What’s most important when planning an event, data or experience and intuition?

The clear answer from seven of the top women in event technology is clear:

Both.

Asked, “when making decisions as an event planner, how do you balance experience and intuition versus the use of data?,” members of the Women in Event Tech community noted that while data is indispensible to understanding what’s worked and what hasn’t in the past, experience and intuition are vital when designing new experiences.

As Corey Fennessy puts it, below, “If you’re trying new things (which you should always be doing!), then there won’t necessarily be historical data to help guide you.. Another way to look at data is spotting how people have reacted to something in the past, and then using that to come up with something that you’ve never done before!”

Kahshanna Evans warns against “Generalizing data or creating marketing suicide by over-comparing competitors who have succeeded in being industry leaders.” And most helpfully, Donella Muzik observes that “Ideas themselves are easy—honing in on the ‘right’ ideas is the hard part. Data helps refine brainstorming and reduce risk.”

The best event planners have an appreciation for event data—all the ways it can be collected, used to improve operations and measure event value, and integrated with corporate CRM and marketing automation platforms—as well as its limitations. 

They know how to combine an understanding of event data with their own background and intuition to design new event experiences that have a high likelihood of delighting attendees.

Here are the responses from seven expert women in event technology.

Carly Silberstein
@carlysilber
CEO, Redstone Agency

I look at everything together (experience, gut feeling, data), along with the problem/challenge I’m trying to solve for, in order to make the best decision possible.

Dahlia El Gazzar
@DahliaElGazzar
Tech Evangelist / DAHLIA+ Agency

Data will always tell you what kind of experiences to design, who it’s for, and what the goal or purpose is. Event planners should also work on intuition so they are always designing new experiences that will surprise and delight their stakeholders. 

It is a constant balancing act, and yet, I would say as an event planner, going with your gut feeling for doing something “new” and not backed up by data is how new experiences get created, and imitated. 🙂

Corey Fennessy
LinkedIn
Creative Director, DAHLIA+ Agency

Experience and intuition go hand and hand with data when making decisions. However, I think that some decisions go beyond data about what’s happened in the past. If you’re trying new things (which you should always be doing!), then there won’t necessarily be historical data to help guide you. 

Part of your experience and intuition needs to be knowing when to listen to data, and when to go beyond and take a risk. Another way to look at data is spotting how people have reacted to something in the past, and then using that to come up with something that you’ve never done before! 

Always take into account that no matter how awesome something is, you’ll always have the critics—don’t let them be your only data set.

Kahshanna Evans
@KahshannaEvans
Founder, Kissing Lions Public Relations

Balancing experience and intuition versus the use of data is seemingly impossible unless we consider sentiment, which is highly debatable but invaluable information to innovate, delight, and successfully grow a brand or achieve its goal.

Being flexible and taking a hybrid approach is a winning formula.  That allows a more tactical S.W.O.T. assessment of the event goals in order to aim for the sweet spot which should, ultimately, focus on guests, brand, and partners. 

As a MarComm and event strategist, it’s important to keep helpful data at the center of an event or event series.  It’s also just as important to consider the entire brand ecosystem that contributes to its success, though.  Without managing expectations based on a brand’s ecosystem, data can become more of an obstacle and an excuse to avoid change than a resource to create magic worthy of rinsing and repeating.  

Avoid generalizing data or creating marketing suicide by over-comparing competitors who have succeeded in being industry leaders.  Have a brand-crush but avoid the pitfalls of the distraction.  Not only does that have its limits, but it’s more fun to center on the team and resources that have a brand at the brink of their own greatness.

Stephanie Selesnick
@stephselesnick
President, International Trade Information, Inc.

Carefully! 

Seriously though, I think it depends a great deal on the data beyond how many people attended the last event. If you ask good questions, it can be a predictive tool. If not, not so much, and it’s more of a gut feeling.

Pauline Kwasniak
@SellingMICE
Founder, TurnedSee & Hotels4Meetings 

As a millennial who uses my phone to basically do everything these days, I combine the two. 

However, there is a lot of unscientific “data” on various apps or tools available for event planners now. I do not trust it. I always rely more on my experience. My experience and common sense will alwaysmatter more in my decision-making process.

Donella Muzik
LinkedIn
Director, International Marketing and Outreach, AVIXA

Ideas themselves are easy—honing in on the “right” ideas is the hard part. 

Data helps refine brainstorming and reduce risk. As an experiential and intuitive planner, it took me some years to figure out that selling an idea was easier with data to back it up. I didn’t always need data personally to decide that something felt right, but many around me certainly did! And, as budgets got bigger and failure had larger implications, having a data foundation became more important to me.

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Areas of interest
Adam is the co-founder and editor of www.eventindustrynews.com Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.