Reporting Standards for Digital Events Launched as Industry-Wide Initiative

February 18, 2022

As the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the event industry from in-person to virtual and hybrid over the past two years, a new challenge emerged: a lack of measurement standards for digital events. Enter global assurance provider BPA Worldwide, which formed a working group of 15 representatives from all segments of the industry to tackle the issue and create the newly launched Reporting Standards for Digital Events (RSDE).

RSDE, a standardized set of 17 data tables and glossary terms, is designed to benefit the entire industry, including event organizers, exhibitors and digital event platform (DEP) vendors, providing the tools to bring more trust, transparency and efficiency into the digital event marketplace, according to Glenn Hansen, president and CEO of BPA.

“The goal of RSDE is to bring consistency to the attendee data being provided by DEPs through the development of standards and common terms,” said Glenn Hansen, president and CEO of BPA. "Event professionals will be able to import data from across platforms and make use of the data, as it will be apples-to apples."

Hansen added that all digital event stakeholders will reap the rewards of RSDE. 

“Essentially, RSDE serves as a guide for DEPs to prepare and provide relevant and consistently defined data to digital event organizers, so they can in turn be more helpful to exhibitors as they strive for continuous improvement when exhibiting at or sponsoring events online," he said. "Those DEPs that have achieved certification to the RSDE standards can provide visitor and exhibitor metrics that have been pre-validated by BPA Worldwide to satisfy independent audit requirements. This will offer DEPs a differentiator in the events marketplace.”

The development of RSDE consisted of four phases. Phase one included recommending amendments to in-person event standards so digital events could achieve status as an event approved by UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. Phase two included the creation of the full set of standards and glossary of industry terms. Phase three included the creation of language that organizers can use in RFPs with digital platforms, as well as terms and conditions that speak to data ownership. Phase four included the creation of certification protocol and independent certification of DEPs.

One major industry roadblock that RSDE aims to eradicate is understanding of the data sets by organizers and exhibitors, according to said David Richardson, principal at Cogknition and member of the RSDE working group.

“With the move over to digital events, people were excited that they were going to have all this data and have a much better picture of what was happening within their events,” Richardson said. “When they received the reports from the event platforms, not only did they lack confidence that they understood what was happening at their event, but they weren't really sure they understood what the report was trying to say. With RSDE, they get a much better understanding of what they are seeing.” 

RSDE will ultimately drive a cycle of continuous improvement, noted Robyn Davis, owner of Exhibitors WINH LLC and member of the RSDE working group.

“RSDE will provide organizers and exhibitors with the information they need (and have been eagerly awaiting) to understand and evaluate the impact of digital events, Davis said.

BPA will begin certifying DEPs to the RSDE standards immediately. Event data provided by verified DEPs will be “pre-audited” by BPA for inclusion in applications for UFI-Approved Event status or for inclusion in any organizers’ event marketing materials and BPA Brand Reports. 

RSDE includes a number of components to assist all aspects of the digital event marketplace, including a glossary of terms; 17 tables of data format to provide the user with what is typically required; a sample CSV file for DEPs to follow; an RFP template for organizers to use when shopping for a DEP; a contract terms and conditions template to address data ownership and privacy protection compliance; and three separate “User’s Guides” for organizers, exhibitors and DEPs. 

According to Richardson, another key element will be guidance for organizers and exhibit professionals to ensure they understand not just what the standards require, but also how to ask vendors for compliance with the standards and how to check that their platform is providing compliant data so they know that they can use the data that comes to them.

To that end, RSDE has collaborated with VSef (Virtual Standard Export Format), a data standard for digital events and communities. VSef was developed by event insights provider Explori in collaboration with event organizers and DEPs worldwide. The two industry initiatives will work in partnership such that they remain aligned. Digital event platforms being certified to RSDE will, by default, be certified to be compliant with VSef. 

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