Can Analyzing Emotional Data Help Improve Your Conferences?

Associations are always using data to analyze attendee engagement at their meetings. But could even more valuable insights come from measuring attendees’ emotions? A look at some benefits.

Number of registered attendees. Clicks and opens on a marketing email. Attendance numbers for specific sessions. Buyer-to-seller ratio on the tradeshow floor. Percentage of participants who downloaded and used the conference app.

Those are just some of the data points that associations often collect about their meetings. While those metrics and many others can help assess attendee engagement, organizations still want even more valuable insights.

But how can those be derived?

According to “Emotions, the Next Event KPI?,” a white paper from CWT Meetings and Events, facial coding could be the answer.

At its Digital Campus innovation forum last year, CWT partnered with Datakalab to use this method, which CWT defines as “measuring the physical signs associated with emotions and translating them to the corresponding feelings.” In other words, it allows emotions like joy, fear, disgust, anger, sadness, and surprise to become measurable.

During each of the forum’s 11 presentations, two cameras facing the audience captured all reactions to obtain two key metrics:

Attention. Percentage of attendees who were following the presentation (usually varies between 70 and 90 percent).

Emotional engagement. Percentage of attendees who expressed an emotion versus neutral expressions (usually averages 10 to 13 percent).

After the conference, Datakalab analyzed the video data. The average attention score revealed that 77 out of 100 attendees were following the presentations, while the average engagement score told CWT that 11 attendees out of 100 were conveying an emotion at any given time (positive or negative, versus a neutral state).

However, CWT was able to draw out some other conclusions. For example, the session that had the highest scores for both attention (83 percent) and emotional engagement (17.2 percent) featured a charismatic speaker who used humor and insights to keep the audience focused. This reaffirms the importance of having speakers who are effective and know their audiences.

In addition, CWT determined that three of the sessions, which scored high for attention but low for emotional engagement, covered topics that were relevant but the formats should be redesigned for future events to drive up the engagement score.

The emotional data for each session even allowed CWT to draw conclusions as to what times during the presentation tools like video would be most effective.

While I’m not sure facial coding will be adopted by a large number of associations in the near feature, I do think it’s an interesting technology that offers the ability to collect unbiased, real-time data and make improvements. And it’s not only organizations that can benefit from it: Since emotional data measures high and low points of a session, content leaders can evaluate their presentation’s impact and improve their delivery and format as a result.

How do you think measuring attendees’ emotional data could improve your conferences and other events? Tell us in the comments.

(shutteratakan/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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