Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 23 2014

5 Things To Know About Big Data And Your Attendees

By Daniel Metz


They’re the two buzz words that continue to pop up everywhere: big data. As more companies use information to predict consumer behaviors and preferences, the meetings industry is working to determine how to leverage that power to better serve attendees, exhibitors and sponsors. At the 2014 PCMA Education Conference in Toronto, the opportunities and challenges of collecting and leveraging intelligence stood front and center. Here’s a look at five key considerations as you work to determine what big data can do for your organization. 

1) Data is all about discovery. 

“Your registration and sign-up period is a great opportunity to get data outside of the basics of registration,” Donny Neufuss, Senior Account Manager, Sonic Foundry, said. “Think about all the questions you’d like to ask your attendees.”

However, don’t be tempted to send a laundry list of questions. Remember that attendees always prefer quick and painless forms.

“Don’t add another page, but be sure to include a few key descriptors that you want to know about your audience,” Neufuss advised.

SEE ALSO: How Big Data Makes Meetings Smarter

2) Stay on time and on topic. 

Meeting professionals are used to compiling loads of results from post-meeting surveys, but that waiting period leads to some late adjustments. With emerging tools and technologies, planners can respond to attendee behaviors in real time.

“When you have the ability to use data and technology to set the agenda as you move along, you're talking about having some major relevant content for your attendees,” Kevin Iwamoto GLP, GTP, Vice President, Industry Strategy, Lanyon, said. 

SEE ALSO: The Risks And Rewards Of Big Data 

3) Make your priority list. 

While it seems like everyone is talking about big data, meeting professionals must consider what their organizations are hoping to accomplish before working to collect and analyze all that intelligence. Iwamoto highlighted the need to think about short-term, mid-term and long-term strategic priorities before focusing on data collection.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you can have all the data in the world, and it will be meaningless,” Iwamoto warned.

4) Tell your attendees exactly what you’re doing. 

Despite all the exciting possibilities, there is a dark side to big data: it can seem really creepy. Before you start to track what your attendees are doing, give them an early warning.

“There has to be social responsibility with your data,” Neufuss said. “Be transparent.”

That transparency matters to more than your attendees, too.

“A lot of countries have very stringent data privacy issues,” Iwamoto said. “Oftentimes, you need to get approvals in order to collect your information.”

5) A LOT of work lies ahead. 

If you’re getting ready to dig into big data, be prepared for a long haul.

“It’s a very steep hill to climb,” Neufuss said. “There a lot of dedication and time you have to put into big data if you’re going to do it effectively.”

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