2235564_ebc90c80When the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) surveyed trade-show organizers to find out how they were using data analytics, they  found that most respondents (68 percent) are engaged in analytics or will engage within a year, but nearly a third (32 percent) have no plans to do so.

And two-thirds say they work with data sets of 100,000 or fewer records — a volume that’s understandable for events that typically happen once a year, but hardly “big data,” which refers to data sets so large or complex that traditional data-processing applications are inadequate.

And that’s okay: Show organizers do not have to work with large data sets and complex analytics tools in order to produce positive business results. A large majority of respondents use general software, such as Excel and Access, to manipulate data, as opposed to specialized analytics applications.

The most popular uses of analytics are to support decision-making for attendee marketing (95 percent) and exhibitor sales (85 percent) — two of the best places to begin data analysis.

Other results from the two-part survey:

1. Analytics are more likely to support decisions for specific activities such as social-media campaigns or exhibitor-marketing programs. A minority of respondents plans to link diverse data sets together.

2. About one-third of respondents use in-house analytics expertise, while one in 10 contracts out such work to consultants. More of the largest organizations — those with $25 million or more in annual revenue — have their one in-house data experts.

3. Analytics are labor- and time-intensive, with one of the biggest challenges being “cleaning” data sets — detecting, correcting, or removing corrupt or inaccurate records — to ensure accuracy of findings.

4. While a minority of leading organizations are experimenting with technologies like RFID (radio frequency identification) to obtain new kinds of data, most are not.

For more about the report, visit CEIR, or this story in our June issue.