With the sea of data that marketing teams and event planners can capture throughout the year, it’s easy to lose focus regarding which insights truly matter for making your next event as valuable as possible to potential attendees. What’s more, “if your bosses look at the data you’ve captured from your last event and respond with, ‘That’s great—but what does it mean for us,’ then you have not been clear enough” in presenting data that will have a tangible impact on the business.
So said Nicole Moreo, executive vice president and head of U.S. analytics for strategic-communications firm Ketchum, in a session she led during the Professional Convention Management Association’s Convening Leaders conference in mid-January. Titled “Change Actions for Return on Events: Measuring and Reporting Value,” Moreo delivered critical lessons for gathering data that identifies the issues your target audience cares about, and then measuring how well your event presented those issues in ways attendees found valuable.
While the overarching goal is to “reach the right people via the right channels with the right messages at the right time,” Moreo says that an event’s specific objectives should come from the answers to these questions: “What perceptions are we hoping to create or change among the target audience, and what actions are we trying to bring about from them?”
From there, event organizers must determine which attendee data will help them build and market an event that creates the right impressions and prompts pre- and post-event action from attendees. Moreo stresses, however, that event teams don’t need to compile all that data themselves.
“Some very useful data can be found in sales, marketing, or another department internally,” she notes. “Also, look to the data or surveys of other organizations to understand what your audience is interested in and how they spend their time gathering that knowledge.” Granted, “there’s often no easy way to get data from different systems within and outside your organization—just get it in an Excel spreadsheet, if need be.”
But here’s the key to persuading people outside your department to provide you with something of value, says Moreo: “Offer some data and insights of your own in return. Give something to get something.”
As you develop the theme for an event, specificity is the factor that will drive interest, and data is necessary for that. For instance, “everybody says they are interested in ‘digital transformation’ but that is so broad that it won’t prompt action,” Moreo says. Instead, data collected by the host organization can promote an event’s topic in a compelling way—informing the target audience about where their industry colleagues presently stand with implementing digital transformation directly to their work, where their colleagues want to get to with their digital transformation and by when, and what complications they are facing.
After an event, the planning team must compile data that reveals business impact in terms of both “target outcomes” and “target outputs,” says Moreo. Outcomes include measurable changes in attendee understanding, beliefs, and behavior. Outputs are the number of social-media posts and other public and private feedback generated by attendees in a given time frame.
Lastly, when presenting data to the executive team after an event to prove its effectiveness, Moreo (pictured below) suggests that planning teams use storytelling that presents different attendee personas thinking and acting differently in the post-event environment. Doing this can answer the eternal question from upper management: “What does it mean for us?”