If the only conference numbers you care about are attendance, exhibitors, revenue and profits, you will never be able to understand why those numbers fluctuate.
You’re only guessing and planning conference programming through a shot-gun approach if you don’t get serious about measurement.
It’s time to stop relying on your gut. Or your volunteer conference planning committee. It’s time to measure what matters to improve your conference.
Data Counting Versus Measurement
You probably already use some type of data collection for your conference. You count expenses and revenue. You count conference advertising. You count paid attendees. You count exhibitors, sponsors and speakers.
But counting is very different than measurement.
Counting just adds and subtracts things for a total.
Measurement looks at those totals, analyzes them, uncovers what they really mean, compares and contrasts them and then defines how to use the meaning to improve future practices.
Conference organizers have got to get better at measurement! We’ve got to get better at analyzing and uncovering meaning from our data counting.
Five Critical Questions You Must Answer To Improve Your Conferences
Katie Delahane Paine is considered one of the foremost experts on measurement and data collection. In her book Measure What Matters, she identifies ten questions every professional must be able to answer about their organization.
I’ve adapted five of those questions for conference organizers.
1. What are the objectives of your conference?
You’ve got to start with a thorough understanding of your organization’s business objectives and how your conference aligns with those objectives. Are you conference objectives measureable? Are they written down somewhere? How do you know if you’ve met the objectives of your conference?
2. Who are your conference’s target audiences?
If you say “anyone who will pay,” or “all our members,” then you are already in trouble. You’ve got to define the audience as specifically as possible. Within any market, there is a set of customers who are the most profitable and the most valuable for your conference. Narrow it down to three to five target markets. These are the ones you want to target to grow your event.
3. What is important to your target audiences?
Once you’ve determined your three to five target audiences, then you can go about determining what issues matter most to them. This is a great place to use the Empathy Mapping to identify their wants, needs and fears. What scares them? What inspires them? What challenges them? What do they think they need? What do they really need?
4. What motivates your audience to buy your product or service?
The answer to this question will determine what you measure. You need to connect your conference planning and implementation actions with the ultimate purchase decision.
5. What are your key messages?
What messages will resonate the best with your target audiences? Key messages should reflect why people register to attend your conference. They distinguish you from the competition.
What’s keeping most conference organizers from collecting good data? What do we need to move from data counting to measurement?