It’s an exciting time to be in the professional development business. If your association analyzes its event and learning data, you’ve seen how the educational needs and preferences of your members and customers are quickly changing. This data can lead you down unexpected and profitable trails, but only if your team has the resources to develop programs that meet those needs.
Learning data is your secret weapon in times of tightening budgets. A data analytics study from McKinley Advisors said, “While volunteers and staff play important roles in the product development process, data should be an integral part of the process—both during the product development phase and in the assessment of progress and performance.”
You don’t want board or committee members making decisions based on gut feelings. Learning data can help you debunk conventional wisdom and get buy-in for new program ideas.
How to use event and learning data to achieve professional development goals
During a recent ASAE Professional Development Town Hall on “Using Data Analytics to Inform Decisions for Professional Development,” Julie Sciullo of Association Analytics, Reggie Henry, CAE of ASAE, and Rebecca Campbell, CAE of the Colorado Society of CPAs discussed how associations are using data to achieve strategic goals, especially those related to professional development.
#1: Use learning data to increase attendance
Data helps you identify and understand segments of your membership and market so you can better tailor marketing campaigns. For example, you can identify the most and least popular courses with different customer segments. You might even discover a new customer segment deserving of targeted marketing campaigns. Julie mentioned an association that discovered a growing Brazilian market they never knew they had.
Data analytics tools developed specifically for the association market leverage predictive analytics to identify the people most and least likely to attend an upcoming program or event based on behavior and profile characteristics. With this information, you know where and how to focus marketing and engagement campaigns. You can tailor campaigns for specific segments and promote alternative options for those who are unlikely to attend.
One of the most striking data discoveries during the pandemic has been the change in registration patterns. People used to register for events and programs weeks and months ahead of time—even for virtual programs. Now, per the consensus, registrations are coming in much later.
A participant said 40% of their webinar registrations occur within 48 hours of the event. Reggie said one-third of their attendees registered the morning of the conference.
Once you identify data patterns, it changes how you market virtual events. To ensure earlier registration, you might also change your approach to content. What pre-event activities could you offer that would convince people to register earlier?
#2: Use event and learning data to make content decisions
Associations have traditionally examined enrollment data to make decisions about content development, scheduling and sunsetting. Learning data, such as program enrollment and session recording views, helps you see how topics are trending over the years or (lately) months.
Customer segments are behaving differently now. Needs are changing as job responsibilities are shifting and new skills are required. Associations must make quicker decisions so they can roll out new programs more frequently, but you can’t do this without reliable, current data.
Julie said many associations are using text analytics from open-ended text survey fields, online community discussions, social media posts and virtual chat logs. Reggie shared how ASAE has been analyzing data from their Collaborate online community to identify hot topics and turn them into town hall discussions.
He said unstructured data is a gold mine. For example, ASAE looks at conversation content and search terms to identify what members are discussing most. When they see a hot topic, they host just-in-time programs like their COVID roundtables, which all sold out. They know when to let up on a topic when they see its use as a search term decline.
#3: Use learning data to improve the learner and member experience
Learning data helps you answer questions like: How are we doing now? How can we do better?
Associations have more data than ever from LMS and virtual event platforms. You can track chat participation, clicks and views to not only identify hot topics but also participant preferences.
• What percentage of registrants actually attend?
• How many attendees watch sessions live? How many watch later?
• On average, how long does an attendee spend watching virtual content?
• How does participation change throughout the day?
• What percentage of attendees participate in the chat?
Track this data in aggregate, but, more importantly, by member or customer segment.
Reggie found it interesting to see which session recordings are getting repeat views. Is it because they were too difficult to consume in one sitting? Is there a better way to deliver that content? Complex information might be better delivered in a series of micro-learning modules or a longer program with breakroom discussions where learners can apply knowledge as they receive it.
#4: Use event and learning data to increase profits
Data can reveal new opportunities to improve the learner experience and create new revenue streams. The Oncology Nursing Society repackaged a lengthy online course into two-minute blocks, making it easier for nurses to access and digest on the job via mobile devices.
During the pandemic, ASAE virtual conferences have been free for members and fairly inexpensive for non-members. As a result, attendance has tripled. Now ASAE has an opportunity to figure out what type of content attracted those first-time attendees and how they can sustainably continue to serve that audience without making cost a barrier again.
In a recent ASAE Collaborate discussion, Chris Gloede of Ricochet Advice said: “Focus on a few metrics that reflect how much value you delivered (and thus what you earned)… stay focused on the 3Rs: Revenue, Reach (attendance), and Reviews (quality). Find one or two metrics in each of those areas and use those to determine your success.”
Chris is right. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the mountains of data at your fingertips, so limit your analytics to the questions you want to answer—answers that will lead to immediate decisions and action. Data could lead you to new discoveries about your existing programs, your customers and attendees, and the need for new programs.
With the right data in hand, you can show the impact your programs are making on different market segments, and make the case for virtual educational events and programs that your members and market need right now.