Industry Content & Media

Using Data To Power Real-Time Meeting Design Innovation

David McMillin      

Feedback — it’s the key ingredient in every meeting professional’s plan for continued success. As they work to make enhancements to annual conferences, they rely on attendees to offer perspectives on what worked, what failed and what will motivate them to pay registration fees and travel expenses in the future. The traditional tool is the post-event survey — a comprehensive set of questions that offer opportunities for attendees to weigh in their favorite speakers, sessions, networking events and every other component of the conference. While these surveys continue to play a role in shaping strategy, there’s one big problem: they may arrive too late to make a difference.

“Post-event surveys provide strong insights to make preparations for the next experience, but meeting professionals need more immediate feedback, too,” Deborah Sexton, President and CEO, PCMA, says. “Rather than waiting until the entire program finishes, it’s important to collect data that help can help make an impact during the conference, too.”

Working with Freeman, PCMA is able to put insights into action during its flagship event, Convening Leaders. “Attendees are more likely to remember and report what happened while they’re at the conference instead of waiting a few days after the entire program has ended,” Dawn Archambault-Perry, Vice President, Corporate Marketing, Freeman, says.

“Mobile apps and push notifications are a great way to capture valuable information onsite,” Archambault-Perry adds. “The key is to have an easy-to-use interface with brief multiple choice questions, often different from the post-event survey and focused on specific elements such as general session speakers or a popular breakout session topic.”

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Aligning Real-Time Adjustments With Long-Term Vision

Making on-the-fly tweaks to keynote speakers or breakout sessions may sound overwhelming to some meeting professionals. What if the changes are at odds with the organization’s big-picture objectives? At PCMA’s flagship event, Convening Leaders, the organization works with Freeman  to eliminate those worries. Using a process called Design Thinking, PCMA and Freeman make sure that all on-site adjustments are made to satisfy long-term goals. In some cases, that means feeling comfortable enough to abandon a traditional process where everyone signs off on a new approach.

“We apply the elements of Design Thinking—opportunity, formulate, build and debrief—throughout the planning and production process for Convening Leaders and other events,” Stacey Thorp, Senior Executive Producer, Freeman, says. “There are times when we are not able to convene the entire team to address last-minute changes, so we rely on the agreed-upon goals from earlier in the process to inform our on-site decision making.”

“We want to make sure that every minute of their four days is as productive as possible,” Sexton says. “With that in mind, our team isn’t afraid to develop alternative ideas and scratch existing plans.”

Skipping Slides, Fueling Speaker Success

Data does more than inform members of the PCMA staff and the Freeman team. The cast of subject matter experts and panelists on the Convening Leaders program can tap into knowledge from Freeman’s FXP | touch, a second-screen technology designed to increase engagement with live polling, audience questions and audience chats.

“We’ve had presenters skip over prepared sections of presentations and expand on specific issues based on audience engagement levels,” Ken Holsinger, Vice President, Digital Services, Freeman, says. “Speakers can customize the session based on immediate interaction with attendees in the room or those participating online. Speakers who adjust their content receive higher satisfaction ratings because the session feels more personalized.”

The meetings industry will see PCMA’s and Freeman’s collaborative efforts in Austin, Texas at Convening Leaders 2017.

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Rebecca SchingelUsing Data To Power Real-Time Meeting Design Innovation

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