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April 10, 2007

TECHNOLOGY 1: The route to assessing effectiveness

An increasing amount of pressure is being placed on companies to prove the effectiveness of their events at board level in order to justify expenditure. This, of course, makes perfect sense, as a company shouldn’t embark on any form of marketing without first thinking carefully about how it can be assessed. To do so would be reckless and show little regard for the interests of shareholders and other stakeholders. And assessing an event’s effectiveness also helps provide guidance as to how it can be improved in the future. Technology now has a key role to play in gauging the success of events, and it is a role that will only grow in significance.

“Global companies and international organisations have new pressures on them to produce events that can be seen to be effective,” says Liz Bagnall, managing director of events agency Stagestuck, which uses technology to do just that.

Message  delivery

An annual general meeting (AGM) could be seen as an unusual event to choose for the use of new technologies to engage an audience, but Stagestruck used it to good effect at BP’s AGM last year, captivating shareholders. It proved to be a highly successful AGM for BP in terms of getting important corporate messages across to shareholders. “From the use of an LED wall showing moving images from the annual report interspersed with the agenda for the day, to interactive web stations to encourage shareholders to explore what their company is all about, technology was the order of the day,” recalls Bagnall.

Another example is a show for American Express, where Stagestruck installed individual laptop stations on table tops. “This is such a successful formula if you want to bring a conference to a much more intimate level,” says Bagnall. “The beauty of this use of technology is that it can be multifunctional. The screens can be used to relay questions and answers, and to gain event feedback instantly.”

Crucially, the interactive nature of these two approaches meant that the extent to which the key messages delivered had been understood and retained could be assessed during or following the event.

Brand and stand

Another area where it is notoriously difficult to assess the success of an event in a tangible way is brand experience. However, the latest mobile phone technology is helping not only to heighten brand experience and extension through increased interactivity with consumers, but also to gauge the effectiveness of the event by enabling the measurement of the number of people participating in the interaction. What’s more, because the mobile phone is a digital platform, there is quite a lot of data that can be captured when users participate in the experience.

Meanwhile, from an exhibition perspective, the key to a successful event for most exhibitors is the number and quality of leads generated. Delegate Management Services (DMS), has recently launched a new version of its lead tracking solution which the company’s managing director David Preston claims “provides a consistent, easy-to-use, information capture solution that if used across all exhibitors at an event or all events by an exhibitor across a programme, it facilitates the comparison of data”.

But Preston says technology is just part of the solution. “The thinking behind the system is that of creating a common language for comparison purposes,” he continues. “The ideal series of questions will quantify a sales lead through an average sales value for the product or service and prioritise the leads by understanding the sales cycle combined with when the potential client is looking to do business. The analytics behind the scene are the real point of the solution.”

The right impression

So confident is Preston of the effectiveness of his data capture device that he is prepared to let companies try if out at one event before buying. “Our solution is driven via the web and, therefore, the results are accessible at anytime around the world,” he says. “The hardware in the hands of the person at the event is just a means to an end so we developed the application to be simple to use, quick to input data, while being up-to-date. It also gives the right impression that the exhibitor is on the ball and interested in capturing valid information about the attendees that can make any follow-up specific and relevant.”

Of course, with new technology comes justifying yet another expense to the your board of directors. But Sarah Farrugia of Farrugia Leo Research and Consultancy has a message for all board members.

“Event programmes are expensive and often they are a source of concern over their effectiveness,” she says. “But hard facts and evidence of how they work enable the event director to make real decisions on the programme and to channel budgets correctly. I don’t see why a board that is dedicated to shareholder return would want to run a programme that didn’t have any intelligence built in.”

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