What data should our association evaluate after each event?

When evaluating how well your association convention performed, total attendance is obviously a good place to start. However, beyond the top-line total attendance number, your association should be asking:

– What type of attendees registered for your association convention? How did the association perform with each of those types versus year ago? Do you see any problem areas?
– Considering individuals, who attended the association convention last year but not this year? Do you see any trends or common elements?
– Where did the association convention attendees come from geographically? Do you see any patterns that are unusual versus the normal distribution of population among your target audience?
– Will the association convention be in a different location next year? Based on what you learned from this year’s geographical representation, what can you anticipate for next year’s natural pattern?
– What percentage of registrants were first-time attendees at the association convention? What is your “retention rate” among convention attendees? Have these numbers changed over time?

If your convention reports or data can’t answer these basic questions, it is important that you begin collecting this information or upgrade your database and/or reports to do so. Spend time brainstorming with your association staff and volunteers to determine other ways to analyze the information … the attendee data can often provide far more answers than most people would have guessed. Just as importantly, your association may discover that there are additional questions you need to ask during next year’s registration process.

Beyond these questions that you should be able to answer based on the association convention’s raw data, your association also survey key people to answer the following questions:

– For those people who attended the association convention last year, but not this year: Why not? Did they leave the profession/industry/hobby? Did they go to a competitor’s show instead? Did they not find the association’s convention to be worth the time/money? What would convince them to attend again?
– For those people who attended your association convention the first time: What convinced them to attend? Just as importantly: Were their expectations matched/exceeded by the actual experience?

These questions only scratch the surface of the analysis you should be doing after each association event. While this sounds obvious, many associations don’t probe past the top-level numbers, especially if the numbers were good. Don’t fall into that trap by only conducting a thorough analysis of your association’s attendance numbers only after a bad event … by then it’s too late to have recognized and corrected early signs of weakness.

Does your association carefully analyze the results after the convention? Do you do so after both good and bad shows? Do you probe deeply into the numbers or just review the top-line data?

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