How Successful Is Your Event, Really?

by MYB, on November 11, 2019


Congratulations: The survey results from your latest conference are in, and there’s plenty of good news to share! An overwhelming majority of attendees say they were satisfied with the mix of programming available, and an even larger majority say they were satisfied with the number of sessions on innovative practices in the field.

Don’t pop those champagne corks just yet, though. Satisfied attendees are essential for every meeting, of course. But satisfaction alone won’t tell you how well your conference has hit its targets. A deeper dive into your data can reveal challenges you need to address before calling your event truly successful.

How to do that? One way to see how your event may be falling short is to conduct a gap analysis. Take the percentage of attendees who say they were very or extremely satisfied with a particular element of your meeting. Now take a look at the percentage of those who say that element is very or extremely important. The gap between satisfaction and importance provides a clearer picture of how well that element performed.

Recently, for a major medical conference, we surveyed attendees on a variety of meeting elements. A healthy majority---75 percent---said they were satisfied with how the event provided content in their area of specialty. But an even larger majority---85 percent---said that such content was important. Similarly, while 43 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with how the conference allowed them to meet and network with colleagues they didn’t know, 53 percent said such meetings were important.

The distance between those percentages is where the work on improving your meeting begins. They are your areas of opportunity.

But none of these gaps should be addressed in isolation. As we conducted our gap analysis of the event, we observed that the gaps can differ depending on who your attendees are. Dues-paying members didn’t just want more content in their area of specialty, but clearer takeaways from each session. Nonmember attendees craved more opportunities to meet thought leaders than the event seemed to be providing. Some practitioners prized the latest clinical findings; others wanted networking opportunities.

Doing that kind of deep dive into your data can help you not just identify gaps, but prioritize improvements. The temptation to close every gap can be acute, but it may also be unrealistic; ultimately your next steps will be a function of the strategic goals you’ve established for your event. If increasing membership is a priority, understanding how nonmembers think about your products and services---and when they don’t think about them as much as you’d like---can help you focus the energies of your meetings staff.

Like any association on a budget, you may not be able to do it all. But a gap analysis can help you do the important things right.