How to apply data superpowers to event design

By: Anna Boggs

What you need to know

  • Data and context (hard and soft metrics) should inform decision-making across various incentive trip event design elements.
  • Asking the right questions throughout the attendee journey leads to better data collection.
  • Integrating information and voices from a variety of stakeholders strengthens incentive trip planning processes.

magnifying glass looking at bar chart surrounded by lightning shapes

I have a superpower: The ability to find the story inside complex data sets. As an Events Analytics Advisor for ITA Group, I layer my data skills with over 15 years of event operational experience ranging from hotel sales to DMC operations and event management. I’m part of a team that helps leading brands around the world develop top-tier events and incentive, recognition and loyalty programs.

What I love most about my work is using data to impact life-changing experiences, influence workplace culture and inspire positive change from the inside out. What frustrates me is the common misconception that finding insights through data only applies to roles like mine. Data storytelling is about so much more than manipulating spreadsheets into compelling dashboards. I believe everyone can uncover and unleash their own data-related superpowers.

Making data-informed decisions is an essential skill leaders tasked with designing incentive travel opportunities should learn to embrace. That’s why I was excited to share my data storytelling and business strategy expertise at the SITE Global Conference in Istanbul. Our hands-on learning session had fantastic engagement from attendees, so we decided share what we learned from each other in this post.

view our white paper: personalize the event experience with data

Understand each data type has a “superpower” for event design

Data-driven decision-making should combine quantitative data (measurable statistical evidence) and qualitative data (non-numerical information about attitudes, beliefs, and motivation). Some people categorize this as “hard” and “soft” data. Both types are important for informing human experiences, but many of us tend to have bias toward one.

Team members often have different approaches and preferences for the data that resonates with them. Each of these common “types” has its own superpower approach to collecting and analyzing data.

magnifying glass wearing a hat.

The Incredible Investigator

Your x-ray event vision and social skills help you uncover the “why.” Your team members count on you to navigate organizational politics and know the right influences to deliver a top-notch event.
brain wearing glasses above the pi symbol.

Dr. Data

You excel (pun intended) at crunching numbers. Team members find you simultaneously manipulating multiple spreadsheets and designing dashboards to track what’s working, what's not and how to improve.
eyeball staring into a crystal ball.

Captain Clairvoyance

You visualize event challenges before they happen. Your ability to listen and determine which data inputs illuminate the solution helps everyone avoid chaos.

Reflection Activity

  • Think about your preferences. Which of these types are you?
  • Are all these superpowers represented on your event team?
  • How can you better use each other’s powers to design your next incentive trip?

Keep in mind: Partners and suppliers also have a wealth of data at their fingertips. Organizations can and should rely on organizations like ITA Group to weave in context from our deep experience in designing immersive events all over the world, and our knowledge of industry trends.

Related: Consider how to co-create an immersive event with attendees through a process of asking, immersing and assessing.

Use data to inform every phase of incentive travel

Data supports decisions across all aspects of the incentive journey.

incentive travel journey

We recognize four straight-forward steps of data-driven decision-making.

  1. Define the problem/question.
  2. Gather context and data.
  3. Analyze data.
  4. Make a plan.

In our SITE Global Conference Session, we shared some prompts to help participants define relevant problems or questions at each phase. Access the full list here. Destination selection is often a hot topic with incentive travel professionals, so let’s explore how data can help strengthen your voice to influence the decision.

Select incentive travel destinations based on data

Begin by approaching the destination question broadly. One common question we hear from clients at the destination selection phase is: How do we choose destinations to appeal to a multi-generational workforce?

Gather context by researching historical data about which destinations your organization has traveled to over the past 5-10 years and the budget impact of those events.

  • Call in Dr. Data to gather demographic data on prospective attendees and parse past post-event survey feedback with additional registration details.
  • Ask your Incredible Investigator to dig into the desires and motivations of each generational group. They might also reach out to people in their network who recently hosted an event in one of the locations on your shortlist.
  • Tap into Captain Clairvoyance to understand potential challenges related to inclusive travel experiences.
  • Lean on your incentive travel partner to understand which trending destinations to consider and which to avoid.

Reflection Activity

  • What questions/problems are your team trying to answer for an upcoming incentive trip?
  • How might you harness the data superpowers of your supplier partners?
  • How are your key stakeholders asking you to rationalize your decisions?

After you’ve gathered data, define the key characteristics of your attendees and the biggest priorities from a business perspective. Avoid analysis paralysis with support from your suppliers. Encourage the tourism offices and destination management partners in each of your shortlisted cities to make a case for why their destination offers everything you’re looking for. Perhaps your findings point to Morocco, where a blend of bucket-list adventures and cultural immersion appeal to different age groups. Or maybe it’s Singapore or San José Del Cabo.

Related: Understand the dos and don’ts of selecting incentive travel destinations.

Turn the data you gathered into a story that answers your questions. Consider the data personality of the decision-maker you’re trying to influence and deliver information through a lens that will appeal to their preferences. Regardless of the destination, working across roles to use data to your advantage helps your team plan more confidently.

Ready to unleash your data superpower? Download our ebook to learn how to use data to create personalized incentive travel experiences.

view our white paper: use data to creatively personalize the event experience
Anna Boggs
Anna Boggs

Anna graduated from Purdue and has 13 years of experience in the industry. Eight of those years have been with ITA Group split between the Event Operations and Analytics and Decision Support teams. Solving puzzles with data is her jam, using the lens of operations and industry knowledge as a guide. She’s passionate about creating new things—currently making homemade bread and quilts from her home in Minneapolis are top of the list.