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User-Generated Data – The Bonus of Meeting Analytics

John Santaferraro
on 08/24/17 03:00 PM

John Santaferraro is the chief analytics officer at Educational Measures. With 20 years of experience as a big data analytics imagineer, he is responsible for driving the next-generation of meeting and event analytics. Previously, he was the interim CMO at Diyotta and vice president of marketing at ParAccel until it was purchased by Actian, where he stayed in that position to help guide the transition. He began his career in technology as the co-founder of a data warehouse software startup that eventually sold to Teradata. Along the way he has held executive big data marketing positions in top tech companies including Tandem, Compaq, and HP. When he’s not hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing in the Colorado Rockies, John loves to cook gourmet, collect fine wine, and brew craft beer.

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Last week I was on a call with Michelle Bruno of EventTechBrief

Toward the end of our conversation on audience engagement and meeting analytics, she suggested that user-generated data could be more important than any other data captured via audience engagement. 

The proposition fascinated me, so I thought I would explore her idea.

To start, think about how users generate data on second screen technology in a live meeting. We have come a long way since the days of audience response systems (ARS). Participants can now ask questions directly to the presenter. They can take notes, both text and freeform stylus notes, on their second screen. Presenters can ask open-ended questions where users are free to type in their ideas in a few short words or in paragraphs.

Here are just a few types of user-generated data that second screen technology can capture:

Participant Questions

Each of these avenues for collecting user-generated information provides a different kind of output. Questions asked, for example, can give organizers insight into what content was lacking in the session or the overall event, and can also reveal common interests across the entire audience. Of course, there is also the obvious use of questions to guide discussion within the session.

Because not all questions will be answered in any individual session, many forward-looking meeting planners choose to capture audience questions and answer them in an FAQ document after the event. For customer-facing events, it may make sense to give the submitted questions to the sales team. This way, each sales person can follow up personally with any audience member who asks a question.


Given the value of audience questions, you can’t do too much to encourage participation in every meeting or session. As opposed to using the traditional approach of having the participants hold their questions until the end of the session, why not stop several times throughout the session to answer people’s questions while they are more relevant? This will, in turn, increase the amount of user-generated data for post-meeting use.

Slide Notes

Another source of user-generated data is notes taken during the session. You can, for instance, look for trends in notes. You can segment your audience by different demographics or psychographics and compare their association with each individual slide in the presentation. Since notes tend to be personal to the individual, at Educational Measures, we anonymize the data and use text analytics to look for trends and sentiment in the notetaking. You can also run the full set of text notes through an automated word cloud generator. This will give you a visual display of the key terms that were most commonly used by participants in their note-taking.

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Open-Ended Questions

A third type of user-generated data comes from open-ended questions asked via second screen technology. As a presenter or event organizer, you can use open-ended questions in several ways:

  • To understand the different perspectives of the audience
  • To test the knowledge of the audience
  • To brainstorm and generate ideas
  • To come up with discussion topics for a panel
  • To prove a point with the broad spectrum of answers given by any given audience
  • To find a solution to a problem, especially a complex problem

When all is said and done, I agree with Michelle Bruno. User-generated data is incredibly valuable. It provides a unique perspective on what your audience is thinking and it generates innovative ideas. When you plan your next meeting, don’t forget to include participant questions, slide notes and open-ended questions in your audience engagement mix. You’ll be surprised at the amazing data you’ll collect.


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