Can You Measure Attendee Emotion?

For many years, I've been advocating that those organizing business meetings and events place ever-increasing emphasis on the experience of attendees. Much of our focus relates to changing attendee emotion through meetings design as, when you think about it, most meetings don't actually result in anything tangible for attendees at all but simply leave them with emotions, thoughts and feelings related to their experience.

However, no matter how you actually try to change attendee emotions (via color, music, taste, smell, furniture, etc.), the question of how you actually accurately measure it remains. Therefore, I thought I'd introduce you to a couple of interesting options.

On-site technology
What if you could measure what a person is feeling live and "in the moment"? Well apparently you can. As far back as 2009, New Scientist was reporting on "speech analytics" software that was being used in call centers to flag when and why customers were getting angry. As a meeting organizer, however, you are lucky as you have a far greater number of ways of measuring emotion.

Innerscope Research is a Boston-based company employed by brands to measure consumers' emotional responses to their messages. For example, they've been employed to monitor the heart rate, movement, breathing and sweat of football fans watching the commercial breaks, so advertisers can judge the emotional impact of their ads. Now, as a meeting organizer, you may be thinking why on earth is this kind of ability of use to me? Well, think about it: What if you could judge the impact of your keynote "in the moment" he or she was delivering the session? What if you could measure attendee emotion throughout your event? What if you could measure the impact of the innovative design aspects of the event that you were experimenting with?

As you can imagine, Innerscope is not alone. Only last month at the IMEX trade show in Frankfurt, I encountered Sightcorp, a firm that offers Face Analysis Technologies and was showcasing its product live. Within a split second, and live on a screen in front of me, I was looking at myself while a range of emotional levels were listed next to my face. The levels changed as I smiled and moved; as far as I could tell, it worked extremely accurately.

While it's probably limited to larger events, I look forward to seeing more of this innovative technology seeping into the design elements of our industry in the near future.

Post-event evaluation
Now, I've not highlighted one of our services in my blog,, before, so I hope you'll forgive me if I mention our very own measurement solution, as working with a group of psychologists on it has been a fascinating journey.

Eighteen months ago, our team of psychologists began to develop a methodology that psychometrically measures meeting attendee experience (as well as performance). As well as undertaking the comprehensive psychometric audit of a major association congress in Sydney last year, we are currently measuring the attendee experience of meetings at the iconic Barbican Center in London, too.

Now, while a post-event survey is common in most large-scale meetings, I wonder if they are just a meeting aspect that organizers feel they have to do. In our opinion, collating meaningful behavioral data and drawing accurate and useful conclusions from it is a science and something that should involve behavioral specialists. Our headline measurement plots each and every attendee on a graph and delivers an overall experience and performance rating for the event.

We ask them "Thinking about your experience, please rate the extent (not at all, rarely, sometime, frequently) you personally felt the following emotions (confident, happy, excited, inspired, motivated, dissatisfied, active, satisfied, distressed, lively, positive, joyous, nervous, enthusiastic, worried) while attending XYZ Event." We then use specialist psychometric measurements to try and identity what aspects of the event impacted on these emotions.

Whether it is on-site technology or a psychometric approach to post-event evaluation, I put it to you that measurement is a specialist area and one that will be ever more essential to aid the ongoing need to justify and improve the effectiveness of business meetings and events.

Jon Bradshaw is the CEO of the Meetology Group. See more at: