By John Santaferraro
As live events move from digital distraction to digital engagement, analytic potential explodes. We have reached a point where the data being generated by applications is now more valuable than the app itself.
According to the Nucleus Research study in 2014, for $1.00 invested in analytics there is a $13.01 return on that investment. With this kind of prize at the end of the analytic journey, analytics will be the big live meeting winner in 2017. Strap yourself in, the race for the ultimate digital event is on.
Here is what is happening:
More data is being captured at live events than ever before
With personal devices in the hands of every participant at your event, you will generate more meeting data than ever before. Meeting and event apps have become the norm. Add into the mix the influx of networking apps that connect people with people, location apps that track location and traffic flow, lead retrieval apps and scheduling apps. What we are experiencing is a proliferation of data.
Data captured at live events is more valuable than the event itself
Your event starts and ends, but the data lives on forever. Hidden in that data are the secrets to the elusive return on investment and measurement of meeting impact. More importantly, the data carries the truth about what can be done to improve ROI and meeting impact over time.
Companies that analyze live event data will gain a competitive advantage
The smartest meeting organizers and executives are already figuring out how to use face-to-face meetings to better understand their customers, employees and members. The insight they gain will drive business efficiency, improvement and automation well in advance of their competition.
Imagine the future
Motivated by the pure value of analytics, the next step toward an analytic future for meeting executives and implementers is to realize the possibilities. Analytic technology has advanced to the point of making possibilities endless. All data can be captured and stored at affordable cost. Analytic algorithms are readily available in open source, streamlined or advanced tools. Even the elusive data scientist can be found or replaced with an analytic team in most regions. The availability of analytic resources enables the forward-thinking meeting planner to discover, predict, prescribe and learn beyond human limitations.
As data volumes grow, they eventually reach a point where it is no longer humanly possible to discover relationships and patterns in the data. Even in smaller data sets, human interaction with data limits the possibilities. With discovery analytics, you will uncover meaningful connections you didn’t know existed.
For example, within every event or meeting population, there are segments with like needs and personas. As you discover those segments and increase their granularity, your knowledge transfer and conversion rates will increase exponentially. Along with ordinary demographic segmentation, you will be able to formulate new segments of your population based on how they engage with you in meetings. Armed with new insight, you might develop new programs and offers designed specifically for highly engaged participants.
Prediction uses historical data to help you foresee what is going to happen in the future. You’ve probably seen it used most commonly in revenue forecasting. The greater the detail and expanse of the data, the more accurate your prediction will be over time.
Think of the seats at your event as perishable. The better you can predict the number of attendees who will join, the better you can plan the right amount of space. As you grow in your ability to predict attendance, you will avoid serious overcrowding or underutilization of space.
Ultimately, analytics will guide you to prescriptions for the next best action or the next best offer. For example, you might want to know, as you plan future events or meetings, what is the best possible offering for a new conference, theme, or topic to attract more attendees.
If you can identify your most valuable customers or members, you can find more of them. Prescription helps you understand what to do when you find them. It gives you the specifics of how to attract them and what to offer them when you have their attention. When they arrive at your event, you can offer them dynamic content, dynamic pricing and dynamic offers based on their profile or real-time actions taken in the event.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence presents one of the most powerful opportunities for meeting and event executives. Today’s engines are capable of learning as they go and automating business processes based on that learning.
Imagine being able to constantly learn from the questions being asked a presenter and notes being taken. You could easily prompt the presenter with two or three recommendations on how to better engage the audience when there is a dip in engagement. Or, in moments when the sentiment of the audience dips, the border of the presenter screen could move from a green glow to yellow or yellow to red. Ultimately, this kind of alert for presenters could turn a one-star rating into a five-start rating.
Recommendations for the meeting executive and conference planner
All of this can be extremely overwhelming for the meeting executive or conference planner. So, what should event professionals do to prepare for the coming wave of analytics? To unlock the value of live meeting analytics, the following recommendations should help you navigate uncharted waters.
Understand the basics — Your job should remain focused on delivering exceptional meetings, events and conferences. Don’t expect to become an expert on analytics, unless you just can’t help yourself. Focus on understanding what can be done with analytics, not how to build analytic algorithms. If you can master the capabilities of the different functions of analytics, you will be ready to design events with built-in continuous improvement.
Plan to maximize your engagement with participants — The way you design engagement at an event will look very different once you realize that the end is in the data, not just in the engagement. Instead of just focusing on engagement with the presenter content, look at your live meeting as an opportunity to learn more about your audience. Work with your marketing and education teams to identify the top ten demographic or psychographic elements that enhance your customer or member relationships. This new data can increase the effectiveness of both learning and sales opportunities.
Capture every click and comment from every participant at your event — We used to live in a world where collecting and storing data was expensive. That is no longer the case. Once you have redesigned your events to capture valuable data, keep everything. Don’t throw anything away. Make sure that your vendor is providing you a full dataset. Devices used in meetings yield rich engagement data and an equally valuable set of clickstream data. It’s your event. It’s your data.
Find vendors who prepare the data and present the results in a way that is easily understandable — Resist the temptation to become a data analyst. Instead, find vendors who are investing in analytics. When a vendor analyzes data, and presents it to you in a way that makes sense, they become a partner in your success, not just a supplier of goods.
Once you dip your toes in the water, you will want to jump in. One taste of live meeting analytics and you will think of 10 more ways you can potentially use the data. The first time you return from an event with data in hand, ready for a debrief with more than anecdotal stories, it will change the way you approach your next event. You will never be the same. Your events will never be the same. Live meeting data and analytics changes everything…for the better.
About the author:
John Santaferraro is Chief Analytics Officer at Educational Measures. Send John your live meeting data experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org.