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What Every Planner Should Know About Meeting & Event Analytics

Corbin Ball
Posted byCorbin Ball
on 09/27/17 03:19 PM

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, DES is a speaker and independent consultant focusing on meetings technology. Previously, Corbin ran international citywide technology meetings for 18 years. For the past 21 years, he has helped clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity through his speaking, consulting and writing services. Corbin is a 2018 inductee to the EIC Hall of Leaders, the premier recognition program for the events industry. He can be contacted at his extensive web site Corbin Ball & Co. - Meetings Technology Headquarters (www.corbinball.com) and followed at www.twitter.com/corbinball.

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Can you believe meetings and trade shows used to be a “black hole” of marketing data? Sure, everyone knew ‘face-to-face interaction’ is very effective, but many meeting and event planners couldn't answer the "why?" Basic registration details, limited exhibitor connections and surveys were about the only data collected onsite about individual attendee interests. Registration systems lacked the capability to integrate with other systems. And robust analytics capabilities to provide useful details? Nonexistent...until now. A revolution in event data analytics is happening this minute. What do meeting planners need to know? Let's jump right in.

What is "data analytics" and why is important to events?

First off, let's make sure we are on the same page. Data analytics is the science of drawing insights from sources of raw information, usually through specialized computer programs. Data analysis techniques reveal trends and metrics that would otherwise be lost. These insights can be used to optimize processes and to increase the overall efficiency of a business or system. Whew, that was a mouthful! So why is it important for meetings and events?  Attendee actions during a meeting or event are a goldmine of data, just waiting to be harvested. Collecting information on sessions attended, notes taken on slides, responses to live polling and interactive games, exhibit booths visited, social media posts, and information requests/downloads, can provide meeting planners with powerful insights. These insights can be leveraged to make informed, data-driven decisions. Meeting and event planners can personalize the event experience and provide better marketing information based on individual preferences and interests. On a collective basis, data analytics can be applied to current and future meetings to make the meetings more relevant and targeted and, therefore, more valuable. In short, data analytics can improve the attendee experience and the event overall.

What has changed to make advanced data analytics possible for events?

You might be wondering, "So what's changed?" Four key things have made data analytics possible for live meetings and events:

  1. The explosion of data points at the event (see next question)

  2. The increased data analytics capabilities being built into engagement technologies used in meetings and events

  3. The emergence of API’s (application programming interfaces) which allow easy data sharing among event software products (i.e. registration, lead collection, second screen technology, event apps, event social media tools), with CRM systems (such as Salesforce) and automation tools (such as Marketo, HubSpot, and Eloqua).

  4. The emergence of affordable data analytic tools (such as Watson Analytics, Arrayand Tableau), business intelligence tools (such as Cognos, SAP).

What happens when you have a lot more data and a means of seamlessly sharing and analyzing that data? Significant insights into attendee sentiment, behavior and interests. Sound impressive? 

 What data points can be tracked? 

Just imagine the possibilities. There are too many to mention them all but here are a few:

  • Registration data (Name, title, company, sessions of interest, registration survey responses) EM Analytics

  • Polling and survey responses

  • Mobile event app data: Every touch on an app is trackable.

  • Exhibits visited: Wearable beacons technology (small radio transmitters worn on a badge or lanyard) can track exhibit booth dwell time (the booths each attendee visited and how long they visited).

  • Sessions attended: This can be accomplished via beacons or other radio frequency identification technology.

  • Social media sentiment analysis: tools that can measure social media activity and sentiments express around an event hashtag

  • Audience engagement technologies like Array offer a glimpse into attendees' thoughts and provide rich detail on sentiment, actions, and interactions with the presenter and content. It's also an effective way to test messaging and knowledge transfer.

  • Heatmaps of crowd flow through an exhibit hall and elsewhere (accomplished via beacon technology)

  • Course notes and product information downloaded

What key performance indicators are crucial to track?

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are the most important measures of event success. They vary considerably based on the purpose of the meeting. Certain KPIs may be more or less relevant for different event stakeholders. Here are some regularly used KPIs:

  • Event attendance by attendee category (i.e. attendee, exhibitors, speakers)

  • Gross revenue generated by category

  • Cost to revenue ratio per attendee and by event

  • Registration sales compared to previous events

  • Cost per attendee acquisition

  • Number of event no-shows

  • Repeat attendees by category (attendees/exhibitors)

  • Attendee satisfaction surveys (by event and by session)

  • Satisfaction surveys by attendee category (attendees/exhibitors/sponsors/speakers)

  • Social media engagement (hashtag mentions/reach, social sentiment analysis, Instagram postings, Twitter posts, Snapchat posts, etc.)

  • Attendee engagement (measured in many ways including percentage of app downloads, percentage of survey responses, live response polling rate, sponsorship responses, response to speaker slides, level of interaction with meeting content, percentage of gamification uses)

  • Event marketing analytics (email open rates, click through rates, email click to registration conversions, delivery rates, forward/shares, event landing page conversions)

  • Exhibit effectiveness (attendance, booth visits, leads captured)

  • Session attendance

  • Press coverage

 How does data visualization lead to understanding?

Let’s be honest. Humans are not very good at making sense from pages of numbers. This is where live meeting analytic tools can be of great help. These systems are capable of sorting through millions of data bits (often times from multiple sources), seeing correlations, and then providing insights than make sense. In order for data to be useful, it must be understandable. Graphs and charts summarizing the data can be very helpful in making sense of the data. 

To summarize, live event analytics gives meeting and event planners insights into attendee behavior that could not be obtained otherwise. These insights can be used to improve future events, increase attendance, market the event better, and even personalize the attendee experience. Nearly every step attendees take at an event can give insight if properly tracked. Use data analytics to transform live events from black holes of data to central positions for marketing and return on investments.


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 Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, DES, MS is a speaker and independent third-party consultant focusing on meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity He can be contacted at his extensive web site Corbin Ball & Co. - Meetings Technology Headquarters (www.corbinball.com) and followed at www.twitter.com/corbinball


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