Harness Your Conference Data To Produce Big Insights


Appeasing conference stakeholders has become more complex and difficult in today’s fast changing business climate.

Maintaining and growing share of wallet, attention and loyalty requires intentionality. To out maneuver the conference competition, we have to be nimble, decisive and in constant beta mode.

To compete today requires identifying, selling and leading change. This is a difficult skillset to master. Those meeting professionals that are adept at this core competency will discover huge career dividends.

Big Insights Not Big Data

Change doesn’t happen fast in most organizations.

Leadership is often slow to react without data to support change initiatives. Some leaders are obsessed with big data. Don’t fall into that trap.

It’s not big data that’s important. It’s the insight from that data. And it doesn’t have to be large amounts of data to uncover big insights.

Analyzing your data should lead to big insights that answer big questions that lead to big action.

Four Big Questions For Competitive Intelligence

One big data/insight point that gets the attention of leaders is competitive intelligence.

Studying the business models of other conference products can help support your questions, insights and recommendations. Transparency of information in the association world has dramatically improved. In nearly all cases, you should be able to find these data points easily. These metrics are also helpful for internal benchmarking improvements from year to year.

Here are four big questions — and a few tips — to get you started.

1. Do you have the right registration pricing strategy (aka revenue management)?

Plot your and a competitors’ early, standard, and late prices. Create a graph with the number of days prior to conference start date on the x-axis and full conference member price on the y-axis.

  • Does your pricing strategy include enough instances of urgency?
  • Are the pricing rung increases too high or too low?
  • How can you adjust to drive earlier action/cash flow?
  • Are competitors’ pricing strategies (i.e., group plans) more relevant than yours?

2. How much of your member-value proposition is attributed to the conference?

Create a comparison that shows your competitors’ individual annual membership pricing divided by the difference in the conference rate for non-members and members. The highest percentage may raise a member-value-proposition issue.

3. Are you attracting enough members?

For non-trade membership models, create a comparison that illustrates total conference attendance divided by the total number of members. How does your penetration compare? Are you improving the linkage between the conference and your primary business model?

4. Does your conference business model have good revenue diversification and penetration?

For exhibits, divide the total number of companies by 10. Calculate how much your top 10 percent of investors are contributing vs. the same number of companies for each competitor. Use the 10’ x 10’ base booth cost multiplied by the number of booths purchased.

For sponsorship, focus only on the top investment categories (i.e., platinum and gold sponsorships sold, multiplied by that investment level). The healthiest conferences will have greater investment at these highest levels.

What types of data do you currently collect and evaluate? How do you go about turning data into insights?

Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2015

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1 comment
  1. Last year I was apart of planning and executing a conference consisting of over 700 of our most valued customers. The event itself was great, the data being shown was minimal but very effective. The problem we had was selling the tickets. Their customers felt entitled and that they shouldn’t have to pay the registration fee. In this case, should we have opened the conference to the public? I think so!

    In the end it was not our decision to make but the organization who hired us. What we learned was that yes, big organizations do not like change and they move slowly in doing so but the results were in front of them and we will use this example with our next client.

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