Dave Lutz, CMP
In the late-’60s sci-fi TV series “Lost in Space,” a robot would shout “Danger!” to warn the Robinson family when
they faced a potentially perilous situation. Your conference data — when collected, reviewed, and analyzed correctly
— can serve the same purpose, alerting
you when your event is about to face
a problem. The key is looking beyond
“vanity metrics,” to the numbers that will
lead you to the right conclusions.
If you feel good about your conference metrics right now, it may be time
to take a more critical look. Are you
following leading or lagging indicators?
Too many organizations pat themselves
on the back for increased attendance,
positive smile-sheet scores, or increases
in sponsorship revenue.
We have to be careful not to let emotions based on lagging vanity metrics
guide our decisions, and instead look
deeper into what our conference data is
really telling us. The first step is identifying your data. Vanity metrics:
› cause everyone to feel good about
the conference. They give everyone a
false sense of security. They include
total attendance, revenue, number of
sponsors or exhibitors, pace reports,
and satisfaction surveys. They are the
easiest to measure.
› are also the easiest to manipulate.
We often confuse them with correlation and causation. When our numbers
increase, everyone thinks it’s because
we are doing the right things. When
they decrease, we blame everyone for
not doing their jobs. Vanity metrics
don’t provide conference-planning
teams with the insight to know what to
› are lagging indicators. Often by the
time we see a decrease in attendance,
it is a symptom of a much deeper issue
we were unaware has been going on.
In contrast, actionable metrics:
› help us identify a problem and can
provide insight for midcourse correction. They are leading indicators that
focus more on who — rather than how
many — attended.
› include data on attendee, exhibi-tor- and sponsor-investment retention
and loyalty. What is the engagement
level? What percentage participated in
the opening general session, education
sessions, and networking events at any
given time? How many attendees have
become conference evangelists, telling
others and bringing them along?
› measure what matters and help you
make decisions about the strategy of
your conference. We have to remember
that metrics are human, too. Truly
actionable metrics help us trace the
individuals who have responded. If we
don’t fully understand the why behind
the numbers, we can reach out and conduct qualitative research.
When you embrace actionable metrics and leading indicators, you can talk
with your team and leadership about
the real challenges with your conference. This elevates your position as a
forward-looking, strategic conference
professional in your organization.
Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director
of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting,
Danger, Will Robinson!
What is your conference data really telling you?
“Key Performance Indicators
(KPIs),” writes business expert
Bernard Mahr, “should be the
vital navigation instruments
used by managers and leaders
to understand whether they are
on course to success or not. The
right set of KPIs will shine light
on performance and highlight
areas that need attention. Without the right KPIs, managers
are flying blind, a bit like a pilot
ON THE WEB
Read “The 75 KPIs Every Manager
Needs to Know,” a blog post by
author and business consultant
Bernard Mahr, at convn.org/