We know anecdotally from attendee comments that the DMA Annual Exhibition and Conference is a highlight of the marketer calendar. It’s certainly not trivial to produce an event that is “all that” for marketers and includes everything from powerful, informative content, to productive and innovative exhibit hall, senior level and engaged attendees, fun parties, enjoyable host city, and impressive networking.

The Program Advisory Committee (PAC) of DMA members and the staff team take all feedback seriously.  In the spirit of transparency, we want to share some of the highlights of our DMA2013 post-show attendee survey this month.

The online survey was sent via email to all attendees two weeks after the event in October, and was available for two weeks.  Key highlights include:

  1. 83% said DMA2013 met or exceeded their expectations and 78% indicated they were likely to return.
  2. 84% reported learning something new at DMA2013.
  3. Learning is the primary goal for 46% or respondents, with 31% saying Networking is most important.
  4. 60% of respondents saw the companies they wanted to see in the Exhibit Hall (up from last year’s 57%).
  5. 18% of respondents were at the SVP/EVP/CEO or President level – up from last year’s 10%.
  6. Digital Marketing, Strategy and Integrated Marketing are the top interests of our attendees.
  7. Satisfaction with the Keynotes and the Exhibit Hall has grown over last year. Concurrent sessions, Thought Leadership and the Workshops continue to post strong satisfaction scores.
  8. 70% of those that used Vivastream (the social forum) rated it good or better than expected and half of respondents used it
  9. 39% of respondents used the DMA13 mobile app.
  10. Chicago was rated a better destination than Las Vegas, but behind Boston, while McCormick Place was the least favored of the three Convention Centers.

Those are the numbers, but with any survey, it’s the personality behind the numbers that can be most instructive.  PAC member Ernan Roman of the Ernan Roman Direct Marketing “voice of the customer” consultancy once again generously donated an audience survey, with a 7 question interview with 29 attendees.   This qualitative survey is a great complement to the quantitative attendee and exhibitor studies.

Most comments were extremely positive and provide validation for many purposeful aspects of the event.  For example, “Excellent. It is like Disney, the best in class. The pre-conference sessions were especially helpful.  The other colleagues from my company also felt that this was a  very valuable experience.”

The ERDM survey also identified some areas for improvement like comments from those that found some sessions too basic for their skill level, and those who missed the  session classification of “basic, intermediate and advanced” that were used in years past.  Some attendees also felt some of the exhibitors would benefit from the Exhibitor education course offered by DMA.

Armed with all this feedback, the programming team is focusing on these areas for improvement:

  1. Continued strong attendance by senior level marketers (client side) as well as suppliers.
  2. Larger delegations from our non-US attendees.
  3. More representation by Young Professionals.
  4. Networking.  The majority of people are still coming to learn, but an increasing number are coming to network.
  5. Continued focus on speaker guidelines and rigid selection processes to maintain the current non-promotional content and exceptional thought leadership.
  6. Increased focus on senior level content like our Strategic Summit, with consideration of perhaps moving this kind of content to a different venue.
  7. Improvement of the pre-conference workshop and the Master Class format.
  8. Re-evaluation of the roundtables format to ensure that we keep the energy but improve the overall experience for participants.
  9. Continuing to both predict and lead the right topics that will appeal to attendees, especially as the pace of marketing is changing so much in these times.
  10. Better integration of Vivastream, which powered the social forum and the mobile app, into the registration process, and assurance that the user experience between the virtual and physical show is as consistent and valuable as possible.  We will explore the possibility of adding in a recommendation engine or “other sessions like the those you like” feature.
  11. Improve our marketing of the event to new DMA audiences throughout the data-driven marketing community.
  12. Extend our training for speakers, as well as continued provision of exhibitor marketing training and tips.  Considering also a training for attendees on how to network and get the most out of the event.
  13. Balance the need to cover the diverse training needs of our industry with the need to make the content manageable and easy to navigate.
  14. Improved acoustics for the Town Hall stage sessions, and ensure these are a complement to the concurrent sessions.

DMA is always improving our events and programs, and always based on member and participant input.  The feedback loop is not over with the publishing of these survey results.  Please send us your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below, or email DMA Senior Conference Manager, Keith Baker.

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