Successfully Climbing Your Mountain of Event Data

event dataPost authored by Thad Lurie, CAE, CIP, Vice President, Business Intelligence & Performance

Collecting event data for the sake of checking off a box to say, “We have the data,” isn’t advancing the goals of your organization. It’s like throwing stuff in a room until it’s piled so high you’re not even sure what’s in there.

If this describes your event, don’t worry; there’s hope.

For years, the organizers of meetings, events, tradeshows, and conferences have been told time and time again how vital event data collection is to their futures.

It makes sense that these organizations go out and collect information about their guests, exhibitors, and more to see what the numbers have to say.

However, many of these organizations have also discovered that having the data and using the data to improve business outcomes are two different things.

event dataEvent Data and Business Intelligence

Almost every event has collected data in some capacity. At this point, it’s not a luxury; it’s a must.

What we need to do is take that mountain of event data and form it into useful, manageable pieces of business intelligence that will help us all make better, more informed decisions around our events.

I want this quote from Bernard Marr to be the mantra for every event organization:

“Data should be at the heart of strategic decision making in businesses.”

Using data/business intelligence helps you make better choices about your show, which will lead to more engagement, growing attendance, and—in the end—more money.

The goal of using business intelligence is to make your jobs easier. It should help you work smarter, not harder.

event dataWhat is Your Data Telling You?

If you are asking the right questions and collecting the correct information—and you listen very carefully—you can hear your audience telling you precisely what they want.

Here’s one example of how to quickly use collected survey data to assist in event planning decisions:

The goal of your post-show survey is to collect honest feedback from your stakeholders on what worked and what didn’t, what they liked, what they want to see more of, etc.

In this example, we’re looking for two pieces of data to help make better decisions: importance and satisfaction.

In your next post-show survey, ask your guests, exhibitors, etc. to rank elements of their experiences on both importance and satisfaction.

This gives you valuable data that helps you understand which elements of your experience attendees feel are important (or not), and which you’re executing well (or poorly).

You can then plot that data into a graph like the one below to guide your decision-making discussions.

Questions that can assist you in understanding your audience better include:

  • Are we actually doing what our attendees want us to do?
  • Are we providing the experience our exhibitors want?
  • Are we doing the essential things well?

It’s critical to answer these questions because they apply to so many different areas and can quickly tell you what to stop, fix, or where to invest more.

Find the things you are most uncertain about and the data you need from the people for whom you’re designing.

Climbing Higher

I realize we’re only scratching the surface of what you can do with the data you’ve collected, and that’s by design.

I am excited to follow up with more detail on how you can reach the peak of your event data mountain after IAEE Expo! Expo!

In Mountains of Conference Data: Now What? I am leading a non-technical session that helps organizers use data to make better decisions and make them stick.

We’ll discuss how to gather data to support decisions, understanding how data-guided culture can benefit trade shows, and how to improve the way you leverage data to make decisions.

Event data is complex and can be unbearable to work through at times.

However, the effort of sifting through the right data can pay dividends in your event’s future.


About Thad

Thad Lurie is the Vice President of Business Intelligence and Performance at Experient. With 15 years of experience as a certified association executive, specializations in revenue growth, talent development, and technology.

He’s a respected community leader and speaker in the areas of business and cultural innovation, organizational strategy, and effective leadership.

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