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How We Leveraged Data to Reach a 25% Participation Increase


We’re living in the age of information.

Data is thrown at us from every angle and when it’s not being pushed, we can readily access it easier than ever before. It’s difficult to sift through all the information, gather actionable insights, and even distinguish what’s real from fluffed.

So, when show organizers make claims about attendance data, exhibitors must navigate murky waters to determine their true potential audience size. Many have stopped trying to make sense out of the data at all.

My team at the United States Institute for Theater Technology decided to take an approach rooted in complete transparency at this year’s USITT Conference & Stage Expo, and it paid off.

While working as the Show Manager for USITT, I was able to use the Shepard INSIGHTS platform to take registration data and gather actionable insights that kept my strategies in audience acquisition nimble.

Shepard INSIGHTS helped us achieve a 10% attendance record and a 15% expo floor record.

The platform took registration data from previous years and formatted it in easy to view graphs. I was able to actually watch the registration trends rising daily, and it was exciting to see that we were consistently 10% higher than our previous attendance record. I wanted our exhibitors and attendees to see exactly what I was seeing – the true numbers in real time.

People love visuals, so I started posting screenshots on LinkedIn of the attendee path map with the hashtag #watchthebluelinerise. Exhibitors know the reported numbers are usually fluffed and include attendees outside of their audience base like the show and facility staff. I was able to show true attendee data, and it generated a lot of excitement around the show.

Showing the real time data generated a culture of trust and transparency.

We weren’t positioning the data to exhibitors as attendance numbers anymore, but rather potential prospect numbers. USITT was a part of the bigger dialogue now. A dialogue based in using data transparency to provide a real value to exhibitors through the lens of increased revenue.

The team at Shepard INSIGHTS helped me develop a report that pulled in different registration data, like company, title, product interests, and more. Data that I could use to show exhibitors that their prospect demographic was going to be present.

If an exhibitor’s customer profile was a director or above level prospect with interest in stage lighting, I could show that exhibitor that there were going to be x number of attendees at the conference with that product interest and the level of buying power they were needing to make attending valuable from a revenue generation perspective.

We were armed with real time insights that we could take to exhibitors who were still on the fence about returning to USITT and show that there was a true value opportunity for them based on their ideal customer audience. They were ready to hear us out because our reputation of data transparency had built a level of trust.

Data has the power to persuade.

Sharing data with your customers can completely change the way they think and feel about your organization, and in turn, change their decision-making. The future is driven by information – it has become the norm that decision makers use tactical takeaways supported by the real-time numbers to determine their next moves and overall expected value returns. So, instead of coveting your data sources, be transparent and let the true data empower your customers, and in turn you!

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