One of the ongoing challenges facing many event professionals
operating within associations, networks, and membership organisations,
is the ability to implement change, writes Clive Morris.
This is particularly an issue when looking to modify a significant
element of the event such as the format in which it’s delivered,
location or frequency.
Many businesses and associations collect vast amounts of data post
event but fail to put the results to use. In a recent podcast, the vice
president of Meta, Nicola Mendelsohn, spoke to the challenge of change:
“I’m open to change my mind if I see evidence and data. There’s a poster
on the [office] wall ‘Data Wins Arguments’. I like that because I think
it’s true. Data allows you to really look at something and know if
something isn’t going well to stop it.”
Framing the data and insights garnered from your events in a
proactive and productive way can help influence change and overcome many
obstacles, particularly amongst your most senior stakeholders.
Know your audience
Being able to play the data back to your stakeholders in a way that
engages them, and more importantly, encourages them to act on the
insight, is vital.
From the beginning, your event data strategy should speak to the
wider organisational goals and objectives and be agreed by all parties.
What does success look like for a given event or portfolio of events,
and what data points are therefore central to measuring performance
against this success criteria?
You should also detail how the findings will be communicated back to
the different stakeholders involved with the event and how will the
findings be acted on. These elements are interlinked – the more apposite
the communication of the findings, the more likely they will be acted
Communication is key
You can have the best data strategy and collection process in the
world, but if the findings are poorly played back to the event’s
stakeholder group, then the effort risks being largely wasted.
At the heart of this, the key mantra is that one size absolutely does
not fit all. Each of your stakeholders with have different levels of
seniority, with different business focusses and insight needs. Some will
respond well to granular details whilst others will want headline
statistics. Others will enjoy a more visual presentation; others simply
want the numbers.
A fundamental task when mapping out the stakeholders for your data
project is to fully understand who your stakeholders are and how they
like to be communicated. For example, it’s unlikely that the C-Suite
level stakeholders are going to want to be presented with a 10,000-row
spreadsheet with raw data. Whilst those in an operational role, who are
perhaps more likely to have a remit to implement day-to-day changes on
the back of the data, will find a 'Top 3 takeaways’ summary
However, both groups will be reassured that the other type of output
exists – the C-Suite, that there is a detailed data analysis
underpinning the key messages, and for the operational stakeholders, the
takeaways provide an initial steer into the data that they can
follow-up on with the more granular outputs.
What to consider when presenting insights
Think about the optimal timing of the playback session. All day is
likely to be too long and difficult to keep focus, and from an
organisational perspective, very tricky to coordinate calendars and get
everyone together. One hour? Likely to be too short.
Think about what you want the outcomes to be, then use an estimate of
how long you think each section will take to determine the optimal
Be as engaging and interactive as possible. Be clear, visual and
pitched at a level that can be understood by the whole group. Try: ‘What
do we think about this?’, ‘Can we shed any light on it?
Talk to them personally. For example, “I know you felt there was a
problem with the app. Here’s what we found re. the extent of the
problem, and some suggested solutions from users. Do we believe any of
these would work?”
Qualitative findings can help engage the audience, building on any
quant data. Hearing customers’ voices directly adds colour to the
quantitative findings. Additionally, look to get your stakeholders
involved in recommending customers to participate in the research
process - this enhances their engagement and buy-in from the start of
the process and they will be particularly keen to hear the results from
their nominated contacts.
The next critical step is gaining buy-in to ACT on the findings. In
other words, what will come of all the efforts that have been expended
to collate the data? This is partly empowerment – ensuring (again,
ideally provided from the outset) that team members have the authority
to implement changes on the back of the findings. But it also once more
comes down to communication approaches.
You will likely have brought all your stakeholders together to agree
on a data strategy based on your organisation or event’s specific goals
and objectives. It’s now time for you to reconvene this group and
determine an action plan based on the results.
Be clear here on priorities and make sure the number of actions is
kept to a manageable number – particularly for an individual
Some actions may be small, however, some of the more significant
changes will involve engaging third parties and may not be ready to act
immediately. Don’t kick these into the long grass, instead, look to
reschedule a meeting to review these changes on a regular basis and
allocate a time in which they will be addressed.
Documenting this process is key to engendering accountability amongst
those involved and overall, ensuring the insights successfully lead to
Change can be tricky to navigate. At times it can feel like an uphill
task, particularly when you’re faced with multiple stakeholders.
Remember, it’s human nature to resist change and can make some
individuals feel vulnerable or nervous. Having a good data strategy in
place, well-delivered insights, and a measurable action plan will help
alleviate many fears and give your organisation a solid foundation on
which to build a positive customer-centric future.
Source: AMI Magazine