by Michael Shapiro | February 27, 2015

The folks at app developer DoubleDutch have been touting for some time now the vast quantity of useful data that can be gleaned from event apps, in terms of levels of engagement, exhibitor and session interest, and the like. Their latest platform feature, dubbed Event Performance, takes the concept to the next level. Using algorithms the company has developed over the past two and a half years, the numbers are automatically analyzed behind the scenes, during the event and presented in real-world terms to the event organizers. Are attendees engaged? Who are the "most influential" attendees and what are they posting about the event? What's the overall attendee sentiment?

"We can now tell you things like how your speakers are being received," says Lucian Beebe, vice president of product at DoubleDutch. "If you have speakers that people are really liking, you might add an extra session with that speaker. If you've got a session that's gone very poorly, you can address that with the attendees immediately. But the holy grail of all this is the ability to understand the sentiment of your attendees. Are they happy? Is there anything you can do to make them happier? And are they likely to return next year?"

These sound like lofty ambitions, but it's an interesting approach, and it gives some insight into the rapid evolution of event apps and how we use them. As one example of the progress, Beebe refers to the concept of the leaderboard, where the biggest tweeters achieve prominent display. "We realized that a leaderboard in the app is interesting," says Beebe. "It shows you who is doing the most activity. But it doesn't actually tell you who is most influential."

To see that, continues Beebe, you need to apply algorithms similar to those used for Google Analytics. Once you take into account the activity around that poster's activity, the planner gets a clearer idea about which voices are most prominent and deserve more immediate responses. It's a more useful metric than simply knowing who is sending the most tweets.

And all of that activity factors into the sentiment index, a real-time gauge in the app of attendee satisfaction. With that, a planner can regularly get a feel for how things are going — and why. Successes can be touted and failures can be rectified. But can planners devote the time to monitoring and responding to such an index?

"Our goal is not to give them one more thing to track, or another dashboard to check all day long," says Beebe. "We want to give them something they can look at periodically during the day, or even at the end of the day, to understand how day one went. But I can tell you that in the longer term, we want to have the ability to send out alerts as things change; there might be a strong shift, positive or negative, in the sentiment. Or we might see a new influencer pop up. I think it would be great to send the organizers a message that says, 'There's been a sudden change you should know about.'" They would just be able to check those alerts and either act on them or move on."

As for the accuracy of the algorithms, DoubleDutch has been developing them for a couple of years and piloting the new platform with "dozens and dozens" of customers since late last year. With time, clients will see how useful the indicators are and, ideally, the usefulness also will improve over time. At this point the new platform is available to all DoubleDutch customers at no extra charge. The analytics can even be applied retroactively to events for which the DoubleDutch app was used in the past six months. Feel free to contact me or post here if you'd care to share your experience thus far.