Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 16 2012

Spend Less, Engage More: How Data Can Create More Opportunities for Your Meeting

By David McMillin, Staff Writer
Your expense reports. Your attendee evaluations. Your registration count. As a planner, your daily duties are packed with numbers and statistics.


At the PCMA Technology Think Tank, Eric Olson, general manager, Active Network, dug into the mathematics of meeting planning to help attendees recognize the new possibilities that lie underneath all of those numbers.

"You can better monetize your business by understanding the data that runs it," Eric Olson, general manager, Active Network, told attendees.

The That's-the-Way-We've-Always-Done-It Mentality

While time constraints force many organizations to rely on the same approach year after year, Olson says that an enhanced knowledge of your data can help identify opportunities for controlling your expenses and awaken new sources of attendee inspiration.

Instead of sending the same marketing materials, arranging a nearly identical schedule, and building in the same costs as last year, data collection can help you create a more cost-effective plan.

"If you don't know what's working and what isn't working at your events, it's hard to make changes," Olson says. "However, if you have performance targets and appropriate measurement, you can quickly understand not only what's working, but also how well it's working and why it's working."

Once you've recognized where your organization currently stands, you can begin to set realistic goals for a more important place: where you want to go.

"By beginning to set goals against the key activities at events, planners can better understand how they're doing today -- and what things may make them more effective in the future," Olson says.

Is Engagement Trackable?

Some elements of your meeting may seem difficult to control with data. Everyone in the industry talks about engagement, but how can you actually tell when your participants are "engaged"? Technology gives planners the power to transform engagement from a buzz word into a real, measurable outcome.

For example, Olson mentions a planner hoping to increase networking. Rather than asking attendees to check a few boxes on a survey, Olson recommends a simple mobile app that tracks QR code contact exchanges per user and tracks the frequency of one-on-one meetings.

Right Here, Right Now Opportunities

"An organization can monitor a combination of real-time surveys, social media feeds and polling data, to understand their audience's sentiment toward certain topics, speakers or digital content," Olson says. "Smart planners will gather that data, evaluate it, and shape their events around the preferences of their audience."

That "real-time" element is one of the most essential pieces of the new generation of attendee data. Let's say your social media monitoring uncovers that your attendees are posting negative comments about a speaker who's slotted for a second appearance the following day. Rather than hope the speaker will be better received, that social feedback can help you consider adjusting your program to prevent more negative comments and increase satisfaction.

Looking Long-Term With Your Data

Those immediate reports can also translate to your long-term success.

"You need to look at behavior patterns across a long period of time," Greg Van Dyke, senior vice president, global sales and marketing, PSAV, and Think Tank moderator, told attendees.

As you continue to collect information each year, you'll create even more opportunities for future meetings and events by answering key questions. Which topics are drawing more attendees each year? Are repeat speakers failing to resonate with your audience? Who are your most loyal attendees, and why do they register each year?

When you harness the power of data analysis, you'll do more than ensure the success of your next event. You'll arm your organization with the information you need to design experiences that keep your attendees coming back for more each year.

To learn how Active's reporting tools can help you understand all the information behind your planning process, click here.

Learn more about what you missed at the PCMA Technology Think Tank:

Why the Cloud is a Planner's Best Friend

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