Why data is an event planner’s best friend by @PYMLive

“Thank you,” an attendee whispered to me on her way out of PYM LIVE Austin last week, “I’ve never been able to eat dinner at an event before.”

She has Celiac’s Disease, which means she has to avoid consuming gluten or her body will start to attack itself. Creating gluten free menus is easy. So is asking attendees if they have an allergy or dietary restriction. Clearly, she’d never been asked.

Another attendee indicated stairs were a problem when she registered. Upon arrival at our host hotel, the first thing people see is a gorgeous staircase that leads to the event space. Knowing that she wouldn’t be able to climb the steep incline, I sent her an email with instructions on how to find the lobby elevator. She wrote back: “You my dear are a GEM! I truly appreciate your consideration and look forward to seeing you.”

These are but two examples of the many ways in which data can help you customize the event experience. But attendee data also can generate exhibitor/sponsor ROI, save you money, and help you leverage concessions.

Generating value for sponsors/exhibitors

The No. 1 trade show trend is one-to-one appointment setting. Trying to match people by hand is a time-consuming and mind-numbing experience. But many tools allow you to collect data beforehand to automate this process. If you want to learn more about it, there’s a free webinar on the topic June 12 (after the live broadcast, you can watch on-demand here).

Another way to generate sponsor/exhibitor ROI is to track attendee behavior while they’re onsite. RFID/NFC name badges and scanners are one option, but the hottest thing right now is beacon technology. If you need a crash course in what beacons do, read this. When embedded in your event app, beacons not only let you customize information you can “beam” to attendees, they tell you who interacted with whom (or what), and where they were at all times. It’s a creative way for exhibitors to deliver custom messages to people onsite and a fantastic way to show exhibitors how attendees reacted to their messaging, and how effective (or defective) the event flow was.

Using data to save money and resources

If knowing your group is the goal, having data on what they like, dislike, want to have or will never try is key to helping you eliminate waste and save money. Don’t have historical data on hand? Start tracking now and enlist your hotel to help you measure Wifi data consumption, total attendee spend and energy consumption (if going green is a priority).

Don’t know what your attendees like to eat and drink? Keep tabs on what people send back to the kitchen untouched and have the banquet captain collect corks and bottle lids to anything you’re paying for on consumption. This will help you create less wasteful BEOs next time.

Aren’t sure which speakers or destinations attendees will prefer? Why not let them determine it by popular vote the way SXSW and SoMeT have? When attendees feel like they have a voice, they’re more likely to show up and see how things turn out. If the idea of leaving the professional development or host decisions up to the crowd makes you squirrelly, let them vote on something like a room set or signature drink. Anyone who participates in the voting is a potential marketing asset you can engage with on social to help spread the word and generate excitement about your event.

Leverage data during negotiations

Data also helps you negotiate stronger and more effectively because you know your group, their historical spend and what that means in terms of value to your potential hosts. You need to divide your concessions into three categories: must have, would like to have and could live without. Make sure the “must haves” are in the RFP and then work with the hotel or venue to negotiate a compromise on the “would like to haves.” Sub out anything offered that your group doesn’t need for something they do.

Consider including performance-based clauses that reward you for meeting your minimums. For example, if you know you’ll hit that $25,000 F&B minimum, tie an additional set of concessions you’ll unlock when you pass that threshold.

The data your hotel and venue sales contacts collect can help you, too, so take an interest in what they can tell you about their strong and weak dates, how they make money on group business and what might help them make their quotas. If you can help each other out, you’ll not only create a more attractive group pricing package, you’ll forge a lasting relationship.

And isn’t that what this business is all about?


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