Exhibition World Issue 3 – 2021 | Page 50


VSef - a big step towards a virtual data standard

Major organisers have joined Explori ’ s new initiative to develop a virtual event data standard for the industry . EW reports group of global event organisers and tech platforms have come together to create VSef , a new data standard for virtual and hybrid events .
The Virtual Standard Export Format ( VSef ) has been created and led by UK-based data company Explori , with the input of high-profile organisers including Clarion Events , Easyfairs , Emerald , GRS , Hyve , Informa , MBB Consulting Group , Mesago Messe Frankfurt , Messe Munchen , RDC , Reed , Tarsus , Verona Fiere and Virtual Strategy Ltd .
VSef is run on a not-for-profit basis , is open to all event organisers , and any platform can choose to adopt the standards .
It has been designed to provide an open-source standard for virtual event data , allowing organisers to receive data from different platforms in one format .
Dr Barış Onay , chair of the VSef working group , told EW : “ 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 .”
Explori CEO Mark Brewster added : “ Our research suggests organisers use , on average , four different event technology platforms . The data produced by these platforms often looks very different from one provider to the next . Three-quarters of organisers told us they found it challenging to integrate data from virtual platforms into other systems .
“ These challenges are barriers to learning , progress and business intelligence . That is why we brought together a working group to create a universal data format that enables events to consume consistent data regardless of which platforms they are working with .”
“ Organisers were frustrated ,” Onay said , “ and had identified challenges with defining a lexicon and common terminology in this field . There are various definitions when reporting .
“ Other challenges identified as drivers to creating a new standard were a lack of customer touchpoints and a bombardment of raw data .”
Explori ’ s MD Sophie Holt highlighted some of the problems VSef was designed to tackle , such as the blurred distinctions between attendee and exhibitor data and blurring of interests . “ This can ’ t continue , we need a shared language ,” she said .
VSef had emerged from surveying organisers and examining and decoding key metrics . Organiser workshops and one-to-one meetings with the platform providers had also been part of the research process started in January 2020 .
Onay added that he had personally
“ learned a lot ” from the process . Eighty percent of export problems had been solved by VSef , he said , adding that the plan now was to produce an initial roadmap rather than a finished product .
Onay is keen to highlight the need for rigour rather than any quick fix : “ We didn ’ t want to agree on the lowest common denominator ,” he said , noting that VSef needed to provide value for everybody .
The team envisages an 18-month development pipeline and extra commitment from organisers will be required , said Holt , who expects go-live dates to be agreed soon .
A sign that the initial commmitments to bring systems into line can be delivered is illustrated by ExpoPlatform , which managed to be VSef compliant in just five days , according to the company ’ s chief growth officer Luke Bilton .
For now , VSef is a product of large organisers taking steps to embed a customer-centric approach and mould disparate silos of data around individual records and points of truth .
As Bilton said , “ It is hard to go backwards with all the data points we now have from virtual events .
“ We just need a common language to tell the full show story and big steps have been taken towards that with the VSef initiative .”
50 Issue 3 2021 www . exhibitionworld . co . uk