Your conference needs a checkup!
Just like you need an annual doctor’s appointment for routine health checkup, your conference needs a routine checkup. Sure, you may feel like your conference doesn’t need it, just like you feel you don’t need a medical checkup.
Regardless of how you feel, it is important. You need to assess a variety of areas to understand your conference’s level of health. You need some pre-established benchmarks to determine the health of your conference and plan for improvements.
Activity Often Discourages A Health Check
Too often our conference planning quickly turns into a tilt-a-whirl of activity. We get caught up in the swirling winds of checking off tasks. Measuring conference vital signs is like trying to check the oil of a speeding race car.
So how do you know if all the conference planning activity is generating progress? How do you know if your conference is healthy?
Frequently, we rely on our opinions and the opinions of others. Yet, tradition and emotion influence these opinions. Think about when you feel sick. Everyone has an opinion of what you should do. Everyone offers advice for next steps.
It’s not until you get the doctor’s advice that people stop diagnosing and prescribing for you.
Vanity metrics are those metrics that cause everyone to feel good about the conference planning process. They give everyone a false sense of success. Yet they don’t offer guidance in what to do differently in the future.
Vanity conference metrics include attendance numbers, the amount of revenue, the number of sponsors, the number of exhibitors, etc. They include registrant pace reports, number of seats filled and satisfaction surveys.
Vanity metrics are the easiest to measure. And they make us feel good about what we are doing. That’s why so many of us use them.
We confuse vanity metrics with correlation and causation. Vanity metrics don’t really correlate to the numbers that matter. They are easily manipulated.
When our conference attendee numbers increase, everyone is happy. We say we are doing the right things. Yet when the conference attendee numbers decrease, we blame everyone and everything else. Then it becomes increasingly difficult for conference planning teams to know what to do next.
Almost every conference or meeting tracks attendance and revenue. For many, they are the only metrics regularly evaluated.
Yet the real value is who, not in how many. The actionable metrics are in attendee, exhibitor and sponsor retention, repeaters and loyalty. What percentage of our total attendance was involved in our opening general session, our closing party and our education sessions at any specific given time? What is the engagement level of our attendees? How many of our attendees have become our conference evangelists, telling and bringing others with them?
These metrics allow us to uncover the true costs of getting new customers versus the costs of keeping current ones. Then we can get a handle on the vital signs needed for health of our conference.
Actionable metrics help you make decisions about the strategy of your conference. They are concerned more with who attended they how many attended.
Measure What Matters
We’ve got to start measuring what matters. We need to be careful of off-the-shelf reports that the vendors list as features. They are often vanity metrics.
Detailed reports are good for diagnosing problems. But who and where did that diagnosis come from in the first place says author Eric Reis.
Actionable metrics help us identify that there is a problem and what to do to resolve it.
Remember, metrics are human too. Real actionable metrics help us trace the individuals who responded. If we don’t fully understand the numbers, we can reach out to them on the phone and get better qualitative research.
Want more information on actionable metrics?
• How To Use Shatterpoints as Early Conference Warning Signs
• Five Symptoms That Your Expo Is About To Fail
• Six Early Behavioral Warning Signs To Monitor Your Conference Sustainability
• The Quest for Continuous Meeting Improvement
What are some current vanity metrics that you use frequently? What are some additional actionable metrics we should consider?