How to Use Data to Boost Attendee and Exhibitor ROI

During last month’s Transform USA event, speakers shared tips on how to use data to increase ROI for their attendees and exhibitors. Here are two ideas for associations to keep in mind.

About two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Transform USA event here in DC. The one-day conference—put on by AMR International and Lippman Connects—provided insights about how data, analytics, and digital technologies are affecting events and gave attendees practical ideas on how to use data to boost ROI for attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and themselves.

Having data, and being able to use it effectively at a moment’s notice to make a business case, is a tool every organizer needs to have to survive.

“There’s an increased pressure on organizers to deliver not just the experience that matters, but also the value through business connections that attendees have been looking for and exhibitors are currently looking for,” said Denzil Rankine, executive chairman of AMR International, in his opening remarks. “Organizers need to understand their markets better, and then use data to drive analysis, which is going to allow better connections and better value for both attendees and exhibitors.”

Here are two takeaways I left with that I think are particularly relevant to associations as they go about planning and executing their conferences and tradeshows.

A data-driven strategy is a must-have. Keynoter Jean Foster, vice president of marketing at the Consumer Technology Association, opened Transform USA by talking about how to compete for exhibitors’ marketing budgets.

A former corporate marketer, she explained to attendees that if they don’t have data that shows exhibitors exactly why they should participate in their tradeshows and what benefits they’ll derive from doing so, “they will easily cut exhibiting at your tradeshow from their budgets.”

That’s why organizers need a data-driven strategy, she said. Hers included six steps: understanding exhibitor goals; knowing the data they already have; creating a roadmap for analyzing and using that data; focusing on the attendee experience before, during, and after the event; leveraging technology; and sharing their data with their customers and exhibitors.

“Having data, and being able to use it effectively at a moment’s notice to make a business case, is a tool every organizer needs to have to survive,” she said.

Keep your exhibitors top of mind. Exhibitors spend a lot of money to be at your show, which is why it’s important to put as much focus on them as you do your attendees. Megan Tanel, senior vice president of exhibitions and events for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, discussed how her organization invested in its exhibitors over the past few years to boost their ROI.

In 2016, AEM realigned staff to launch an exhibitor engagement department, whose primary focus is on exhibitor communication and overall engagement.

“We take a personalized approach,” said Tanel. “We want to show them how to embrace technology and tools to make their time at CONEXPO-CON/AGG and all our other shows worthwhile and valuable to them.”

On top of a new staff department, at this year’s meeting back in March, AEM gave all exhibitors access to attendee behavioral data that had never been available before. It included everything from attendee dwell time at a booth to aggregate demographic activity around a booth. “We were able to give them something they never had received, so it was a win for everyone,” said Tanel.

How is your association using or sharing data from its conferences and tradeshows to deliver more value to attendees and exhibitors? Please share in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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