Crunch Time – Big Data and Your Meetings

(This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of PCMA Convene Magazine.)
Big data is the big buzzword. But what can it do for you? Help you figure out where your attendees are coming from and what they’re interested in — and better negotiate and track your expenditures.

The information you can glean from tracking a single attendee at one of your meetings or conventions covers a lot of ground: details about her company and career, the vendors she visited, the products she most buzzed over, what she thought were your best breakout sessions, her online conversations with peers, meetings she had on site, and any questions she asked of presenters. Now multiply that data by the thousands or tens of thousands for a large event. And that’s only counting the information you might collect at the meeting itself, to say nothing of pre- and post-event feedback.

Throughout every one of your conferences, vast amounts of information are flowing on everything from attendance patterns to purchasing preferences to venue costs. But the ability to capture this type of “big data” and convert it into a usable form is a challenge that meeting professionals are just starting to tackle. Apps, software platforms, and other new technologies are making it easier than ever to collect information and turn it into actionable data. But some experts say the meetings industry has been slow to adopt these solutions.