Many conference organizers and their organizations tend to focus only on linear, incremental improvements.
Most of those improvements are transactional in nature. Improving online registration, ecommerce, confirmations, lodging, CEU tracking, etc. Or they tend to copy what another conference is doing.
Rarely do they explore the actual reasons behind number trends. Instead, they just twist metrics into their own exaggeration to serve their own needs. We have to remember that correlation of metrics is not causation! (For example, just because 1,000 people registered for your conference does not mean that your conference program attracted them.)
The Push Back Against Qualitative Data
Many conference organizers seek to leverage their data to affect the human side of the conference experience. Unfortunately, they often take an immature approach—like improving transactional customer service. Or they share more social media links to conference promotion.
This does not improve the human side of conferences. They need to focus deeper. They need to focus on the story of why. Why are people paying for registration? The big buckets of education and networking for the reasons people register are not deep enough. They don’t tell us the real story of why.
Frequently, conference organizers and their clients think that focusing on the story of why people are paying to attend a conference is not solid ground. They believe it doesn’t hold the same merit as numeric data.
Just this past week, I heard a well-respected colleague state that his organization needed the numbers—the metrics from quantitative data. He went on to state that his organization—one that deals with financial industry—does not value qualitative measures.
Your conference paid registrants cannot be reduced to metrics and numbers. They are more than the total number of attendees or the amount of revenue from early-bird registrations.
Painting Your Conference With One Color
Some people perceive quantitative data as solid. And qualitative data as soft.
But this perception is wrong. Both quantitative and qualitative data have valid and soft ends of their spectrum says author Indi Young.
Quantitative measures the numeric amount of something. Estimates are at one end of the spectrum and detailed calculations are at the other end.
Qualitative measures patterns, regularities and differences found in data, often described in words instead of numbers. Guesses are at one of the spectrum and detailed depictions are at the other end.
As humans, we describe our reasoning with words. We can describe the story of why with our narrative. We do not measure our reasoning with numbers. However, we can analyze our reasoning for consistency, similarity and patterns.
Quantitative and qualitative data are two different parts of the whole story of why. Emotional spectrum and demographic spectrum like age or race are other data points we use to evaluate the whole story.
To use only one spectrum—such as quantitative data–is to paint a conference with only one color.
So which is better? Quantitative or qualitative conference measures? We need both. Actually we need to start uncovering the whole story of why people are paying for registration not just quantitative or qualitative.
As an industry, we’ve got to evolve our conference measures. The barometer of conference attendance or meeting spend are no longer enough. We need to know the effectiveness of conferences and paid attendee loyalty. We need to know the emotional spectrum too.
It’s time to start paining our conferences in full color!
What are some of the qualitative measures that we can use for conference measurement? What are some emotional spectrum measures we can use?