There’s an old saying among measurement professionals: No data is better than bad data.
Bad data lead to bad decisions—which is why business leaders must make sure they’re measuring what matters and using the right tools to do it. This is especially true in the meeting industry, which as a whole doesn’t have a strong tradition of measurement at all. Aside from post-event surveys, there’s little data collection around delegate needs, goals and objectives. Real-time data are seldom collected at all. And of all the data that are collected, most are not adequately analyzed or used strategically to make better business decisions.
What passes for measurement in our industry is woefully inadequate in terms of delivering actionable information that can lead to process improvements or better meeting experiences. We’ve seen surveys that ask seemingly innocuous questions such as how attendees arrived at the event. We’ve seen questions that focus on logistics to the detriment of value-add questions regarding whether meeting attendee needs were met or whether session content was relevant to their work, often using scales that are difficult to interpret.
And these are among the more obvious errors. Professionals who are serious about meeting measurement have difficulty identifying objectives and appropriate measures. The most common (and readily available) metrics are often financial. But non-financial metrics (such as learning or attitudinal change) are sometimes more relevant. Regardless, meeting professionals need to expand their uses of hard and soft data. Data must ultimately reflect what’s important to your business goals and objectives and your attendees’ meeting goals and objectives.
Accordingly, most organizations need to use a mix of financial and non-financial questions. Consider these.
Business Goals & Objectives
Meeting Goals & Objectives
- What were our year-over-year attendance and revenue figures?
- What was our year-over-year ratio of registration types (members, non-members, suppliers)?
- What were our year-over-year demographics (gender, salary range, decision-making authority, average tenure)?
- What was the relevance of our session content?
- What was the quality of our formal programming and informal networking?
- What was our audience engagement? How many contacts did they make? How many leads did they develop?
Then, there’s the issue of what measurement tools to use. Psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to see all your problems as nails.” Many meeting professionals only have one tool in their measurement toolbox, which limits the type of data they can collect and use effectively. Underutilized data collection tools or methods include:
- Self-administered surveys
- Personal interviews
- Focus groups
- Online or emailed questionnaires
- Performance or knowledge tests
- Document or content reviews
- Literature searches
Each tool has its advantages and disadvantages (and variable costs), but the more tools used to collect data, the richer the data collected and the more comprehensive the value proposition. But, ultimately, meeting professionals must become proficient in ways to use their measures and data collection tools effectively, or hire a professional to analyze the data for them.
business value of meetings,
One+ April 2012,