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Analytics: For Convention Centres

June 14, 2017

Analytics is all about searching for patterns in data and, hopefully, doing something useful with the results. For the last decade, convention centres have made huge efforts to implement technologies that collect data and eliminate paper. However, all that data represents a largely untapped resource in many centres.

So what secrets lie in Convention Centre data?
That answer really depends on which system is being examined. Event management systems such as Ungerboeck, EventBooking and ConCentRICs contain a wealth of sales, space and financial information. Building systems may contain a rich set of data related to what's happening in your space with respect to temperature, energy consumption, etc. Point of Sale (POS) systems also provide detailed data streams of what is being sold. Centres also collect customer survey data using systems such as Survey Monkey that reveal a variety of results from the customer experience. In addition, there may be even more insights from other data sources such as market research, social media and web.

How do we attempt to understand this data?
Once the sources of data have been identified, a strategy is really required as to how best to leverage this data. Gartner has a nice model which defines four levels of analytics:

 1. Descriptive, "What happened?" 

 2. Diagnostic, "Why did it happen?"

 3. Predictive, "What will happen?"

 4. Prescriptive, "What should I do?"

The first level of Descriptive analytics may include examining such things as historical trends and seasonal patterns of your event data or looking at space utilization. Diagnostic analysis may explore subjects such as why events were lost/canceled, or why the customer satisfaction scores are declining.

Moving to the higher levels of predictive and prescriptive analytics opens up possibilities such as Revenue forecasting and Lead scoring. Watercooler is currently developing a machine learning algorithm that assigns the probability of a lead closing (i.e. a lead score) based on historical data. This approach was validated in a joint research project with the University of Victoria.

Automated lead-scoring is a powerful way to ensure sales staff are spending their time on the best leads. Revenue management/forecasting is another emerging area where techniques that have been leveraged in the airline and hotel industries are now being applied to the convention industry. 

What tools can help analyze this data?
From a technology perspective, many centres tackle analytics with tools like Excel which, while useful for some preliminary descriptive analytics, really start to frustrate users when trying to manipulate larger data sets and more complex analysis. Some centres purchase "generic" analytics software what appears to be a bargain price, but then realize that connecting to industry-specific data sources and implementing industry-specific business rules and algorithms quickly translate into significant consulting expenses.

Management plays a pivotal role in the adoption of analytics. The three critical attributes these executives must possess are curiosity, evidence-based decision making and a desire for continuous improvement. Curiosity is the lifeblood of analytics -- when the questions stop, so do the insights. Evidence-based decision making is vital and sets a tone for staff that decisions are made using facts and data. Finally, a culture of continuous improvement within a centre creates a demand for analytics as an important tool in boosting revenue, making meeting planners happier and creating an engaged and productive workforce.

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