Just recently, I spoke at the International Summer University for Trade Fair Management (ISU) in Cologne on the importance of data and analytics. ISU has been established by the Institute of Trade Fair Management in cooperation with UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, and is targeted at middle and senior management of trade fair venues and organizers.
The motto of this year’s Summer University, “Embracing the Digital – Exhibition Industry 4.0,” inspired me to take a deeper look at how to leverage data into opportunity.
Fishing in the Dark
We are now being presented with larger masses of data than ever before with the digitalization of the exhibition industry. But how many exhibition managers are actually engaged in analytics?
A new CEIR study has published numbers on how the exhibition industry is using big data. The survey found that 68% of respondents are engaged in analytics, or will engage in analytics within the next year. The other 32% have no plans to do so.
A critical finding of this particular study is that exhibition organizers do not necessarily have to work with large data sets and complex analytics tools in order to produce positive business results. Brian Casey, president and CEO of CEIR explains, “It’s the effectiveness of the analytics, however simple or complex, that really makes a difference, not the volume of data being analyzed.”
For event organizers, the issue is really about “Dark Data” or the valuable information around attendance, exhibitor sales and revenue you’re already capturing that is just sitting around gathering dust. So, how can you begin taking advantage of your Dark Data and effectively analyze it so your staff, and stakeholders, make the best use of it?
The Right Data for Making Decisions
Leading data analytics expert Jeff Tanner, Jr., Ph.D. and author of Analytics and Dynamic Customer Strategy, explains in a recent CEIR blog post that most organizations use data to identify whether or not things are working. He says, “The real value of data, though, is in making decisions and gaining insight.”
One of the biggest challenges that exhibition organizers face today is how to identify what data is the “Right Data” to facilitate decisions. The key to overcoming this challenge is to define a priority that is of paramount importance to your organization. For example, to attract 10% more exhibitor applications. Once you have set a tangible goal, start thinking about what kind of information you will need to help you reach your goal.
“If you don’t have the data available at the time of decision making, you don’t have time to get the data,” continued Tanner. Therefore, it is vital to think of analytics at the same time you are collecting data.
Ideally, a software solution that is optimized for data collection and analysis looks something like this:
- A single system to handle all event-critical details. Eliminate the need to log in and search across multiple, disconnected software platforms.
- Real-time updates. What good does it do if your team isn’t working from the most up-to-date information?
- Easy and robust reporting functionality. Pulling custom reports can and should be nearly effortless.