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Life science event organizers know the value of data; likely everyone uses tools for both virtual or in-person meetings to take attendance and gather some form of information and feedback from participants. After each event, then, data representing the number of participants alongside some demographic details about attendees is shared in reports and visually. While this can be useful, it leaves out critical information companies could use to drive ongoing interactions with key individuals and ultimately, the success of the event as a strategic business component. Fortunately, there are some straightforward best practices for using event metrics effectively to measure impact, generate insights, and improve future events.
All events are collecting some type of data, but what’s important isn’t that there is data at the end, but that the data aligns with what the organization is trying to accomplish. More often than not, data is collected, sorted and then put into some sort of visual representation of what was observed at the meeting. This usually includes participant demographic data, possibly some polling responses, and not much more. Event reporting has so much more potential. Instead of being static and simply representing what happened already, it can become truly actionable—informing what can be done to improve future events or even larger business decisions relating to the meeting’s objectives. There is already a process for achieving this: the data design strategy. More robust than showing results of polling, a strategy can help you understand how to turn those results into actionable insights (here defined as the thought-provoking outcomes that lead to possible new courses of action).
Chuck Levitan, Senior Solutions Engineer at Array
Before the event, identify the data collection points that will help move you toward your end goal. In this way, you can ensure your objectives are being productively contributed to throughout the meeting. Ask yourself what metrics you will need to tell the story of how those goals were met; what type of intelligence will be most useful to you when preparing for the next meeting or event? Questions you’ll want the event data to answer include:
- Which content was most compelling?
- Who was most engaged with key content?
- Were all the learners trained effectively?
- Did your key messages hit their target mark?
Planning for Insights
Start by considering the data collection and analysis process, the method of measuring something. How will you collect the information you need? This could include a combination of pre- and post-event surveys, polling, gamification, breakout sessions, dynamic Q&A, and slide interactions. These include the technical ability to save or take notes on presentation slides, and giving stakeholders the ability to review those after the fact to see what slides were most popular and what was being said or asked in the notes.
Of note, Q&A is most often the area where organizers or presenters will cut time if an event is going over schedule. This is a common misstep. Q&A is real-time, organic feedback to what you’re presenting. It is one of the highest value markers of any type of audience and one of the cheapest you can do – without any tech, people can simply raise hands in a room. It should never be what you cut when running out of time. Instead, consider other ways to be flexible and plan for what to do if events are running over, other than cutting feedback/engagement and losing the data that would come from it.
Also, rather than making the collection and assessment of demographics the sum of data collected, consider it as simply the starting point of your metrics journey. Demographics are key data points that are structured very specifically so they can be used and filtered as part of the overall narrative. Knowing the attendee’s role, size of company, types of activities or events they’re involved with can be useful. It’s important to think about this demographic info and how it might help you achieve your event goals.
Other data metrics that should be planned for include measures of overall engagement, participation, breakdowns of most engaged to least engaged participants, how different presentations were received versus others, and what questions were asked.
If you are using technology with the ability to review which slides were saved and notes taken on them, a breakdown of individual slides and how many times each was saved, what questions were asked on the slide, how many notes were taken, and what the content of those notes were can also be very useful. This helps denote the importance of individual slides and how the participants were reacting to it – for example, did it resonate with them or confuse them? With enough interactions on just a single slide, you may have discovered a future topic or clarification for the next meeting.
Not every technology can provide those types of metrics, but if you start to think about how you are collecting information, realize that metrics related to the individual content is critical.
Analysis Starts to Tell the Story
Once you have strategically planned for what metrics you want to obtain and how you’ll collect these, the next step in making data actionable is analytics. This process of discovering, interpreting and communicating significant patterns in data helps us see insights and meaningful data we might not otherwise detect.
This is where you really start to interpret the data, and how it speaks back to your original event objectives. Depending on what data your technology was able to collect, you can see patterns in questions asked, content that was most engaged with, particular interests expressed by participants or even similarities in which slides were saved. You can then take it a step further to look at those initial demographics and to who responded best to the content and presenters.
Taking Action, Moving Forward
Lastly, once you’ve planned, collected and analyzed your data, you should be able to find some actionable insights. This is when you look at what you can take away from your data. This might be finding there is a need for further communication with audience members who did not indicate the knowledge transfer you needed, follow-up with attendees with a specific interest in a content area, or identifying changes to be made to future presentations.
Events are a critical part of how life sciences companies achieve their objectives. Planning each one with a focus on engaging audiences and collecting data metrics from that engagement moves them from isolated one-offs to integrated key tactical assets in an overarching strategic plan.