Association leaders are always looking for new ways to drive revenue and improve the event experience. That’s why analytics for events is growing in popularity, with more executives starting to perform analysis to identify opportunities for improvement.

Getting started is easier than you might think. Here are four ways to think about data for enhancing events.

1. Validating Assumptions

I’m going to assume something here… Your business today makes some decisions based on assumption. In the absence of data, we’re all forced to rely on critical-thinking, best guesses, and what some people like to call their “gut instinct.”

While it may be necessary to form assumptions, we should always be looking to challenge them with data. Assumptions aren’t always wrong, but you’ll never know unless you test. Even the simplest things we take for granted can sometimes turn out to be misguided.

For example, one association had always assumed that meeting attendees would be more likely to attend events closer to their geographic region. Members who live in Asia will come more often to the California meeting and European members will come to New York.

Sounds reasonable enough. When you factor in the duration of flights and the added cost – why wouldn’t members prefer the closer event?

As it turns out, the association found no correlation whatsoever when using data analytics to validate this assumption. In other words, members from Asia were just as likely to come to the east coast and Europeans were just as likely to fly to the west coast. They adjusted marketing strategies and saw a boost in event attendance.

2. Personalizing Content

I’m willing to bet you have data that’s not being used to it’s full potential. A common example is Social or Online Community forums. Yes, members are out there talking… But can you turn all that noise into meaningful insights?

One association was heavily focused on member engagement, with vibrant member discussions happening online. But the challenge with discussions is that they’re stored as unstructured data (things like text that are hard to define).

They decided to invest in analytics to better understand what members are talking about, what they like or dislike, and what motivates their participation. They can now analyze trends to get meaningful insights on their membership. Now when they host an event, publish content, or send out marketing messages, they can be much more targeted with communications. Instead of blasting the same message to everyone, they’re now able to personalize the message. When they host an event, they see which topics are popular online and they tailor the sessions to improve the in-person event experience.

3. Optimizing Interactions

Most members don’t complain when something goes wrong on your digital channels. Mostly they get frustrated and abandon the website. That’s why more associations are focusing on improving the digital experience with analytics.

One association had a complex event registration page that required multiple steps for users to complete. They could see registrations coming in, but they were missing the data to see where members were getting stuck.

With analytics, they were able to identify ways to remove friction in the registration process, leading to more conversions on site and more revenue for the event. The more you can do to make digital interactions easy for members, the more likely they will come back and engage again.

4. Predicting Behaviors

The next phase in analytics for associations is the move toward predictive. One association had been holding an event for several years and they were seeing a consistent decline in registration. That’s when they started using predictive modeling to score members based on likelihood of attending.

They found that certain members almost never attend the event and ones that almost always attend. This allowed them to focus less effort on these two groups, putting more resources towards members with the greatest probability of conversion. Instead of wasting money on people that never attend or people that definitely attend, they’re now able to allocate resources more efficiently. They’ve seen an increase in attendance and a decrease in costs.

Getting Started

While this article focused mostly on association events, the application of analytics is very broad, with use cases across the organization from membership, marketing, finance, operations, and more.

Keep in mind that your data doesn’t need to be perfect to get started. Simply kicking off a data analytics project will help you identify areas for improvement, and you will start to make incremental gains.