Forward Thinking

How to Leverage Big Data

To outmaneuver the competition, we need to be nimble, decisive, and in constant beta mode.

Leading change is a skill that is difficult to master. But for the meeting professional who can make the leap, it’s one core competency that will pay huge career dividends.
Change doesn’t happen fast in most organizations. Leadership is often slow to react without data to support change initiatives. Some are obsessed with the “big data” movement. But big data doesn’t necessarily mean a large amount of information that needs to be analyzed. The best big data comes in the form of big insights that answer big questions and lead to action.

One big data/insight point that gets leaders’ attention is competitive intelligence. Studying the business models of other conference products can help you  recommend a path forward. Here are four big questions — and a few tips — to get you started.

1. Do you have the right registration-pricing strategy (aka revenue management)?

Plot your early, standard, and late prices vs. a competitive set. Create a graph with the number of days prior to conference start date on the x-axis and full conference member price on the y-axis. Does your pricing strategy include enough instances of urgency? Are the pricing-rung increases too high or too low? How can you adjust to drive earlier action/cash flow? Are competitors’ pricing strategies (i.e., group plans) more relevant than yours?

2. How much of your member-value proposition is attributed to the conference?

Create a comparison that shows the competitive set’s individual annual membership pricing divided by the difference in the conference rate for non-members and members. The highest percentage may raise a member-value-proposition issue.

3. Are you attracting enough members?

For non-trade membership models, create a comparison that illustrates total conference attendance divided by the total number of members. How does your penetration compare? Are you improving the linkage between the conference and your primary business model?

4. Does your conference business model have good revenue diversification/penetration?

For exhibits, divide the total number of companies by 10. Calculate how much your top 10 percent of investors are contributing vs. the same number of companies for each competitor. Use the 10ˇ x 10ˇ base booth cost multiplied by the number of booths purchased. For sponsorship, focus only on the top investment categories (i.e., platinum and gold sponsorships sold, multiplied by that investment level). The healthiest conferences will have greater investment at these highest levels.

Transparency of information in the association world has dramatically improved, and you should be able to find these data points with some advanced Google searches. These metrics are also helpful for internal benchmarking improvements from year to year.

Dave Lutz, CMP

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.