By Erik Schonher
You’ve probably set some ambitious goals for your 2017 conference(s).
They probably include quantitative goals such as attracting more attendees, generating more revenue, increasing the number of exhibitors, and selling more products in your on-site bookstore.
You may also have other more qualitative goals such as providing quality programming, adding new programming or tracks, and making registration operate more smoothly,
Like most things in life, what gets measured typically gets done, and this is certainly true for your meetings. So what are you doing to track results and gather data and insights that will help you improve your meetings for the future?
During the planning phase, you need to feel confident that the content of the conference is of interest to your prospect base and develop your promotion list. The use of data-analytics and data-modeling, in conjunction with more traditional forms of qualitative and quantitative research, will help you with these tasks. These tools help you aggregate data to develop the best content for your conference, create compelling messaging, and identify those traits that best represent prospective attendees which can be used to target prospects from internal and external list sources.
Once at the show, focus groups are a good choice to collect qualitative data if you want an in-depth sense of what some attendees are thinking regarding a few specific topics. The ideal focus group consists of 8-12 people. Aim for a mix that represents the geographic and tenure of your organization. Good questions to include are:
- How did you make your decision to attend?
- What other annual meetings do you attend and why?
- What would make you choose our meeting over another?
An alternative to focus groups are attendee intercepts, where someone from your association randomly selects attendees on the floor of the conference to interview with a short list of questions. Be sure to develop a short and easy script for the interviewer. This is also a great way to develop fresh testimonials for marketing materials.
To answer questions concerning member responses to programs, on-site product purchases, and other criteria that can provide insight for future meeting elements and their related marketing strategies, you can use two techniques: surveys (online, paper, phone) and database analysis.
A survey, when constructed properly, offers you the ability to collect the hard data on an extensive or complex range of issues and provide a measure of confidence that the decisions you make based upon this data are good ones. These will typically be delivered by email, although today social media opens the door to data collection on a multitude of levels. As with any methodology, be sure to get responses from a group that most represents your overall market.
Finally, database analysis allows you to look at what people actually did. Who attended? Where did they come from? What sessions did they attend? Did conference attendee purchase more products from us than non-attendees? If so, from where: the show floor or the website?
Analyzing your data to make comparisons allows you to know who your most productive targets are. Given the amount of data you have and how many years it covers, through cluster analysis, regression analysis and other research techniques, you may be able to uncover the hidden trends and “linkages” from year to year that will help make your next conference even better.
Erik Schonher is Vice President of Marketing General Incorporated and is also the Corporate Engagement Officer for EurekaFacts, a research company providing market research, marketing analytics, social research and human factors located in Rockville, MD. He can be reached at (240) 403-4800.