When you have that light bulb moment for a brilliant new event or session topic it’s time to hit the web for a bout of market research.

But don’t just reach for your notebook and pen – this is 2015! There are loads of great digital tools that can help you with your investigations and keep all your notes organised.

Here are the 8 tools we think you’ll find most useful…

  1. Pocketpocket

Do you often email yourself links to interesting articles and resources you find on the web? It’s one way to keep a record of information you want to refer to later. The only issue is how quickly those emails get lost in the mire and you forget all about the thing you wanted to look up.

Pocket solves that problem by allowing you to keep a list of articles, webpages, videos and images that pique your interest as you browse on your phone or computer. You can organise content by tags and see your favourites on a bespoke homepage.

The great thing is, you can also view all of your saved content offline, so you can take the opportunity to read that 5,000-word report while you’re on the tube in the morning.

In addition, content is synced to Pocket’s servers, so you can access them from other devices using the Pocket app or website.

The Pocket app is available for free on the iOS App Store and Android’s Google Play Store. You can also save to Pocket with the browser extensions for Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer.

  1. Evernote

Evernote is another great note-taking tool for mobile and desktop, which also includes features to enable you to collaborate with colleagues.

You can create notes (organised in notebooks) consisting of text, images, web clippings, audio recordings, reminders and even file attachments. With Evernote’s iOS app you can make handwritten notes and annotate photos and PDFs with text overlays, arrows, highlighting and flags.

Discuss a particular note with colleagues using the Work Chat feature, which shares content and lets you add messages.

Evernote can also be used in conjunction with Pocket – clip and save in Pocket when you’re on the go, review later and then send over to Evernote for filing. Evernote offers a robust free subscription option and is available for iPhone, Android, PC and Mac.

  1. Feedly

Feedly is your personal library, acting as a single place to read all of the news you’re interested in. Tailor your reading list by adding industry journals, blogs and YouTube channels, as well as any Google Alerts you have set up monitoring news about chosen topics.

Adding new sources is dead simple. Search for a source’s title, enter its URL, or browse categories such as ‘Cooking,’ ‘Business’ and ‘Gaming’ to discover new content.

Save articles as you browse and tag with keywords which act as clickable categories. You can also use the search function to search stories within your Feedly or within a specific publication.

Feedly works with Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari and syncs to free of charge Android and iOS mobile apps.

  1. Google Trends

If you want to test out the potential popularity of your new event or session idea, Google Trends is a great place to start.

The insight delivered goes a lot further than traditional keyword research tools. Rather than simply focusing on exact-match monthly keyword volume, Google Trends paints a picture of the life of a keyword phrase – past, present, and potentially future (use the clever Forecast feature):

  • It shows relative popularity of a search term over time – not total search volume.
  • It can be used to analyse a single search term, or to generate an interactive line-graph that compares up to five search terms at a time.
  • It retrieves data reaching as far back as 2004, or can be set to show a pre-designated option like ‘the last 7 days’.
  • It shows you where media coverage happened so you can see direct correlations between media coverage and spikes (or drops).
  • It groups together searches that it infers to mean the same thing, like misspellings.
  • It offers marketers insight into ‘hot rising’ related searches, or, terms that show trending changes in consumer interest.

Google Trends really does offer fascinating insight for the marketer – or simply the Halloween partygoer, check it out for the top trending costumes!

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  1. Google Adplanner Keywords Planner

It’s one thing establishing the interest for your event; next you’ll need to consider how you’re going to target those potential attendees searching online.

Use Keywords Planner to research and plan a hypothetical AdWords campaign – refine the search terms and find out how much budget you’ll need to compete in your selected region.

This is a really useful piece of research to carry out before going any further with your idea, because if it’s too competitive a topic you won’t be able rely on search to bring attendees through your doors.

On the other hand, if you can see lots of people are searching for cooking classes in Chiswick and no one else is bidding on those keywords then it’s time to get organising!

Keywords planner
  1. Topsy

Topsy is a powerful Twitter search tool that can help event marketers discover what content is being shared, who is sharing it, the key influencers and the sentiment over time.

Track keyword popularity (just how many people are talking about fly fishing?) or type in the URL for any piece of content on the web and see all of the tweets linking to this content (if that article on urban gardens has been shared thousands of times maybe it’s a good topic for a workshop?). Topsy will also identify which of those tweets came from top influencers.

With Topsy you can also search a specific topic to find influencers – this could be incredibly useful when it comes to promoting your new event, especially if it’s a particularly niche topic.

Want to do a bit of competitor research? Type in a brand name and see Topsy’s assessment of the sentiment score over a pre-designated period of time. You can also track two or more domains to see who is receiving more tweets.

  1. BuzzSumo

Buzzsumo is an excellent piece of software that lets you find content on any topic that’s gone viral. Simply type in a word or phrase and it will return the most socially shared results.

For someone thinking of launching a new event this could help them find a catchy name that’s guaranteed to get people’s interest, as well as shape the content. For example, let’s say I want to run an event for writers and journalists but I’m not sure exactly what my angle is. I simply type ‘writers’ into BuzzSumo and see one of the top results is ‘30 Copy Editors Tell Us Their Pet Peeves’, with more than 60,000 shares.

Accordingly, I may decide to run an event on getting your writing into print and call it something like ‘Journalism Masterclass: How not to piss off editors and get published!’

Once you’ve established your event, you can also use BuzzSumo to help you devise highly shareable content for your event blog and social feeds.

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  1. Genius

Found a really interesting piece of research material on the web and want to make some notes? There’s no need to print it out and go digging for highlighter pens – just put Genius.it/ in front of any URL (or install the Genius Chrome extension) and you can make annotations directly on the web page.

Highlight any text, make a comment, add an image or a YouTube link and share the Genius URL to show colleagues what you think. You can also read and reply to other people’s annotations.

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With our smartphones in our hands and the internet at our fingertips we’re better equipped than ever before to conceive, organise and promote successful events.

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