Out of the darkness (Or what every planner should know about analytics)

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Analytics tools are bringing face to face marketing out of the darkness Analytics tools are bringing face to face marketing out of the darkness

Meeting and trade shows used to be known as a ‘black hole’ of marketing data. Although face-to-face marketing was known – or assumed - to be very effective, a lack of decent data collection and analytic tools meant there were very few statistics to prove it. Corbin Ball reports...

Basic registration details and paper surveys were about the only data collected onsite from which to glean information about delegates’ individual interests and preferences. Registration systems didn’t work with other systems. The technology needed to provide useful, granular detail didn’t exist.

Better tech means this unhappy situation is changing.

What is data analytics and why is it importance to events?

Data analytics is the science of drawing insights from sources of raw information, usually through specialized computer programs. Data analytic techniques can reveal trends and metrics that would otherwise be lost. This information can then be used to increase the efficiency of a business.

This is important for planners because what attendees do during a meeting or tradeshow can yield a goldmine of data about their interests: the sessions they have attended, the exhibition booths they have visited, social media posts, downloads, mobile polling/survey responses…

The data collected on individuals can then be used to personalise the event experience and to 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.

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

There are probably four main things: The explosion of data points at the event;  better data analytics tech in event software and apps; it has become easier for different event software products to share information; and finally, data analytic and business intelligence tools are getting cheaper.

KPIs (key performance indicators) are the most important measures of event success.

They can vary considerably based on the purpose of the meeting and from the standpoint of different event stakeholders, but include things like attendance (delegate, exhibitor, speaker); revenues generated; no-shows; repeat attendance; social media engagement; and press coverage.

How does data visualization lead to understanding?

Humans are not very good at divining much from pages of numbers – we fail to see correlations and understand the meaning of many thousands or even millions of data points generated at events.

Data analytic tools are capable of sorting through millions of data bits (often from multiple sources), seeing correlations, and then turning these data into more comprehensible charts and graphs.

Why does all of this matter?

Because data analytics can be used to improve events, to increase attendance, to market the event better, and to personalize the attendee experience. From a marketing perspective, data analytics can give better insight to an attendees’ interests than nearly any other marketing tool. Nearly every step attendees take at an event can give insight if properly tracked.

What’s out there?

Explore the capabilities of data analytics companies such as Watson Analytics (www.watsonanlyitcs.com) and Tableau (www.tableau.com). Watson Analytics provides a freemium service where spreadsheets of up to a significant size can be analysed for free. Tableau provides a full-version trial with no credit card required. These tools are designed to analyse, organize, display and share data in a user-friendly manner.


Corbin Ball is a speaker and independent third-party consultant focusing on meetings technology. www.corbinball.com, www.twitter.com/corbinball.

James Lancaster
Written By
James Lancaster

AMI editor James Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk, read, listen to music, and drink beer.


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