With an increasing number of associations seeking to leverage technology platforms to maximise event attendance, audience engagement and data, Eventsforce spoke to Kerrin MacPhie, ICCA UK & Ireland Chapter Chair and Director of Sales at ACC Liverpool regarding how associations are becoming more data savvy…
1. ICCA recently held a masterclass for its members which addressed the increasing trend towards digitisation. What does this mean to associations and how are they looking at digitising the events and communications?
Basically digitisation is making a huge difference to how associations promote their events and engage with delegates pre, post and during conferences and events. Through social media, key speakers can be announced to drum up attendees, focused content marketing campaigns can use this medium, along with segmented email, to target specific groups of members which ensures that the right message is getting to the right individuals at the right time. Twitter, if used alongside a comprehensive content strategy, can really measure reach and therefore the promotion of key conference messages. These are techniques that can be measured against ROI, for virtually nothing apart from staff time, the potential exposure is huge.
Associations, on the whole, have not exploited this opportunity in the past and I feel it is something that will grow rapidly over the next few years.
2. How important is data management for associations?
Data management is paramount on many levels for associations. There is the need to communicate with members on a regular basis in addition to maintaining a robust database of prospects who are contacts that engage with the association on a variety of levels, these are members of the future. Interestingly at the recent ICCA UK & Ireland Masterclass, Pauline Coulter, former Commercial Director of the Association of Corporate Treasures said that their annual conference was attended by many non-members, in fact these made up the greater percentage of attendees!
That leads me on to say that data in relation to meetings and the main annual conference is vital, the right information at the right time is paramount to the success of any event. If your data is not managed you are not maximising the opportunity to engage with delegates pre event and it is through engagement that relationships are developed leading ultimately to greater commitment.
3. In your experience, how are associations and PCOs gearing up to make the most of their data?
There is an emerging trend for PCOs to work with smaller associations to grow the annual conference. To do this you need to target new members/ attendees which means that data development is key and one way to develop this is through social media and content marketing.
Another developing trend is for different associations to work together and share the conference, giving real value to attendees as they can attend sessions across both events, costs are reduced for the association and data interaction offers wider content selection to delegates
4. What do you see as the key challenges for associations and PCOs when it comes to digitisation and data?
A key challenge is reversing old-school habits; many associations have been around for many years and are very successful, why reinvent the wheel? However, people are changing, the new millennial generation live their lives through digitisation and social media, emails are even seen as passé to this group. Immediate interaction is paramount so for the younger generations attending conferences, Twitter should be a staple ingredient. Not only at conferences but also social media platforms as a norm should be adopted in day to day comms for associations looking to grow.
5. What advantages are there for associations that become more ‘data savvy’?
The advantage can be truly maximised by having a robust digital/ social media strategy and monitoring the results. While this does require some investment, particularly in terms of people time, the results will speak for themselves.
About ICCA UK & Ireland Chapter
The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) is the global community for the meetings industry consisting of specialists in handling, transporting and accommodating international events. The association has a network of over 950 suppliers in 88 countries.
The ICCA UK & Ireland Chapter has over 70 member organisations covering every area of conference management; from venues and convention bureaus, to hotels, airlines and PCOs. The association’s aim is to both represent its members in front of the ICCA Board, and to provide them with a variety of education and networking opportunities throughout the year.
The chapter also looks to support the development of the events industry either by working alongside other national associations to create quality education, or by supporting umbrella bodies such as the Business Visits and Events Partnership and the Britain for Events campaign to represent the industry in front of government and wider business audiences. Connect with the chapter on Twitter @ICCUKI.