Commentary

'Dark Data' From Meetings Is Exposed

At a time when one out of every three hotel room nights involves a meeting or other group event, not enough attention has been paid to the meeting as a product — and how marketers can maximize group events as far as reaching all those millions of attendees in the interests of improving their experience and delivering messages.

DoubleDutch, a software company that offers an event marketing app for companies like Forbes and LinkedIn, looks at meetings as an incredible source of untapped “dark data” — all those unmonitored and unmeasured interactions that happen during a conference. That includes one-to-one get-togethers, sessions attended, exhibitor booths visited and activities participated in by attendees during their stays in a conference destination.

DoubleDutch aims to maximize that data with the goal of creating a personalized meeting experience. The benefit for marketers is quantifiable returns on face-to-face networking, and a rich source of information to drive future sales, retention and key takeaways not only after, but during, the conference.

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Example: you’re on the convention floor and get this message: “10 people you should network with are meeting here in 20 minutes. Here’s how to join them.” The opportunities, according to DoubleDutch, are endless and can make each corporate event as personalized as an Amazon home page.

For CEO Lawrence Coburn, this is an opportunity for artificial intelligence and machine learning to take things to the next level. This niche application of AI has the potential, he believes, to completely personalize and streamline how professionals travel and interact at a conference. 

Coburn says that DoubleDutch aims to combine the digital experience with the face-to-face experience, though, he says, Double Dutch is ultimately a “data play.” He says that in the course of a conference, the app sees 183 actions per user — including bookmarking, liking a comment or tapping into session details. Coburn says the data from all this interaction has never been captured before but with the advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning, there is the potential to use this data in a powerful way.

That might mean simply providing a better experience as attendees meet the people they should be meeting, hear the speakers most valuable to them and see the local attraction they might like if they stay an extra day. All of this is done by using collaborative filters like Amazon’s “people who bought that also bought… .”  The more data DoubleDutch captures, the better the recommendations. 

DoubleDutch’s clients are the owners of the meeting. In the past, it was the job of their meeting planner to provide a good experience with appealing food and useful content. Now that is not enough as the need to collect data becomes crucial. 

The benefit of having this data redounds to both the meeting planners and attendees, according to Coburn. He uses the term “assisted serendipity” Before a planner would get everybody into a venue and hope for the best. Now software can close the gap — making sure that attendees meet the right people, hear the right content and in general not miss out on what they should be getting. 

There are also opportunities to poll attendees on, say, their favorite meeting cities. That can also be used to ensure that future meetings are successful and information personalized.

At the end of a conference, DoubleDutch provides the equivalent of a trip report. An attendee can go back and show the boss what the return was on that $4,000 or whatever amount the company spent on travel and registration. That will include the people attendees met with, the exhibitors whose booths they visited, the speakers they heard and more.

Think about the last conference you attended and what it would be worth to you — and to marketers — to have a detailed report on your activity. Multiply that by millions of attendees and it’s clear that this is a significant chunk of information — and worth considering the next time your company plans or participates in a meeting.

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