1 TRANSFORMING MEETINGS & EVENTS WITH BETTER INTELLIGENCE
2 MAKING YOUR EVENTS SMARTER C-suite executives everywhere are rushing to formalize their Big Data strategies. Articles on the subject abound in the business press, and it s standing-room-only for conference sessions on the topic. And just to prove its place as the hottest new business trend, there s even the beginning of an anti- Big Data movement. But what is Big Data, and does it have any bearing whatsoever on the Meetings & Events industry? Well, yes, quite a bit, actually.
3 Big Data is simply a term used to describe the voluminous amounts of data businesses have and can acquire today. Discussion of Big Data covers capturing, storing, searching, sharing, transferring, curating and analyzing data. Big Data, is really just another word for business intelligence. CHRIS DWYER DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH & VP, OPERATIONS, ARDENT PARTNERS Think of your own meeting and event data. Years ago, we simply collected name and address information on a paper registration form primarily so we could mail an attendance brochure next year. Compare that to the data you have on attendees today demographics, psychographics, budget cycles, buying behaviors, etc. You know what sessions someone attended and you have their feedback on it. You know the exhibitors they visited and from which they downloaded information. You know what SMS messages they responded to, who they had appointments with and pretty much everything they did at your event. Now multiply that times every attendee. In short, you have B-I-G D-A-T-A. Think, too, of your Strategic Meetings Management tools. The ability to compare thousands of hotels within programs such as the ACTIVE Marketplace is seriously Big Data as is the ability to consolidate and manage meeting spend from multiple divisions and global locations. In addition to increased amounts of data, consider, too, the variety of tools and solutions you have gathering the data registration systems, RFID chips, mobile apps, appointment schedulers, meeting cards, travel management systems, communities, social media, survey tools, etc. You can conceivably cross-reference an attendee s spending patterns with the exhibitors he visited, or his survey responses with his market segment. And you can gain up-to-date and accurate data on what s being spent on meetings throughout even the largest organizations. There s also structured and unstructured data: structured data being numeric databasetype information; unstructured data consisting of s, social media actions, open-ended survey questions, behaviors, etc. Big data is really just another word for business intelligence, says Chris Dwyer, Director of Research and VP, Operations (a meetings and event analyst) with Ardent Partners. It basically means taking your data and converting it to actionable strategies. Many in our industry especially on the procurement side have been working with Big Data for years. It started by evaluating meeting spend as a step toward negotiating future discounts. That s Big Data using your business intelligence to make strategic moves to improve your events. Using that intelligence to make strategic decisions about your entire meetings and events program is also Big Data. A Big Data strategy might, for instance, reveal that 10 of your 100 meetings last year had very little end-value to your organization or its customers. You might realize that some meetings could be combined, eliminated or made virtual.
4 Consolidation To get to these actionable strategies, however, the trend is toward consolidation. Having all its data in one place allows an organization to gain a holistic view of all meetings and events activity, as well as eliminate the need for manually crossreferencing data from disparate systems.
5 Business analytics will help you to better understand your attendees and their on-site needs. The goal should always be to to delight and inspire. One organization reaping the benefits of this consolidation is IDG World Expo, producers of the ultimate fan fest, Macworld/iWorld, as well as other events. Using the ACTIVE Network platform, Macworld/iWorld was able to consolidate three individual systems into one. Registration, speaker management and exhibitor management are now together in one solution, with all relevant data intermingled. Business analytics are very important to us, says Nina Carrara, Vice President of Events at IDG World Expo. Our mantra is to delight and inspire our audience. So while we certainly need a system robust enough to serve our needs, it s even more important that it help us understand our attendees from a strategic perspective. When we announce a new initiative, for example, we want to immediately see the impact that has on registrations, cross-referenced by demographics. This will tell us there s a sector of our audience that needs X on-site to be delighted and inspired. Consolidating solutions often has the added benefit of streamlining meeting processes, as well. Exhibitors at Macworld/iWorld participate in multiple programs, for instance, such as new product displays and speaker bag promotions. Previously, each program had its own forms in multiple systems. Consolidated into one solution, however, the programs can now be managed and tracked holistically, with automatic reminder s. Reducing administrative functions like this allows us to spend more time on our strategic initiatives, says Carrara. And, frankly, it improves our customer service.
6 Strategic Meetings Management Consolidation is also, in essence, the first step toward implementing a Strategic Meetings Management Program which can play a significant role in a Big Data strategy, as well. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), for instance, was managing hundreds of meetings for its 2.1 million members at regional, divisional and local levels, and tracking meeting RSVPs in excel spreadsheets. By implementing the ACTIVE StarCite, an industry-leading Strategic Meetings Management solution, an online portal now centralizes meeting requests from SEIU staff, divisions and local union members. From a Big Data perspective, SEIU now: Has access to centralized meeting information for budgeting, reconciliation and reporting. Helps its planners research and compare thousands of hotels and easily see the union s preferred properties. Has a consolidated spend history to use for future negotiations and agreements. Has centralized reporting capabilities with real-time information that has dramatically reduced cancellation and attrition charges. Manages meeting costs and gets up-to-date data on what s being spent throughout the organization.
7 Big Data is not that mysterious and many of you have been gathering, analyzing and using Big Data for years maybe you just didn t know it had a name. WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH BIG DATA? As the process becomes more sophisticated, however, a Big Data strategy can allow you to: Create new conferences and events based on the future business needs of your attendees while also eliminating or altering current events to meet demand. Track costs that will allow for updating and negotiating preferred vendor contracts for venues, A/V, and other services. Identify synergies between meetings and travel patterns and negotiate with suppliers. Create smaller custom events for likeattendee sets. Recommend appointments between specific exhibitors and attendees based on purchase intent. Recommend conference sessions based on the job duties or needs of specific attendees. Find efficiencies that can be exploited such as booking back-to-back meetings in the same location. Personalize road shows based on customer demand by region. Create communities or working groups from specific sessions to follow-on and aid in implementation of presented ideas. Determine which events are declining in terms of attendee interest or revenue and either retool, combine or eliminate them. Identify invested attendees to whom more education can be offered throughout the year. Improve and tailor marketing plans. Send tailored recommendations and offers to mobile devices during the event. Identify the customers who matter the most at specific events based on event goals. Identify the customers who matter most to exhibitors. Identify preferred properties based on repeat-need meeting locations and negotiate substantial discounts. The list is essentially endless, but there is also the challenge of too much data creating analysis paralysis. Your time is limited, so you ll need to collect, extract and analyze only the data that has real value based on your goals and objectives for each event and your overall organization meetings and event goals.
8 Strategy Analyzing Big Data can certainly help identify and isolate spending and consolidate and improve supplier negotiations. But Big Data can take you further even to a place where you can aid in forecasting organization revenues based on event data.
9 What Data? You need to find a solution that allows you to dig deep into a 360-degree view of spend and ROI, while integrating information across events and attendees. < The best reason for consolidating solutions from a Big Data perspective is that it leads to more accurate analysis of your individual events thereby improving each of them and your overall meetings and events program, creating operational efficiencies, costsavings and reduced risk across the organization, as well as a meetings and events strategy that ties to the larger organization strategy. With around 7 to 12 percent of the average company s overall budget spent on meetings and events, organizations that fail to recognize the value of their data and intelligence are potentially wasting that seven to 12 percent, and likely do not have a strategic direction for their meetings programs, says Dwyer. But what information should you be gathering as a part of your Big Data strategy? That really depends on what you re going to do with it, says Carrara. You need to think both logistically and strategically. If you want to improve your conference sessions, for instance, you re going to need evaluations. Dwyer would like to see more organizations gather data to test their progress against goals. What were the goals of this meeting and did you meet them? he asks. Then, of all the meetings you held this year, how many met their goals? Can you identify why the others failed to meet their goals? Obviously, you want to track all your spend categories and travel and hotel data in order to find cost-savings and operational efficiencies, as well as gather data for future negotiations. The attendee experience is another critical component to be measured. An attendees perception of your events can aid in shaping not only future events, and their relationship with your brand, but also how you might best reach them throughout the year with other engagements webinars, virtual events, road shows, customer roundtables, etc. While not sexy or new, the data culled from your postevent survey may provide the best intelligence for creating impactful future meetings, including the quality of the content (speakers, presentations, entertainment, etc.) and the effectiveness of the core messaging. We have a strong connection to our audience, says Carrara. We not only do pre- and post-event surveys, but we survey alumni throughout the year, as well. We test new initiatives so we know how to best engage with people onsite. For organizations realizing the value of automating and consolidating the events management function and supporting a wide range of processes (sourcing, marketing, registration, etc.), analytics should be a top priority, says Dwyer. You need to find a solution that allows you to dig deep into a 360-degree view of spend and ROI, while integrating information across events and attendees.
10 WHERE TO GET BIG DATA? Meeting Card spend: Reports on cost categories can reveal trends. For example, if you notice a large percentage of your events have extra expenses for on-site printing, you may be able to consolidate this expense with a single nationwide vendor, and therefore minimize the cost. Travel Data: Dig into hotel data to determine how often preferred hotels were used, identify room pick-up trends and see what services were used within the venue. If, for instance, 85 percent of your attendees use in-room internet connections, maybe you can negotiate a lower price for connections next year. Mobile App: What types of attendees responded most to which types of push messages? Registration: Demographics, psychographics, budgets, buying intent, purchase authority, experience level, areas of interest, competitive events attended, number of years attending your event, what someone most hopes to accomplish at your event. Session Evaluations: Feedback on speakers, topics and presentation formats, lengths and values. Recommendations for other topics and speakers. Recommendations for followup activities such as webinars. Marketing: Most everyone already evaluates which promotions pull the best response, but try tying those responses to purchase authority or areas of interest or other relevant attendee data. Post-Event Surveys: Seek feedback mostly on strategic issues (though logistics have their place, as well). What business did you accomplish onsite? What purchases do you anticipate as a result of this event? Has attending this event altered your perception of our brand? Etc. What you want to focus on depends largely on what you want to do with the data you receive and the goals you set for the event and your meeting and event program. RFID Chips: Who went to which sessions and how long did they stay? Can you tie the chip data to the session evaluation? If you re using the badge chips on the show floor, you can also get a picture of their buying interests based on exhibitors visited and follow-up information requested. Twitter Stream: While often the source of more theroom-is-cold type feedback, evaluate your Twitter stream after the event for very honest input on speakers and the overall event. Facebook and other communities: Proprietary communities can certainly collect plenty of registration type data, but here you can also follow a lot of unstructured Big Data on pain points, hot topics, industry rock stars, etc. Identify specific attendees areas of expertise for potential as future speakers. Appointment Scheduling Tools: Which job titles are most likely to set advance appointments with exhibitors (and keep them!) and what could you do with that information next year?
11 Conclusion SMART EVENTS While Big Data may be the business trend of the moment, the meetings industry has clearly been working with Big Data for years. Anyone with a Strategic Meetings Management Program is already harnessing the power of Big Data. For those without an SMMP, however, you can still access Big Data through other tools and solutions you presently use to gather data though consolidation of those tools is recommended so as not to require manual integration of data from disparate systems. The key to Big Data is to convert the business intelligence you uncover to actionable strategies that create operational efficiencies, cost-savings and reduced risk for the organization, and ties the meetings and events strategy to the larger organization strategy. About ACTIVE Network ACTIVE Network is powering the next generation of SMART EVENTS through its Business Solutions technology suite, which provides intelligent data and insights designed to increase potential revenue growth, deepen attendee engagement and gain efficiency. Customers of all sizes including small and medium-sized businesses, enterprise corporations, associations, trade shows and expos benefit from a single technology partner for all of their event management needs. The Business Solutions technology suite includes ACTIVE Conference for large flagship conferences, ACTIVE RegOnline for event management software for any type of event big or small, ACTIVE StarCite for strategic meetings management and event expense management, and ACTIVE Marketplace to connect events with suppliers.
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