Why ignoring data doesn't make you richer, thinner or better at organising events03-Sep-2015
You know the people, maybe at times you’ve been one yourself, they live in their overdraft but don’t open their bank statements, they don’t check their balance before making a withdrawal and guess what: they never get rich.
Or the people who are trying to lose weight, but never weigh themselves or track their exercise or check calories… You know, the ones who stay overweight.
They actively cocoon themselves from seeing information that they might not like. Or more specifically they avoid exposing themselves to data that might challenge them to modify their behaviour.
Seeing that you are near your overdraft limit, or that you have gained rather than lost a pound or two forces you to face the reality; that you can’t just take out that extra twenty quid or hoover up that takeaway. It forces a confrontation with the belief that your planned behaviour will be okay, or even that it’s your best course of action.
And this confrontation makes us uncomfortable.
Trying to avoid this discomfort is a well-known human trait – it even has a name: conformation bias. This psychological phenomenon states that we actively seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs and place higher value on such information when we do find it. Equally we actively avoid information that will challenge our existing beliefs and place lesser value on it when it does cross our paths. We make an effort (often unconsciously) to avoid the discomfort of being made to recognise that our behaviour must change.
What we don’t know can’t hurt us right?
This approach is worryingly common amongst event organisers too. If they have an event that is on the wane, they can be reluctant to invest in customer research because they believe it will “tell us what we already know”. They are displaying confirmation bias, actively avoiding information that might challenge their planned behaviour because they don’t want to experience that discomfort.
But things can get a lot more uncomfortable for an organiser if they don’t have a robust picture of how their event is performing in the eyes of their visitors and exhibitors.
Their sense of doom often comes from dropping visitor numbers, or slowing stand sales, but sadly these only tell us about the past performance of an event. By choosing to insulate themselves from customer feedback data, organisers can be ignoring critical pointers as to how their event will perform in future.
They could be avoiding finding out that the situation is much more calamitous than they fear. They carry on with their existing “behaviour” missing the opportunity to take critical action to avert disaster. Even if that action is cutting their losses and focussing energy elsewhere, it’s better to find this out at the close of an event cycle rather than limping on only to collapse in a heap halfway through the next cycle.
Yet when we work with clients to research an ailing event we find that it’s rarely all bad news. In opening themselves up to the tough feedback from their visitors and exhibitors, organisers can find clear direction as to where they can find a strategy that will bring success. They uncover suggestions, directions and often existing areas of strength that can all be buried when their attitude to data is “head in the sand.” Just because an event is in a poor state rarely means there is nothing that can be done to bring about improvement.
So if you think you know your events, dig deeper and expose yourself to some data that could confront what you think you know. Maybe even challenge you to change your behaviour. You won’t get richer, thinner or organise better events unless you do.
Explori CEO and Founder