Want to Create Dynamic Event Options? Start With Good Data

To create dynamic events that let participants pick their own paths, you need to know them — very well — before they arrive.

Increasingly, meeting participants want events that they attend to be more agile and self-driven. Basically, they want to be able to personalize the event on their own.

That’s according to the event research of the Professional Convention Management Association and Marriott, which together hosted a roundtable earlier this year to discuss the latest meeting trends. As Sherrif Karamat, chief operating officer of PCMA noted when discussing the trends, explains: “I want to personalize my experience, and I don’t want the organizers to determine my experience for me. Instead, I want them to create a platform where I can personalize my experience.”

Seems straightforward enough, right? But like any great meeting or event, allowing participants to set their own paths takes planning to pull off well.

A key element is data. You need to understand a lot about all your participants before, during and after your event.

The Before Info

To start, you need to gather information about either who is attending your event or who is likely to. You might already have some of this information tucked away in your organization’s databases and files. Begin with that.

Pull your attendees' locations, the size of their organizations, details about what their organizations do, information on events they’ve attended previously, and then dig for more details, such as breakouts they took part in, noting both topic and length, how long they stayed at an event, and what follow up they took part in.

If you have the capability, start applying business intelligence tools to this information so that you can report out trends across the data. At a basic level, you can do some reviews and data culls manually, but if you’re planning an event of any marginal size, you’ll want to get help from data analytics software.

Using the analytics, you can start to identify common elements that your attendees have and you can create event or meeting content that aligns to those commonalities and business needs.

Now, think about your event and plot out ways to let you attendees dynamically take part in breakouts, side sessions and interactive elements specifically driven by the analytics.

BONUS TIP: If you don’t have a lot of data about your likely attendees, kick off your recruiting and registration early and nurture your attendees with content and questions before the event, gathering details about them a little bit at a time. You don’t want registration to be overwhelming, so don’t ask them 1,001 questions just to sign up.

Data Snapshots During

You always want to know what worked and what did not at a meeting. That’s why planners ask participants to fill out questionnaires and little reviews at or after events. And you will want that data to help for the future planning of your dynamic event, too.

But for a highly agile event that can pivot as it’s happening, you need real-time data as well. Think about using beacons and name tags with embedded chips so you can track attendance to your event’s dynamic elements. If one does particularly well, think about being prepared to host it again in another space onsite. This is where the intense pre-planning pays off because you’re going to shift around your agenda—and space—to drive participants to an element you know is hot and is going to create buzz.

You will also need to be able to notify your attendees quickly of changes in your event and any pop-up elements that you add. Think about using a meeting app that your attendees sign up for before the event. That way, you have a way to reach them on a moment’s notice once the event’s under way.

BONUS TIP: Think about capturing some of these pop-up events on camera—maybe even live-stream them—so that you can share them with registrants who didn’t make it to the event and to promote upcoming events.

The After Info

Afterwards, continue to share elements of the event and other content created by your organization with participants based on the data analytics and what you expect they will have interest in.

This approach provides you a way to continue connecting with your attendees and for them to engage with you. As you share this content, you will also be able to gather more data that you can use to understand what interests them and that you can then tap for future meeting and event planning.

BONUS TIP: Use these post-event contacts—via email, social and other formats—to ask attendees about how well you succeeded at creating dynamic event elements. Then, use this as a mini-focus group to guide you in developing successful strategies for attendee-driven meeting planning.