The big three metrics: attendees, exhibitors and net square footage are good measures of whether a trade show is growing or shrinking, but they don't tell the whole story. In order to make important decisions that impact the success of the event, planners have to look at the smaller picture. Data collected through surveys, polling, evaluations, barcode scanning, mobile or RFID technology can yield important business intelligence that can make or break a conference. Here are some of the metrics that often get overlooked:
- Attendee ratings on speakers--speaker evaluations are great planning tools. When a speaker or topic is highly rated, the value of the meeting is enhanced. By automating the evaluation process, planners can compare speaker scores side by side and make important programming changes before the next event.
- Session attendance--understanding attendee interests and preferences is critical. For example, when attendees sign up for specific conference sessions, but actually attend others, planners may want to investigate the reasons for the switch. Further, a low number of attendees at the morning keynote could indicate that the time slot is too early or the speaker selection is poor. Either scenario could signal an underlying programming issue.
- Exhibit floor attendance, duration & visitor type--a large gap between the number of attendees at the conference and the number of visitors on the trade show floor indicates that either the conference content is strong, the schedules overlap too much or the trade show is weak. In any of these instances, planners may need to take measures to correct the imbalance. In addition, knowing specifically who is in attendance (names, job titles, companies, etc.) at a particular session/keynote or on the exhibit floor and the duration of their visit can help planners determine the appeal of an activity to various customer segments. The data can also validate registration information and justify the hard metrics that exhibitors need to prove ROI.
- Number of attendees that leave the event before the final day--a certain number of attendees always leave a conference before the final wrap-up session or closing night dinner. A large number of departures could convince planners to shorten the event, scale back on the final evening's food and beverage order or eliminate the evening activity all together in subsequent years.
- Number of leads--the value of the trade show or meeting as determined by the opportunities in the pipeine is critical to the success of the event. The number of quality leads for exhibitors and the host organization is now more valuable than the quantity of leads.
- Number of VIPs who attend vs. the number who register--no shows are proof that CEOs and power buyers are busy people. What the initial registration indicates, however, is that the VIPs were interested (enough to register and provide their information) in the conference offerings and follow up is warranted.
- Number of stolen badges, counterfeit or reprinted badges in use--whether or not the organizer decides to act when a badge (after scanning or read by an RFID reader) is determined to be invalid or not, knowing that such items are in circulation can be an indication of a larger problem.
- Number of networking interactions--the number one reason attendees attend an event is for education; the number two reason is for networking. Mobile platforms yield important data about whether or not attendees are engaged with one another. Mobile platforms can also allow for the integration of Twitter and Facebook so that attendees can post updates to their personal accounts or to the event's account. A low number of messages sent indicates than an education gap exists about what mobile platform can do or that the meeting isn't conducive to interaction.
- Number of mobile app downloads--a low number of mobile app downloads can indicate a flaw in promoting the app to attendees or reveal a deficiency in the user community. A question on the post-event survey can provide better information on this issue. Additionally, spending money on apps that are rarely used can justify a change to another platform. For example, Blackberries are rarely used.
- Journey of the attendee--using RFID and scanner technology, event organizers can analyze the attendee journey to determine, on average, how many sessions or activities a person participates in. If overall participation is low, planners should consider making adjustments to the conference programming or content.
Meetings are treasure troves of data. With the abundance of tools available to record attendee behavior and preferences, planners can plan better, more efficient and less costly events.