the most appropriate counting method for your event, based on the right data by asking the right questions.


Insight: interpreting data gives meaning


At an event, you can collect a lot of data. There are many processes, actions and attendees that have a lot of data potential. Yet, as researchers, we notice that often little is done with it. Despite this potential and despite the efforts of organisers to collect data. This is a missed opportunity to make your organisation and operations even more impactful.


After the data collection, you need to analyse all the data (or have it analysed). This leads to several insights: what patterns do you see in the data? What can they mean? How can you interpret them? These insights can help your organisation make the right decisions. However, few organisations get excited about data analysis. Outsourcing to experts is often very expensive. That is why our centre of expertise has developed several free online tools for event professionals to collect and interpret data.


Take our Analyser for example: this tool helps you to map the social impact of your event in the city or town where it is organised. It helps you to collect, analyse and interpret data. As an event organiser, you set the objectives for the event before it takes place by answering a few questions. These answers are then compared with the answers of the inhabitants and visitors. This way, you gain insights to optimise your event for a next edition and to make it more socially impactful.


Do you want to predict the social impact, even before the event takes place? Then use our Scanner. It is precisely these insights that are important for local authorities in their decision-making process as whether or not to permit, facilitate and/or organise the event. Not only the societal, but also the local economic impact of an event is important for policy makers. That is why we developed the Calculator, which predicts the economic impact in advance and measures it afterwards.


ACTION: insights from data set a lot in motion


Once you have interpreted the data, there is another pitfall: not doing anything with the insights. Since event professionals are busy, they often forget to take further action. Sometimes they just do not have the 'extra' time for it. On the other hand, many fires would not have to be put out if other, better and more informed decisions were made beforehand.


Events can therefore provide many insights about the visitors of your event: who are they, what drives them, what do they want and how to reach them? Our Profiler can provide you with these answers. This tool allows you to map out the profiles of the various visitors of your event and even predict them in advance. This way, you can tailor your event and communication to this target group and, based on the right insights, motivate them to attend your event. Take action! This way, you can avoid having too few visitors, which can have serious consequences for the atmosphere, exposure and profitability of your event.


As researchers, we therefore advocate that decisions in the event and cultural sector should be well-considered and data-driven decisions as much as possible. Ask yourself the right questions in advance, collect the right data and arrive at well-founded insights. Then take action and repeat the whole process. This is how you make your organisation stronger and your events more impactful.


Get to work with the data and our tools. All tools are available free of charge in the Toolkit of our centre of expertise.


If you need help or support, please contact us or follow one of our Event Toolkit Workshops. During the workshop, we will explain step by step how you can calculate and improve the impact and value of your event using data and our tools.