“I see people at our conferences stand up and take pictures of slides with their phones. I want to know which slides they are. For all of our sessions.” I was sitting with a new client, the chief marketing officer of an investment bank, when he made this seemingly obvious, but rarely implemented, request.

Two of the biggest imperatives facing planners today are ROI (demonstrating an event’s value) and “big data” (using analytics to glean useful insights on your attendees). And while both are now commonplace practices in digital marketing, using them effectively for events is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree: easy to understand conceptually, but really hard to execute.

Micro content analytics is a clever tool that accomplishes both of these goals, with a methodology that is simple to explain and a value that is easy to understand.

The idea behind it is this: What if, instead of just getting audience feedback on a speaker’s presentation as a whole, you were able to find out which specific slides or sections were the most valuable to attendees? Or which slides participants had the most questions about. Or which ones they took the most notes on.

All this micro content data is available now through slide-sharing technology that lets attendees instantly stream a speaker’s slides on whatever device they choose. Each slide presents an opportunity to tap a “Like” button, type notes or questions or share via social media, all of which unlocks a rich treasure trove of data.

Like most applications that provide lots of data, the value is in what you do with it. Here are a few ideas.

Targeted Speaker Feedback

Presenters spend a lot of time developing their slides, and have a notorious blind spot for editing their content. By telling them which slides drew the most questions, you’re letting them know which sections need greater clarity. By telling them which slides had the most likes or shares, you’re guiding them on which sections to expand upon, and which ones can be scaled back.

Flash Micro Sessions

Let’s say you’ve got someone presenting a topic on using social media for product marketing, for example, and the slides about Snapchat were off-the-charts popular. The audience wants more, but you don’t have anything else on the agenda that addresses this topic. If your conference is an annual one, why wait a whole year before adding more Snapchat content, assuming it’s even relevant in a year? Instead, using this microcontent insight, grab the speaker after her session and ask her to do a small flash follow-up session on it later that day. You don’t even need a room, just set up an ad hoc gathering in the hallway or lounge. Communicate the news via the event app, and, boom! You’ve addressed an audience need in real time.

Training Insights

If you’re running an internal training session, you can have targeted feedback on which specific slides are resonating with the attendees, which ones they already know and which ones need to be explained better.
Proving Value vs. Calculating ROI Demonstrating ROI involves a calculation often based on slippery assumptions. While there are ways to do it (and that’s for another column), very few events let you point to a new client and say, “This guy bought $X from us solely because of this event.” As a result, many planners are turned off from going down the ROI route.

But ROI is really about demonstrating the value of something, and there are a number of ways to show value from an event, even if you can’t easily quantify it. Micro content analytics is one of those ways. It’s also the kind of thing that separates a professional planner from an occasional one, and positions the planner less in an administrative support role and more as a trusted advisor to the stakeholder.

Note: an earlier version of this article appeared in MPI’s publication, The Meeting Professional.

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