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19 Apr 2021

Why Event Organisers need to protect their most valuable asset

Originally published here.

The sudden switch from in-person to online events in 2020 had event organisers scrambling to find new ways to engage and monetise their audiences. Some have been more successful than others, but organisers should now be preparing for hybrid events in 2021. 

However, one topic that has not been brought up as frequently in the public realm as one might expect is regarding one of the most valuable assets to an organiser: Data.

The big question organisers increasingly ask technology partners like ourselves is: How does data get stored and shared across events on your platform?

Shared User Data vs Siloed User Data

While on the surface, it might seem that all Online Event platforms are approaching this question in the same way–this is actually not the case. Different platforms are taking a very different approach to data management, and organisers must understand these.

The main difference comes down to “Shared Users” or “Siloed Users”, as illustrated in the below diagram:

Grip data model


The most common assumption made by event organisers is that the event participants (users) that they bring to the platform have their information stored in unique data silos.

Within most online event platforms currently being used by commercial organisers, this is not the case. Data is held in ‘general environments’ that can be shared across all events on the platform, regardless of the data owner.

This raises several GDPR related questions. For example, in a Shared User model, the organiser cannot claim to be the owner of personal data but has to look at co-ownership.

In GDPR terms, while the event organiser remains the ‘controller’ of event and personal data, they will often use services or technology to process this data – known as ‘Data Processors’. If the Data Processor then subcontracts some of the services required to do the processing, then these companies are ‘subprocessors’.

This passing of data can result in complex issues regarding the ownership of personal data. But it also means that in effect, an organiser is enabling the expansion of the user base for the commercial advantage of the platform by theoretically making it possible for other event organisers to leverage audience data which in an offline environment they would have no right to access.


Machine Learning in a Siloed User Model

One of the objections being raised against the siloed user model is that having data held separately makes it challenging to create functionality that requires a lot of data Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

This is incorrect.

At Grip, we separate our clients’ personal data from anonymised usage data. Our algorithms are trained based on anonymised data which means that we are GDPR compliant by default.

It also has another important benefit: the Grip Matchmaking Engine can improve recommendations for a participant who has never used Grip purely by looking at anonymised demographic information and other participants’ usage patterns. This is a greater benefit for new users of the platform than a system that only relies on personal identifiable users.


Invest in proper advice

The battle for data, data ownership, and platforms’ rights to use or benefit from monitoring behavioural data will be a critical element in the growth and development of digital events. In the coming 10 years, we’ll see organisers investing heavily in hiring new people that can properly advise them. 

People such as Hellen Beveridge at Data Oversight, who works with Event Tech Live or Andreas Peschel-Mehner at SKW Schwarz are individuals that we expect will become increasingly busy and influential as the story around data heats up.

In the meantime, to protect and mitigate risk using data, a sensible first step is to understand the difference between shared and siloed users. How is data being stored? How is it being used? If you have any doubts, talk to the experts.

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  • “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/RSDE has been designed to solve this problem; to provide a single standard. I for one am looking forward to receiving data from different platforms in one format!”
    Dr Bariş Onay
    Chair of VSef
  • “As the global trade association for our sector, we know about the importance of unified and aligned data sets, and we are working to promote globally accepted metrics and terminologies. We recommend that every business events association joins us in supporting and promoting VSef/RSDE to their members as a collaborative way forward for our industry.”
    Anbu Varathan
    President, UFI
  • "At Grip, data democratization is at the core of our strategy in supporting organisers to move markets forward faster and providing greater value to exhibitors and visitors. We’re excited about being part of the VSef/RSDE initiative from the very beginning and making it easier for organisers to move data between solutions in the event technology stack will be crucial for gaining greater insight into events and their success."
    Warith Nassor
    Product Owner - Data, Integrations and Insight. Grip
  • "Data is the key to growth in the event industry. It helps organizers better serve their communities, create brand loyalty and create logical, long-term strategies. VSef/RSDE will make it much easier for organizers to collect the data used in making critical decisions without having to sacrifice customer experience and their technology stack."
    Robyn Duda
    Founder, RDC
  • "Our position on data is and always has been that it should be accessible, freely available, and owned by organisers, which is reflected in our Data Manifesto. It has been a pleasure to collaborate with Mark and the wider Explori team and we are proud to be early adopters of the VSef/RSDE initiative, which is an important step in standardising metrics and in allowing organisers to easily compare these metrics across platforms."
    Mykyta Fastovets
    CTO, Expoplatform
  • "We reside at an inflection point in the global events industry. Our immediate embrace of normalized data is going to decide the extent to which we define our value and fuel our growth. VSef/RSDE is an ambitious project that deserves universal support across platforms, organizers, and industry organizations. We are pleased to take these first steps with the VSef team and their growing partner community."
    Tony Lorenz
    SVP Strategy, Intrado
  • "The need to unite event data has been a topic of conversation at Event Tech Live and within the community for many years. It's fantastic to see the experts and advisors behind VSef/RSDE taking the mantle and moving this forward for the benefit of the whole industry. I am proud for Event Tech Live to be a founding member and look forward to helping drive this initiative too."
    Adam Parry
    Co-founder, Event Tech Live
  • "Data is a crucial issue in digital events and setting a framework for data standardisation and industry collaboration is key to future industry success. We are excited to be partnering with VSef/RSDE on this important initiative."
    Sophie Ahmed
    CEO and Co-Founder, Virtual Events Institute
  • “Now more than ever it is important to collaborate, share and connects minds for a better future of the exhibition industry. VSef/RSDE is a perfect example of collaborative knowledge!”
    Enrico Gallorini
    CEO, GRS Research & Strategy